eSports Evolution : Reality or Hype

12/4/2005

Article by Aaron “ErMeR” Miller

The following is a community-submitted editorial and as such does not necessarily reflect the opinions of GotFrag or its advertisers

Angel Munoz once said at the opening of the Summer 2002 CPL that “those that resist the reality [of eSports] are just being stubborn.” Bold words, Mr. Munoz, bold words indeed. It’s been two years since those remarks. What has happened for eSports in two years? Is what Mr. Munoz working for come true? Have the scores of Counter-Strike teams been displayed on ESPN or the local news for all to see? Are sporting commentators speaking out about the upsets of last CAL season? If you answered yes to any of those questions, then you are resisting reality. In this article, I will explore the reality of what eSports can become and what organizations such as the CPL need to do to reach their goals.

The CPL has really been pushing for media exposure over the past few years. The amount of exposure has been increasing dramatically, especially with mainstream media outlets such as MTV and TechTV broadcasting the CPL’s recent events. Many believe that this will be the way that eSports will become mainstream. Wrong. While it won’t hurt to have exposure in the popular media, it will not help you effectively. The CPL is trying to convince the wrong people. The most effective way of gaining ground in the eSports community is by bringing those that are already into gaming, though perhaps not yet into the competitive aspect. We can all recall back when we were total “n00bs” and joined the clan with the public server that just came and sat in that server everyday banning “hackers” and owning other “pubbers”, never thinking once of joining a league. This is the real meat and potatoes of the video gaming community. Not everyone plays for a clan in leagues. If eSports wants to grab not only game developers to support their cause but a larger fan base, do it where people are already into gaming.

Video games are the media of the new generation. The industry has surpassed all other mediums in popularity and annual income. It has even surpassed the box office in the amount of money taken in each year. It seems that almost everyone either owns and plays regularly or has played a video game at some point. Yet, interestingly enough, with all the popularity that video games have experienced, many of the players are subject to ridicule. As it stands now, many people have negative connotations when it comes to the word “gamer”. I have to admit that it is getting better, but if you’re expecting the public to see eSports as a viable activity, you’ll have to convince them that video games are first. This will only come with time, and I expect that in five to fifteen years the acceptance level of video games in our society will be at the appropriate level; it is certainly not at that level yet.

Another large hurdle that eSports faces is that the game being played for money changes. The gaming industry is constantly moving forward improving graphics and game play. The world of professional athletes is not. When is the last time you heard of a professional player from baseball moving to football and then on to some other game? I haven’t, and I’m sure that if someone did, they didn’t do too well with the change. There need to be certain games that are consistently played at all major events. So far, the only game that could qualify for this would be Counter-Strike. It has been the only game that has stood the test of time as a competitive game. But, with the recent introduction of Counter-Strike: Source, the community could become divided. What needs to happen, and this won’t happen for a long time, is for the CPL to partner up with a game development team and develop and publish a game that caters to the likes of competitive enthusiasts and to those “Weekend Warriors” I mentioned above. It will be a daunting task, but it can be done; all one has to do to see proof is to look at Counter-Strike, again the best example in this situation. In my biased opinion, however, it would be best to have a game to the likes of Quake in terms of game play, a fast paced, adrenaline-pumping experience that is exciting not only for the players but also for the spectators. It would also need to be something that could be sponsored by large companies for a while so that they could show off their products at events while playing the game. Could Quake 4 be the game that revives the eSports community and brings it higher? Well, if what Ravensoft is promising comes true then it’s a possibility, but we’ll have to wait on that one.

As I hinted to above, the game must be spectator friendly. This is why I feel a faced paced first person shooter like Quake is necessary. You’re not going to get a bunch of people excited about a game when they have no idea what is going on. Counter-Strike worked decently on this principal because you can relate it to real life, but it’s got to be something so simple on the outside yet still complex enough in depth that it will really take the community by storm. Deathmatch is simple; it takes very little explanation, and it’s fast. Will there be room for Counter-Strike? Yes, and it will help eSports, but so will a simple fast paced first person shooter that doesn’t begin with “Painkiller” or “Unreal Tournament”.

eSports is not at the level it is hyped up to be yet. Can it reach the level that people such as Angel Munoz speak of? I think that, with time and effort, it can; but it will be a while. These issues need to be addressed as quickly as possible so the community can grow and become just what we all want it to be: a professional sport.

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