An Outline to Esports Event Coverage

                        In 2016, two major news companies created dedicated staff for esports. With Yahoo’s and ESPN’s entrance comes an expected level of quality content, interviews and opinions that we see from their traditional sports departments. Up to now, that expectation has not been met, though there has been growth in story-telling from major team organizations as well as continued personal interviews in the League of Legends community. For other titles, unfortunately, the amount of analytical writing and insight has been sporadic. In particular, the lack of opinionated editorial, that goes beyond traditional topical discussion about the scene, as well as lack of in-depth match coverage is an essential missing quality in today’s coverage. However, the largest gaffe that esports news sites have yet to provide is on-site, in-the-now event coverage. The bar of entry for on-site event/match coverage is low and a key missing feature in the journalistic world of esports.

collageDespite the Mid-Season Invitational for League of Legends as well as DreamHack Austin occurring, only one site of the three are currently doing interviews and event coverage. To note that theScore Esports have been uploading their videos via their YouTube page.

                        There are inherent issues with most current forms of event coverage, specifically interviewers using those events as a means to talk about a player’s career instead of about the matches (what fans are watching the event for). And perhaps the reason for the lack of consistent coverage of esports events throughout all games is both due to cost and inability to gauge value or assure consistent viewership. During my time working in the journalist field, from the early days of StarCraft II [2012], news curation for ESGN TV [2013-2014] and managing editor for an esports magazine at Aller Media [2014-2015], I firmly believed that the viewer and readership is strong for this type of coverage. That is if planned early and executed properly – with enough support from both staff at HQ and on-site. Below are some notes I have relied on in the past when planning event-coverage. Published content (both video and written) can range from six to five digits in hits. To reach these numbers, consistency in quality and rate of coverage (# of articles/videos) helps improve results.

 


Planning Stages

 

First Steps

When preparing event coverage for a variety of competitions, it is important to establish both expected budgetary costs for each event as well as for the year. This includes, but not limited to:

  • # of events per quarter
  • Flight and hotel accommodations for each event
  • Expected # of crew members and necessary equipment (rented or not)
  • Spending stipends

Most of this can be approximated as close as possible and altered accordingly as you get closer to the dates and figure the finer details. With some organizations, you also have to project the total runtime of all planned content and assume # a range of viewership (depending on the game, recognition of the brand to the community and value of content).

 

Planning an event

When it comes to preparing for a specific esports event, I start as early as a month in planning. First you need to figure out the Who, What and Why:

  • Who: Determining your team to cover an event is important. The number of people should be decided before-hand depending how important the event is, what are the budgetary costs (sending 5 people to an event that is only a two-day competition [e.g. ESL One, a recurring event] may not be the most efficient use of your resources).

The number of people to send can range from 2 to 5 members with roles ranging from videographer, editor, host, producer and even social media. In the past, we’ve ran three-man crews with myself acting as Producer, Social Media and Business Relations to represent the organization and establish meaningful relationships. These relationships are important to confirm tentative interviews and to relieve the editor and host to focus on what matters: content.

  • What: Content planning goes a long way to not only setting goals per day, per event; but also how you want to structure the type of content you want both in terms of atmosphere and duration per form of content. You must determine the following parameters for your content:
    • Interviews
      • Over-the-shoulder? Side-by-Side? Absent Interviewer?
      • # of Interviews per day
      • Duration: The longer the interview, the more you may lose your audience or having your interviews feel directionless or caught on smaller details rather than getting through to the subjects that matter. I generally run 5 to 10-minute interviews, with 12 being the hard-stop.
  • Photography
    • Priority of subjects players, venue, fans/cosplayers/attendants, moments
    • # of photos per type (see above), per day, per style (portrait, waist-up, etc.)
  • Why: As you set up your team with a variety of responsibilities, you have to prepare your host for the subjects he/she can expect to be speaking to as well as the type of questions you want. As mentioned above, questions about the matches and strategies happening during the event are what I think the audience wants to know the most about, at the moment of publishing (during the event). However, that doesn’t mean your host cannot prepare ahead of time with some career/over-arching questions about the scene, teams, etc. This can be helpful for two reasons: 1. It gets your host in the right mood and knowledge of the key players and 2. It’ll help him/her have questions just in case there isn’t much to say about a particular win or loss for the interviewing subject.

