Torte De Lini

A Sociocultural Analysis of Gaming and eSports
Torte De Lini

Torte De Lini

What Makes an E-Sport

In the past articles, we talked about the various difficulties and lengths E-Sports’ leading organizations, iconic figures and even the diverse community needed to go to expand this subculture. Ranging from promoting an array of talented people and areas to the importance of setting your content and events apart. The discussion of maintaining E-Sports growth has always been the centerpiece for a range of issues and affiliated opinion-makers. But when it comes to making an E-Sport, often times predictions and confidence from many sides fall flat. For game developers, a multiplayer portion of a video-game is made with modes and atmospheres (tone) in mind during production. Games like Bioshock 2 and Super Smash Bros. Brawl are vastly different in genre, but the tone was relatively silly and imbalanced [as intended]. Nonetheless, only one is played competitively (not necessarily an E-Sport) and with enough of a core participation rate to reconfigure it to more competitively sound settings. Team Fortress 2 also lived to be played competitively, but did not reach enough publicity to achieve an E-Sport level of popularity (though the game has many leagues including the long-standing ESEA league). When we look into the past, we often see games becoming competitively played before making the leap to an E-Sport perspective. Years ago, that leap was more of a gradual step but with many game developers actually incorporating an E-Sport perspective in their planning and target-audience, the way they have to market their games is angled a bit differently.

For gaming development companies, when they aim to make the multiplayer aspect of a video-game “E-Sports material”, they have to respect a whole new dimension of competition and viewership when planning. The risk of incorporating this new concept is trying to maintain an easy-to-approach strategy of the game while also keeping the game mechanics skilfully demanding. What may happen is that you end up trying to please everyone and potentially end up having no one like your product. The shortcomings of older games help limit some of the issues that [arguably] plague many games today.

What makes a game an E-Sport? Many games are played competitively, but not all of them are viewed as competitively thrilling or entertaining. Recently, as titles are coming and going, we’ve learned that not all games can be both competitively skillful as well as be interesting to watch. Tribes often showed traits of a very skillfully demanding game, but could not portray this skill in a meaningful way for the viewer. World of WarCraft as well displayed levels of talent and cooperative teamwork through strategy and unique character builds/stats, but could not make translate this dimension into an easy-to-follow form of gameplay for spectators.

Passing in Tribes: Ascend required a lot of timing and coordination at ultra-high speeds, but the game itself was difficult to navigate as an observer and thus, difficult to enjoy as a spectator.

A lot of games are played competitively amongst friends, online foes and small communities without necessarily becoming anything more than a pastime. So what is the attraction towards making a game an E-Sport? Right off the bat we can say that it adds a level of exposure and marketing towards your company and game. It attracts another level of dedicated players and fans with the aim in playing as talented as your professional-level players. This, in turn, helps populate your servers and games, extends the longevity of your product as well as increase sales overtime.

UntitledThe top five most popular games on Steam consists of two major E-Sports titles.

The downside to it would be both the extra time and dedication pre- and post-release of the game to ensure it is both balanced and featuring the tools the community needs to jump-start their E-Sport idea. The second downside would be the increased amount of community outreaching and communication you would need.

With that said, there are about 5 simple points to consider when asked: “What would help make a competitively-played game an E-Sport?”

1. 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.

2. It must have a good demonstration of skill in a spectacular way. The word “spectacular” was mentioned in my first point and it is an essential piece to maintain viewership and excitement levels. This helps draw in more viewers who are not familiar with the game, but can easily digest what is going on. Demonstrated skill is layered by the amount of active knowledge and participation a spectator has for the game.

  • For fighting games, two foes duke it out to overcome one another.
  • For first-person shooters, coordinated teams of players determine the best trajectory towards achieving their goal.
  • In real-time strategy games; players command a base and collect resources to establish an army to overcome their opponent.

These are preliminary understandings of a video-game genre. How well do video-games today display the difficulty of these goals to the average viewer? If we were to take each game further, we’d see there is another level of knowledge demanded from the spectator and an aspect to consider for the players involved, let’s take real-time strategy games for example:

  • Real-time Strategy Games: A player must simultaneously efficiently ensure his resources are kept low (macromanagement) to produce a manageable army against his opponent’s planned attack (timing attack during a point of time the other player would be typically vulnerable).