Overview

Booking People, Places, Event PR

                        The PR teams for each event and publishing company can vary greatly. From Valve, who outright don’t assist (or allow) news organizations to work at their Majors to Riot Games who are more welcoming. DreamHack is hands-off when it comes to assistance in booking interviews (you have to go to the player’s lounge and ask talent directly) whereas ESL makes a strong effort to reserve time for them, though sometimes are unable to follow-through (it happens). One thing to know is that no matter the PR team, they cannot force teams, players or talent to do an interview if they don’t want to.

For these events, try and keep in close contact with the PR members. Be forward about what you want and make sure you confirm many times over before or during the event about X interviews you’d like to have. Not only do these PR departments get swamped with requests, but are also handling different areas of an event. While you may seem annoying (I surely was), you won’t get half the content you planned if you aren’t forward. Ultimately, they want to help you if it means more publicity and value during/after their event.

Having said that, even after confirming the possibility of interviews (no guarantee) with a PR team, you should start contacting teams directly in regards to possible interviews. This is to secure interviews, despite any unfortunate scheduling complications that may arise but also due to the players themselves who can be too moody or disinterested in talking. I’ve also learned that some teams will outright not talk to you depending who you represent. For example, TSM refuses all media interviews (with small exceptions) while Cloud9 will not do interviews by companies that conflict with their sponsors. Knowing this will save you a lot of headaches, but also help evaluate if attending an event is worthwhile or not.

When requesting interviews (before the event), there is an order of confirmation to ensure you get what you want. Avoid contacting players directly for an interview. They may be your personal friend, but they have one job at the event (to win) and you may end up undermining the player-manager in the process. In the end, it’s about balancing long-term relationships and knowing who makes the decision-making.

Sometimes, the player-manager will not give you a straight-answer on whether you can get an interview with a player or not. Don’t give up! Just puah further. At Aller Media, we were a recognized brand in the Nordic Region, making contacting sponsors (SteelSeries, Logitech, Razer) sometimes the easier route. Sponsors want the exposure of their brand and the teams they support out there via media outlets. There is no reason why you cannot reach out to the sponsor to receive a more definitive answer. Even agencies such as Good Game, can be a better alternative route when the player-manager is unsure. Nevertheless, keep in good contact with the player-manager, as he will be your contact on-site and can follow-through after receiving confirmation from affiliated parties (sponsors/agencies) but remain persistent in what you want.

Now with your double-confirmed and booked interviews via event PR teams as well as directly with those teams, you are ready to set off for your event!

 

Questions

Depending on the person, having questions prepared ahead of time for review can be ideal. These questions should be mixed alongside those the host has prepared to ask the player or talent about the match or event itself. A nice mix of questions can keep the interview interesting for the viewer and also avoid your host being redundant or questions that focus on too small of detail.

As a last note: when booking your hotel. Try and book at the same one as the players or event staff. This can lead to fluid scheduling where you can strike out one or two early pieces of content with key talent before the event and ultimately have more time on-site to create more video-content. Also, it makes networking much easier and in some countries, the after-parties happen at the hotels directly.

 


At the event

Coordination

            As you depart, make sure your team back in HQ is aligned with when and how the content will be presented in regards to social media, uploaded videos and content strategy. For example:

  1. Video content should be embedded into the website with a summary blurb
  2. When shared via community sites and social media, ensure you share the URL of the website containing the video as opposed directly to the source video page
  3. Rely on Social Media for on-the-ground visuals and tagging

 

Collaboration

            Establishing alternative types of content is an efficient way to use your time before, during and after an event. What you will realize, when waiting for interviews (each post-event day) is that most interviews occur either after a team is finished playing for the day or is eliminated. Leaving your team a lot of time with nothing to do between matches. In the past, we remedied this by not only interviewing people not directly involved in the matches, but also creating alternative content such as post-day summaries, predictions for the next day and highlights. Examples include:

 

  • Before an event day
    • (previous day) match results, predictions and highlights
    • Venue Tour
  • During an event day
    • Venue
    • Discussion Panels
    • GoPro Style partnerships with team
    • Documentary footage
  • After an event
    • Raw recordings of any press conferences
    • Event Summary (crew travel to arrival, highlights of key interview moments, crowd and venue shots, etc.)

ESL One Frankfurt video from Alliance and player, Loda, was always a favourite of mine. It requires no effort, almost no budget and offers a tremendous amount of infotainment for the user.  It lets the fans at home get a feel for what it is like to be a player and be at the event.

Key Notes

  • In the past, I have seen many producers or reporters flat-out abandon their team to hang out with pros or their friends rather than stick with the team. Even during the off-hours, for the sake of future working relationships, it is ideal you stick with your team and build them up to have as many relationships as you do, rather than to seek out your own fulfillment and interest. It goes without saying that during the event hours, all members should be near or in communication and not loitering around. There’s always something to do, even if the cameras aren’t rolling.
  • When it comes to deciding who you want to be your host, I found that choosing someone new, but who is enthusiastic and earnest to work is better than someone who is recognized and has their own brand. On the one hand, if your new person is not meeting expectations or getting the right atmosphere to how you want to do your event coverage, then your audience won’t take and will dismiss your brand/content. However, if you choose someone with experience, the cost can get much higher and should they leave for a better gig, their established audience may depart as well.
  • Use your host to note down key times in the matches of when something large happened. A lot of VODs for matches come out later in the night, making it difficult for the editor to screen through hours of matches and footage just to use as B-Roll for a video. Since your host is watching the matches regardless, he should note down the time a key action sequence happened and help give context for the editor, who may or may not be familiar with the game.

schedule

Planning costs on a both monthly and annual basis can help not only sort the budgetary expectations for the future, but also help breakdown costs associated with travel and paying for your freelance staff.

 


Conclusion

                        When it comes to content, your published works should achieve consistency in quality and complementary of the event for viewers at home. With the right team and execution your content can fill a gap that has long been evaporated since the earlier days of esports. As more companies get into this space, the desire for current content sites to set themselves apart will be high. While the initial interest in your event coverage may be low; to organically grow an audience and fill a void that needs further emphasis can yield a return after attending only a few events and building up the right team to represent your organization.

Go – The First Generation of Competitive Gamers

When critics look at how to improve the conditions of esports, such as player treatment, they often compare them to the practices of professional sports. It’s a convenient comparison to make, one that’s made all the more easier by the term esports itself. “Esports” evokes images of traditional sport and easily conveys the concept of competitive gaming.

That recognizability has helped esports gain mainstream acceptance and fueled an explosive growth in interest. But there’s an argument to be made that the sports parallel is far from perfect, and that esports could learn a lot from a culture that shares many more characteristics with esports than traditional sports do. And that is the culture that surrounds traditional board games in countries like South Korea, Japan and China. Practitioners of games like Go, Chinese chess and regular chess have a lot in common with esports teams and players.

Go is played professionally, and is seen not only as a legitimate game of mental strength and strategy, but as a tool for teaching life values to children and adults alike. It’s likely that Go has contributed to China and South Korea’s stance on the culture of pro (video) gaming, and the game could be a predictor on the future value of esports as more than just entertainment.

 

The Encircling Game


Go, also known as Baduk in Korea, is a game of strategy and foresight. Played on a simple 19 by 19 board, Go is similar to the Western game known as Reversi or Othello where one must trap and surround their foe’s stones. It is a game of territory with relatively simple rules, with the goal of capturing and holding more territory (areas of the board with no stones) than the opponent. The opponent will typically try to contest areas a player starts forming by engaging and surrounding stones that establish the area’s outline. A game is concluded typically by resignation, and then the points are counted based on captured stones and uncontested equal points. Komi is also added (points to the score of the player who plays second – typically white).

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Courtesy of playgo.to (Hiroki Mori) 

In Go, the goal is to capture your enemies stones (white), gaining more points and securing key spaces (territories). In both diagrams, by playing your black stone to the right of white, you surround your opponents and can remove them; freeing more secured territory, thus points.

In comparison to chess, Go is less sophisticated by nature. All pieces are the same and there is no setup phase. Players can place stones at any intersecting position they like and begin playing. Despite its simplicity, the variety of games that can be played out surpass that of chess, both due to the size of the board and depth of strategy involved. As for rules, there are two main ones:

  1. A stone or groups of stones must have one “opening” or liberty, otherwise they are removed from the board. As you can see in the diagrams above, white currently has one liberty available to the right. Once black plays in that spot (F5/E6), the white stone must be removed and points are awarded.
  2. You cannot play positions that were just previously played. This is to prevent endless circles or capturing and re-capturing of stones.