Thankfully, commentators are present to help translate some of the finer details of video-games, but as the game gets more and more in-depth, its initial attraction towards watching it becomes more and more demanding for the spectator to decipher and interpret.

Strenx offers analysis of his match in Quake. This analysis helps display the depth of knowledge needed to play Quake at a competitive level.

3. The game cannot do everything for the player(s). When one’s designing their game, tendencies to make the game more convenient than some of the older generations of E-Sport games are common – such as the thought of what one couldn’t do then, could easily be done now. This thought-process is based on hoping one’s good intentions to make a more convenient game will attract more people previously intimidated by the first game’s learning curve. The problem with this is that it detracts the ability for people to evaluate skill levels when they spectate or as they play. Determing what should be left in the game as an integral part of its challenging personality is often overlooked by many current developers.

Consider this example: In Brood War, your workers would not automine on their own as they were created. You had to manually do it one by one. This is pretty difficult to both keep track of and remember in a regularly heated game. In StarCraft II, it was done automatically for you and that was considered good because it was a tedious task that deterred focus onto more exciting areas of the game (such as battle engagements and micromanagement). In contrast, in StarCraft II, when a siege tank unit detects an enemy unit, it would know, along with other siege tank units, how many shots it would take before it destroys the unit, thus no shots are wasted. This is not necessarily a good thing because the game starts taking control and figuring things out for the player rather than letting the player handle and overcome situations on their own.

4.  Do not just throw money at it: Believe it or not, money does not get people to dedicate or surround their profession around a game. There will be people playing it, but the community will be much smaller and the amount of media exposure will likely be a lot less. When it comes to E-Sports, it is a very community-focused affair and just having prized-tournaments doesn’t really show how much you want the scene to grow, just that you support it financially. Companies such as Ubisoft and their game, Shootmania, do more than financially support exterior tournaments, but really aim and grow their brand as an E-Sport title both through initial presentations at E3 as well as in conjunction with IGN’s Pro League to kickstart and expose their game’s competitive modes and competitions.

Ubisoft presents their E-Sport FPS title, Shootmania, with a showmatch including CounterStrike & Quake Pro Gamers. Shootmania comes complete with a map-editor, customized settings for competition/events and a revised FPS style to keep in touch with standard FPS play, but also create its own mechanics.

5. Proper community support, outreaching communication: Getting an E-Sports division within the company’s community team is often suggested because of how much representation is often demanded both at other major events as well as through online interaction. In our previous article, we mentioned the roles of tournaments and events game developers are more focused towards in comparison to competitions and companies depending the success and popularity of a video-game. With an E-Sports division, one is not necessarily playing God, but being representative of receiving community information, learning the inner-workings of said community (ranging from scene leaders to writing contributors and pretentious analytical blog writers writing high-school essays about what may make an E-Sport). While major event organizations can help keep the game in the spotlight, a company’s presence will matter beyond words of support for E-Sports: ArenaNet (Kotaku) and 343 Industries (Forbes) all talk in support of E-Sports, however their inclusion with both the community as well as the overall growth of their scene are lacking in comparison to some of the veterans such as Blizzard and Capcom.

(6. Accessibility):  While obvious for most, accessibility has to be maintained through different structures for different economies, its people and the way they live and approach entertainment. For most of North America, they all have their own consoles, personal computers and televisions to play video-games. However for Japan, consoles and arcades are the most popular mediums towards accessing entertainment. For Asia, PC Bangs (LAN Gaming Centers) are commonly used, leading towards the popularity of games that don’t require ownership of the product (thus free-to-play games such as League of Legends retain a large following). Ultimately these cultures that morph around a country’s habitual time-constraints and economy help determine the best ways to make one’s video-game accessible to the common consumer. In areas where owning a computer is a major luxury, time-cards and free-to-play models help popularize a specific game, but also rely on the more fortunate countries to supply a financial return.