 

Unlike most current esports titles, Go is a game of open, perfect information without chance elements. The idea of open communication of past moves, as well as equal information presented to both players, leads to a spiraling level of mental strength, self-confidence and foresight of both the foe’s strategy and one’s own approach. The beauty of Go is the mix of both global influence and big-picture consideration while also focusing on a variety of skirmishes. It’s a clash of global struggle to maintain dominance on the board while also ensuring, defensively or offensively, that local battles are won. Go is subtle, layered with in-depth sequences and scenarios that come with experience and practice.

A game like Blizzard’s Starcraft also incorporates a big picture/little details perspective, where one must maintain global control of the map through vision (holding Xel’Naga watchtowers, spreading creep, scouting, and scanning) and keep up one’s macromanagement. But that is also in addition to the local battles of either defending ones bases against harassment, or engagements at their base – to diminish their economic pace, ultimately lowering the rate at which they can comfortably attack with the right unit composition. Whether you’re playing Starcraft or Go, the balancing act of remaining consistent in your strategy and goals while contesting your opponent’s plans is a question of self-perfection and execution in the art of war.

 

Go’s Unknown Beginnings


Go’s origin is unclear. Written history of it is recorded as far back as the Zhou Dynasty (between 1000 and 250 BC). Legend has it that the game was devised by Emperor Yao 4,000 years ago in an attempt to correct his son’s lack of discipline. As the story goes, Yao’s son, Danzhu, was a no-good slacker who ignored his father’s orders and wouldn’t study. Yao invented the game for his son to play, and Danzhu became so interested in the game that he dedicated himself to it, getting rid of distracting thoughts. By studying Go, Danzhu changed the way he thought, learned many valuable lessons, and got onto the right path.

Regardless of its origin, the game’s initial growth has parallels to esports. The famous Chinese philosopher Confucius wrote about the game, although he didn’t necessarily speak well of it. He cited it as being, comparably, better than being idle or doing nothing it all: “The Master said, hard is it to deal with him, who will stuff himself with food the whole day, without applying his mind to anything good! Are there not gamesters and chess players? To be one of these would still be better than doing nothing at all.” That sentiment probably sounds familiar to many gamers:

 

 

As betting was very popular in Go, it was initially considered a game for the common people rather than aristocrats. It wasn’t until its popularity grew and spread to Korea and Japan that its acceptance as a game of intellect and strategy came about. Go’s ability to persevere as a relevant game in today’s era, despite remaining unchanged in its rules, is due to its timeless elegance and depth.  It’s intellectually challenging and can teach one qualities that can be applicable at any point of their life. While certain esports titles will lose their popularity over time, the genres (MOBA, RTS, FPS) and their competitiveness will remain a part of the industry for years to come.

That sentiment probably sounds familiar to many gamers. As it should, as esports still faces many generational differences of perspective. Watch as CBS’ Sunday Morning panelist, Luke Burbank, demonstrates his inability to understand the appeal of esports as a “spectator sport”. He’s no Confucius, but his need to dismiss and degrade something that’s becoming so massively popular among a large group of people sounds familiar to those 3,000 years ago.

 

The Current Professional Scene


Go, as a competitive game, is incredibly popular. The International Go Federation estimates that over 40 million people play Go, and the federation currently encompasses 74 country members around the world. The core ranking system in online Go is a lot more direct than those of League of Legends or StarCraft II. Only two grades are attributed to players. Amateurs/students are typically graded from double-digit kyu to single-digit kyu (30 to 1k) and masters are ranked ascending from 1st dan to 7th dan. Professional players have their own dan rank, ascending from 1st dan to 9th dan. Ranks help determine a person’s ability of play while also figuring handicaps for players who play at different levels. In order to reach dan rank, you must compete in tournaments and complete exams, making the professional scene of Go regulated and official.

Becoming a professional Go player is a question of commitment. Those who are committed begin studying the game at a very young age. In Japan, student professionals are referred as insei, and are sponsored by a professional player. The professional supports and tutors the insei so they can pass their exam in becoming professional. This tradition continues to this day, and the hand-me-down ideology of older players passing their knowledge to younger players to improve their technique is a core reason for the game’s longevity and popularity.

Commitment and learning is paramount to a person’s overall improvement. For an aspiring StarCraft pro gamer, to join a pro gaming team-house in Korea, they typically have to give up their personal practices (hotkeys, creative strategies) and adopt ones that the team uses, which have been heavily researched by the coach to be the most efficient. Joining a team house is a statement that the player is willing to take his ability to the next level and to commit to the highest levels of efficient play. Go has a similar sign of commitment by a person studying at a Go school. At some of the most elite Go schools, students dedicate hours every day to the game – similar to the dedication pro gamers practice their respective esports titles with. Students who enroll in these classes typically aim to go pro before the age of 18.

Professional Go tournaments can have prize pools of up to half a million dollars, and are highly regarded in local mainstream culture. Go enjoys a wider respect and understanding in China than esports, with regular broadcasts of Go matches on television – something esports doesn’t have in China. Go is even incorporated with children’s education, as a tool for teaching dedication, patience and thinking ahead. Similarly, some Korean universities have departments dedicated to Go, where one can achieve Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Go studies.

 

The Culture of Teaching in Competitive Games


With Go making the leap to online play, services such as teaching games (where the teacher and student play a match for learning), tsumego (life-and-death Go puzzles) and analyze mode all become readily available via the browser. Esports offers similar services for analysis and support, like Dota 2’s coaching mode which allows a player to enter a matchmaking game with a team to better instruct them on the ins and outs of the game.  To add, commitment in Go is a decision someone makes at life. Very few pros make their living on tournament winnings while others teach amateurs, similar to paid coaching in Counter-Strike, Starcraft, and other esports titles.

 

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Similar to someone analyzing your match in StarCraft, League or Dota, online Go offers an ‘analyze mode’ where higher-ranked players can review your match, suggest better moves and add notes explaining their suggestion. In this diagram, we see a complete Go match and annotations at the top right, reviewed by TeamLiquid.net community member, nimbim, who holds the rank of 1Kyu online.

 

The hand-me-down attitude in Go, where older players are open to review and teach newcomers to play, is surrounded by the variety of devices that summarize how much of a lending hand they can offer. These institutions and infrastructures place a hierarchal responsibility for professionals to always seek and assist newcomers to the game they are professionals in. This helps ensure the continuation of the game and its viability as a leisure activity, but also embodies the ingrained Eastern culture of sibling relationship, respect and etiquette. In short, Go etiquette and manner branches from the traditionalist culture of the East, which has ensured its survivability and the passing of its wisdom, strategy and respect. Despite their similarities, Go and esports are worlds apart in terms of public perception and even in atmosphere within the game. While Go is intertwined with a national culture, esports faces the stigmatization of video games as a whole. Both are enjoyed by spectators that understand the game, but the entryway for traditional games and video games are in stark contrast to each other.
Go and esports both focus on self-improvement, mindfulness, and gauging the application and execution of learned capabilities. Virtues such as diligence and patience can be learned from these games and are applicable to the real-world. Simply put, the ability to develop your dedication to Go, regardless of your desired level, mirrors that of esports, but with much better regulation, balance, and institutions.

The age and simplicity of traditional board games have given them a wide mainstream acceptance that esports has yet to grasp, due in part to its higher sophistication of initial knowledge, making it esoteric as a spectator sport. For Go, the drive to that mainstream peak has ripened a variety of attitudes such as respect, patience, and diligence in addition to tools to pass down higher knowledge to new players.

What both iterations of gaming can offer are two sides of the same coin: applicable life virtues and self-improvement through leisure. One is acknowledged by the public while the other is still facing mixed views. The perspective of games being used as educational tools isn’t new, and has become even more widespread than ever before. The values of a game like Go are mirrored in our everyday life, either through final papers, remedial work or chores around the house. They impart a sense of responsibility, communication and diligence to perfect, whether in the context of wording of our arguments or the washing of dishes. Incorporating those persistent attitudes in an addictive way, such as progress in ladder ranks or mastering a layered depth of strategy in a game, is unique to gaming; board or video. Emphasizing the values of gaming in a mainstream context, such as working with others in the office and communicating problems among teammates, will open up promotion and acceptance of esports.