These are the five things amongst many other considerations that would help aim a game into an E-Sport-like level of attention. I think for a good scene, you need a good game that will withstand the test of time. We can see this in DotA and most off-shoots from it, but you can also see how a successful game idea can also have a terrible developer support (Quake Live and Heroes of Newerth for example) and vice-versa; a supportive developer, but the game lacks the spectating components to make it interesting (Tribes: Ascend). Ultimately, it’s all about right-timing, good hooks of interest and the right demonstrators to really showcase your game.

In the past, E-Sport titles were eventually created through community popularity and events, later on becoming more professionally played and dedicated. Now, the trend is the contrast, where we are trying to create E-Sport products to garner community popularity and support. With that comes a new wave of adversities and challenges not previously seen.

The Lack of Storytelling in E-Sports’ Events

Within this month, there are currently four major tournament organizations showing content (if we exclude Evil Geniuses MCSL): GSL, IPL, MLG and NASL (as well as Iron Squid and KeSPA’s Proleague). They are all viewed as equally important with large prize-pools, top-tier talent and prestige. In the past, we mentioned how the community, players and scene is overstocked with tournaments, all similar in content, prestige and value (both production-wise and in prizes). With these similarities, the feeling of saturation becomes emphasized within the community’s thoughts. This similarity is a core problem because so many tournaments fail to distinguish themselves when their participants, maps and match-ups aren’t varied. This need for distinctiveness is also known as creating relevance. Relevance for these tournaments is outwardly assumed through their name and history. But with so many tournaments equal in qualities, how is one to differentiate which competitions to follow? This is where the role of story-telling becomes important for organizers. Story-telling solves the feeling of overflowing content by creating features and dimensions between major tournaments. Think of these tournaments like mountains: all mountains have their peak, history of climbers (players) and status around the scene/world. How would you, the organizer, set your mountain apart from the others? You would create context, weave a story, detail the results of past matches of the participating players and how each match is applicable to one another within your event (context).

Drama is the side-effect of an untold scene. My viewpoint on drama is that it is a byproduct of a bored environment. A boring scene is a culture without meaning in its crowning events or overall performance in entertainment. In my opinion, drama, rivalries, hype, nicknames and announcements are shapes and offshoots of story-telling for E-Sports. Why is story-telling so important?

  • While prizes, competition and a livestreamed event may entice and attract competitors, it doesn’t necessarily hold the same weight and worth for spectators. No doubt that players fighting for 1 million dollars is pretty cool. But what more could we say about the players and the prize?
  • Not all spectators of an event quite know the history of your previous events or even the height of a certain match-up. While I understand that the entertainment of the games have their own attraction, contextually adding a backstory to a certain match-up can bring people in to watch the match. Story-telling helps formulate justifications for the spectator to watch an event over another while the match keeps them watching.

The problem with most tournaments is that they all follow similar formulas to advertise: “here is the player list, here is the grand prize of our tournament and here are the amazing matches from the past”. Because of this, tournaments start to run into redundancies with other events, creating a repetitive feeling to the community. During events, you have commentators to describe, analyze and inject excitement in a game. After the tournament, you have video-editors highlighting the best matches and recaps both in written and video form. But what about before the whole event, who is writing a story, creating importance of each tournament during the year?

Thankfully, websites like Team Liquid does a great job recapping, doing power rankings and creating pertinence to a tournament that may get washed up against the bigger dogs. But it shouldn’t be done by external organizations, it should be a part of a tournament’s marketing team; hyping their service or product. To be frank, it doesn’t take much marketing to be both excited in what you’re featuring and writing 200 words on the tournament overall or of specific players.

Here’s an example of a tournament that had some great players, decent prize-pool and no other tournament was happening at the same time (nothing major), but failed to promote themselves: Campus Party (EU)Campus Party (Official Topic). Look at the qualities of this event: 25,000$ prize-pool, great player line-up; Snute, Socke, Strelok, Elfi, ForGG, NightEnD, HasuObs, Supernova, Ret, Naama and this comment sums up exactly my thoughts:

$25,000 and i’ve never heard of it lolol. What?! Come on now tournaments! It’s not that hard to throw up a post on TL and/or reddit!” is what a user said about the event. It’s definitely a common thought amongst many users. MLG, IPL; they all post hubs for their upcoming matches or tournaments, but it’s just an information center. Very rarely do any of them take advantage of a central community lobby to produce some more hits on their website with a hype article or to portray a particular strong component of story-telling: Stakes.