With Go having initiated the idea of a professional scene surrounding gaming (alongside international Chess), the imitation of many of Go’s establishments can hasten the benefits yielded to esports. Those benefits stem from a positive public reception that leads to resolving a variety of issues, such as the processing of visas for international travel or initiating leagues for all ages and levels, including national leagues, high-school and college leagues as well as national circuits. That acceptance can also lead to government support from departments of culture and sports. Potentially, current esports businesses could get better regulation and playing could start towards becoming upheld and recognized as a legitimate career, thus offering players an easier transition in to or out of the scene.

With Internet live streaming becoming more widely used by esports fans, television is no longer an essential part of esports; however, it is symbolic to a mainstream cultural relevance. It’s arguable whether TV is important right now, depending on who you ask. But for Go, it helped sustain a competitive scene and cemented its value as a cultural identity for many parts of the East. The applicable lessons one can learn from Go can just as easily be achieved in esports titles. This is especially true as technology becomes an integral part of our everyday life. Using esports as a tool to emphasize real-life attitudes such as communication, dedication and the desire to self-improve, is useful for all environments and ages. Incorporating those persistent attitudes in an addictive way, such as progress in ladder ranks or mastering a layered depth of strategy in a game, is unique to gaming; board or video.

Despite its explosive growth in popularity, one of the major challenges faced by esports is the relative lack of accessibility. The rules of Go are simple, whereas the rules of Dota 2, for instance, are almost impossibly complex to newcomers. Looking to Go, and the culture of teaching and embracing new players that surround the game, could help overcome that challenge. Esports has raised prize-pools to the millions in its climb for establishment and business opportunity, and has gained wider acceptance as a fortunate side-effect. But only looking to traditional sports for inspiration is a misunderstood parallel when we could also look to an even more relevant and, arguably, equally interesting board game that’s survived for thousands of years.

eSports is not a Sport

Whenever I read other editorials from other writers, I always check to see one thing: Are they going to compare their idea and issues with eSports to the success of professional national mainstream athletic sports? In some cases, they do, in others; they’ve come to approach eSports more as a spectacle or something similar as WWF or UFC. It’s more of an event than an actual sport. Overall, I feel that comparing eSports to professional mainstream sports can be a poor perspective that ultimately narrows potential and shapes it to be something it cannot feasibly become (but may be something even more).

In some parts, eSports is just like Sports. Forbes and Dustin Browder took the words right out of my mouth:

“These guys are athletes. There’s physical and mental conditioning to it. These guys are, in many cases, playing 12 hours a day to prepare for these matches, or even just constantly. These guys are training as hard as a regular athlete would to train for these things. They have to have the dedication and enthusiasm for it, and there’s a lot of coaching that goes on as well. A lot of these guys have coaches and are parts of teams. They create a culture of support around them so they can learn to master the game. What good are you if you can’t practice against somebody who’s great? So these guys create teams of people where they’re all really good, they practice against each other constantly, and they compete against other teams.

This allows them to create this sport atmosphere where they work as hard as any regular athlete, and try as hard. They have to have the psychology and mental endurance. You see these guys when they lose a match; they are crushed, just like an Olympic hopeful would be crushed if he didn’t make it. They’ve got to have the endurance to overcome that and say, “Yeah, I lost the biggest match of my career, but I’m not done. I’m going to come back and overcome this,” and sometimes they do. It’s just absolutely amazing the trials, tribulations, and challenges these guys face every day.”

(Dustin Browder interviewed by John Gaudiosi, Forbes, 2013)

In truth, the game(s) and the competitors who dedicate their lives to entertain us, the spectators, are athletes. Perhaps not physically from head-to-toe but their dedication, work and practice ethics, and approach to the game is comparable to that of sports. They are participants of a very competitive game and play for their careers, to remain an emphasized competitor ahead of the strategic curve. These acknowledgements lead me to understand the subculture of eSports on a three-level system (granted, this is a simplified model where we ignore a lot of involved parties, especially on the business end):

Three levels of E-Sports[Click to Enlarge]

The three levels are nearly all dependent on the community and drive. Both the games and Pro Gamers are on the core circle of Competitive Gaming: competitive gaming being without the spectators or much of a news media following. Essentially, it’s just the game, the players and the small community who were active or involved in the organizing of competitions. As we step further out into the second-level, we start introducing the large following of communities such as Team Liquid, the sub-reddits as well as large-scale events to connect further these online communities into a gaming expo-like setting.

This is eSports. eSports is a spectacle to dress and curtain the core of the game and competition. The atmosphere is what is the most appealing for events such as IGN’s Pro League, North-American Star League finals and Major League Gaming which helps add flair and life to something that occurs within computer systems. The roaring fans and the enthusiastic and excited commentators are areas that help emphasize and improve the excitement of what goes in the game. These elements are found within mainstream sports and are why we title competitive gaming as eSports.

eSports Population Activity is an overview of how popular, active and worthwhile is eSports for these companies. It takes into account of the core game, its active teams and Pro Gamers, leagues and events as well as growth of community websites. I titled EPA as a global measurement to help identify just how popular and strong this subcultures growth is. For some games such as Tribes: Ascend and Street Fighter x Tekken, their EPA has been greatly reduced despite numerous attempts at trying to improve it (this could be for a variety of issues). Team Fortress 2, also a popular competitive game, is not as popularly viewed as Counter-Strike for other reasons. Their EPA is low and thus perhaps why companies aim to not acknowledge, improve or work towards changing that (because it isn’t realistically feasible for the company’s resources to devote towards or maybe because the company sees other more profitable ways to take advantage of their video-game product).

We call competitive gaming “eSports” because it summarizes and eases outsiders into the idea of e-athletes. Even if someone had no idea what playing video-games at a competitive level was or what it entailed, these tournament events are gaming expositions that help show the appeal of watching someone do something better than you (better technique, strategy, approach, etc). The importance of the atmosphere mimicking that of Football stadiums or Hockey rinks is the ultimate goal and titling eSports as a sport helps push the idea further (sports is a subject nearly everyone can identify, understand and easily associate the interest of it).

So why isn’t eSports a sport? You have the athletes and you have the mimicked atmosphere (just on a smaller scale). What prevents it from being that of sports? Because the game changes. The core game mechanics improve, change, and are biased towards one side or another. In StarCraft, you have three asymmetrical races that have their pros and cons, in ARTS games such as Dota, you have a multitude of heros that interact with one another differently. For FPS games, a variety of guns also means countless approaches towards taking down your opponent. These varied factors help keep the game fresh, new and entertaining. It displays unlimited possibilities that surpass that of sports on a basic ruled level.

Because video-game(s) can change so much, be improved and become visually stunning, the possibilities to innovate it makes it better than mainstream sports. The way these games are accessed and the tools used to better spectate each match and provide insightful information for viewers and commentators alike surpass that of mainstream sports.

However, the level of understanding for E-Sport games requires a little bit more. When I wrote my article “What Makes an E-Sport”, I noted the importance of being able to demonstrate skill and add thrill for the spectator within a game:

“It must be thrilling to watch. Despite the limitations of development in the past, games such as StarCraft: Brood War, Counter-Strike: 1.6, Quake 3 and DotA were still exciting to watch. Excitement is key to an E-Sport and that excitement must be both innate as well as injected from the viewer’s perspective. Some games are less challenged by this first point than others. Fighting games for example are much easier to showcase and spectacular to watch than first-person shooters.”

The reality is that eSports will always be a “you’re either in or you’re out” sort of pond and because most current adults have grown being out of video-games or not as competitively involved with it, most are definitely out. However, as the digital age encompasses more generations and old values start to shrink, the accessibility and acceptance of video-games and potentially E-Sports is bound to expand.

One area we did ignore in this piece is the relationship of sports with the NFL in comparison to that of Blizzard, RIOT and Valve who need to prioritize both the growth of this subculture as well as maintain their dedication to what really sells and adds value to these products. Because E-Sports relies on the products of gaming development companies, not all changes could be interpreted as needed or beneficial for the scene. It’s a difficult thing for gaming companies who aim to really maintain their devotion to E-Sports, but also towards their varying fans. This was discussed a bit in my article “The Overabundance of Tournaments & Branching Problems” but could definitely be further looked into.

To summarize, eSports is not necessarily sports, but is an accurate term to help the general public understand what eSports composes of. I designated it to be more like the WWF and UFC because of how new these competitions are as well as the fact that it aims to both entertain and compete. Video-games are entertainment and eSports also needs to be entertaining to maintain its niche audience interest. How this interest be reinvented can only be told as more investments flow into the idea and as more game development companies become involved or determined to sell their game as an E-Sport.