What is at stake for these players? If you’re looking for how to start your article on your tournament: ask the question; What is at stake? Stakes is everything in a sport and it’s almost implicit through the nature of watching two players duke it out:

  • The stake of winning it all: becoming the best.  Earning the money and credibility that you are a real competitor.
  • Emotional stakes: Pride. Some examples of dilemmas you’ve probably imagined or read:
    • Bouncing back after the community doubts your return.
    • The pressure of being the few foreigners to beat a Korean.
    • Once supported by a team, you’re now flying solo with your sponsor.
  • Rivalries: Rivalries are a relationship of stakes. Someone has to lose for the other to win and while that’s obvious in each and every match,if there’s a history of winning and losing between the two players, that’s a story. Rivalries matter; no matter if they’re true or just fabrications of the community, rivalries amp up the imaginative stakes. Anyone remember Idra’s rivals (Cruncher, HuK, MC)? How about NaNiwa’s (NesTea)? These add some flair and interest in matches and also put give reasons for someone to watch a match (in addition to their initial interest in the two players’ ability independently).

The point being, drama is a branch of what the community wants, but not in the form they prefer. With a circulation of tournaments, qualifiers, LANs, weekly/daily competition, it would help if someone stringed all these tournaments with some sequencings. This piece isn’t only for tournament organizers, players and personality go hand-in-hand with the desire to color the scene with shades of uniqueness. But even without personality, your player can stand out with written context about who they are, where they are in the brackets, etc. Interviews also help players shine and these small touches really create a blend of iconicism. In a crowded scene trying to appeal to a small market of viewers, adding a written background can help justify your presence and mark throughout the years.

The Overabundance of Tournaments & Branching Problems

In previous articles, when we spoke more about exposure ranges for players in tournaments, we touched upon what financially supports tournaments: viewership. This reliance keeps tournament afloat, but also has them consistently competing with one another to remain relevant to the common spectator. The problem with these competitions is that they lead to split numbers, but also shrouds unestablished, growing organizations. In contrast to these tournament companies, when game development companies (e.g Blizzard Entertainment) host and organize international tournaments, their three initiatives serve their own end and are more utilitarian:

1. Attracting new viewers and expanding their market pool,

2. Providing a supportive and community-attached front that attracts and impresses onlookers peering from the outside of the E-Sports globe

3. Creating a stable footing for current and future events.

Essentially, when development companies do events, it’s to add a friendly face to a digital landscape. Similar to conventions, these events bridge the anonymity of realistic relationships and competition to a real-life stage. What sets Blizzard’s tournaments apart from other organizations and their events is the dependency. Let’s look at how Blizzard depends on StarCraft II:

  • Blizzard earns a return through general sales of StarCraft II
  • Blizzard earns return through a share of prize-pools/licensing of major tournaments
  • Further sales are generated through the longevity of the game and its real-life presence via tournaments, events, etc.

Now what are some ways tournament organizations, relying on Blizzard’s games, survive? Sponsors, attendance, viewers, investors, pay-per-view, HD passes and advertising (all relaying back to viewership dependency). Their sales are not made by the game, but reliant on the game’s status and overall community’s attitude towards it. I think what you’ll find is that due to the scene missing a wide array of incoming money from different directions and areas, most tournament organizations are obliged to adhere to the spectators (titled: community attitude).

In organizing tournaments, there are three major characters you need to prioritize: the spectators, players and yourself: the company hosting and organizing the event. While one would love to adhere to the spectators who only want to see their favourite players rip it up, your own sustainability is based off the survivability of the scene as well as the coming and going of new competitors. Unfortunately, spectators are quite picky: they want to see their favourite players, though properly seeded. They don’t necessarily want “invitationals”, but seeing their favourites reach the championship brackets is always noted in their books: it’s like getting to the good stuff after two days of underground fist-brawling. However, some people like pure open-bracket tournaments, but as we saw at MLG’s Providence of 2011: it can be long, winding and you have to sift through a ton of one-sided matches before the good competitions comes in. Balancing out a good format for your tournament that pleases spectators, but gives fair odds to another major character, the players, can affect your overall financial gain.

Players are another aspect to consider: they want fairness and good playing conditions so they can win. Sometimes, wanting to win means boring or short games which doesn’t exactly thrill the viewers. How do you please fans, have them return to your tournaments each and every year as well as entice them to perhaps pay for some products or services when your tournament’s grand finale is a six-minute match? FXO’s Josh Dentrinos has been asking these sorts of questions for a long time now:

“So whats next for E-Sports? Well, you are going to start getting charged for the content. Anyone who thinks the content being made should be considered free because “twitch lets them play ads that’s enough” should probably start researching what kind of money actually can come out of that and that’s no attack on twitch, they do a great job and are doing a great job at ting to provide a service to the community that allows things to last longer and grow.”

What we’ve been seeing more is the leading tournaments and events trying to take up all the months on the calendar. The reason for this is due to competition with neighboring major events and the guarantee to make a return of investment (even if at a net loss). The long-term aim for these major leagues is to be an established integral part of the culture as well as ensuring their lead as a major organization within the year. Let’s look at progress for MLG: originally, MLG had three events in 2010 as they tested the StarCraft 2 water. Then they made bold moves and doubled that number to 6 major city events (and 3 invitationals). This year, they’re going for bigger:

  • Winter: EU/KR/NA Qualifiers, Arena, Championship
  • Spring: Open Online Qualifiers, Arena 1, Invite Qualifiers, Arena 2, Championship
  • Summer: Open and Invite Qualifiers, Arena, Championship
  • Fall: Open and Invite Qualifiers, MVP Invitiational, Championship

That’s smart and very aggressive. They have a good hold on the North-American side of the world and they’re really using what lead they got in the middle of 2011 (MLG Anaheim) to really take advantage of the scene and spectators. Let’s take a look at it again: in 2011, MLG was about eighteen days + three invitationals (broadcasted over about thirty days each). Approximately three months of content and about 2 months’ nights of player’s playing these matches before broadcasting. In 2012, we’re looking at double that and more in terms of content and time for both spectators to digest the amount of tournaments as well as how many qualifiers, arenas and championships players have to play (as well as the MVP Invitational).

Now add DreamHack to the mix as well as GSL, IEM and the NASL. If we threw in IGN Pro League’s showmatches (IPL Fight Club), team leagues (Premier, Contender and Amateur) and the qualifiers of the major tournament (IPL 3-4-5, MLG, IEM, GSL, NASL open), you’re looking at a near full annual schedule of events. Some pay-per-view, some entirely free, all revolving around nearly the same usual players and the same base of viewers who try to absorb everything.

Amount of tournaments within the year 2012, excluding IPL Showmatches & 3-tier Team-League system (42 teams) – information courtesy of Liquipedia

[Click to enlarge listing]

The problem is the scene becomes a boiling tournament-filled hotpot. Even if we were to routinely interchange players (different regions, different champions), the significance of each tournament with another one a few months away limits the feeling of achievement and a ‘talked legacy’ (‘Talked legacy’ being the missing discussion amongst the community of who is the best player). This is because of an equally-sized and valued tournament coming soon after one finished. Following tournaments either reinforce a point-of-view or simply flips the table and rescrambles the question of “who is the best player around?”. Neither are good proponents of good discussions; the roots to what ultimately becomes “hype” or excitement when the two compared players fight it out.

In addition, tournaments mean more opponents and less specialty in plays. The emphasis on good macromanagement in-game, mentality and overall strategy becomes more demanded than training or preparing specifically for an opponent and their strategy (a la GSL or NASL). Endurance starts playing a larger value than one’s ability to really assess their opponent as well as out-think them. These tournaments potentially slow down strategy and competitive innovation for refining in mechanics and overall ability to play the game.

With so many tournaments and opportunity, top teams don’t necessarily need to prioritize leagues when the prize-pool becomes nearly the same. Not to forget that the amount of preparation demanded in tournaments is greatly reduced and easier to cover than the analytical approach of studying your opponent for league matches. The equation goes as: more risk, but more reward in less time for tournaments than leagues, which greatly reduces a league’s importance (with the GSL being an exception).

Previously we mentioned the shrouding of major tournaments and its effect on smaller competitions and leagues; unfortunately, there are so many competitions demanding so many international fans their full attention, you start diminishing developing tournaments and leagues trying to attract new viewers (and the attention of prosperous teams). Any smaller tournament trying to obtain the top-ranked teams will have to swim through the nightmares of scheduling and fitting their tournament within an overfished market. When it comes to Koreans, that’s a double layer and language barrier to hurdle over (God bless ESV’s Korean Weekly).

All in all, what Dota 2 lacks is what StarCraft II has too much of: exposure. With so many tournaments you face these summarizing problems in many facets of the three main characters named above (Tournament organizers, players, eye-strained spectators).

  • Root problem: Due to the limited forms of return of investment through service sales (HD, PPV, etc.), tournaments organizations aggressively up the number of tournaments. Competition amongst other major tournaments also urges organizers to push out more content to establish themselves as the top event within a year. This effect causes a year-long monopoly amongst the top national and international tournaments (NA, EU, Asia).
  • Branching problem 1: Due to this monopoly of tournaments, spectators become bogged down with the amount of prestige in tournaments and can no longer value champions within a professional tournament circuit or via an array of major tournaments.
  • Branching problem 2: With an influx of major tournaments, a player’s time is divided to preparing for all kinds of opponents as well as specific opponents in leagues. Preparation diminishes, strategy becomes stale and repetitive to what works most of the time.
  • Branching problem 3: Budding tournaments and host organizations are clouded over by the big dogs trying to scrape by. This squashes unknown players’ opportunities to be exposed, removes competition and distances ‘indie’ tournament organizations from major events.
  • Branching problem 4: The amount of free content available dimishes the money major organizations can scrape by with. If you include the target audiences general income and willingness to spend and you find a very starved and begging market.

I would say these highlighted issues are probably the core of what prevents growth in many areas of this subculture. If someone were to ask me a solution, I’d just say: we need more viewers, more money/investors and more cycling of players, major, medium and ‘indie’ events. If intrigued and they asked me “how?” I just wouldn’t know. The obvious answer would be that people need to spend more, but for the sake “to grow E-Sports”? That may be a bit too utilitarian, not practical and throwing more money at a problem from real people does not necessarily mean solutions bloom. In the end, what tournaments are causing is due to their own strain and difficulty to sustain. We’re only drowning in content because others thirst for means to expand in new and different ways. All in all, there is a traffic jam of tournaments due to unsatisfied individual needs.

The Problematic Comparisons of Female Pro Gaming

As previously stated, with the amount of professional gamers out there streaming, coaching and [under]achieving, how do females fit into the whole scene? Females are a minority receiving the community’s strongest criticisms, but also receiving the least opportunities. The game doesn’t distinguish males from females, yet some organizations like to sell females just playing video-games more so than exposing them as a different gender with the same amount of determination and deserved respect. Within this piece, we will examine weights of a narrowly-exposed group of players and how the wrong community view(s) can ultimately tear down an aspect of E-Sports that could need the most growth.

Right now, females suffer from 2 prejudices:

  • “Females gamers are being signed for being a female rather than any real remarkable achievements”
  • “Female gamers who are not achieving, don’t deserve to be on a team”

(It’s a vicious circle: Female gets on a team without any achievements, female remains on the team but never sent to any events or actively used in team leagues. Never exposed, she never achieves anything or is a part of any team achievements).

With these preconceived notions, females are caught only being able to promote themselves through their gender. While several solutions have been tried to remedy the absence of achievements like female-only tournaments, they have not been aggressively put into use and advertised appropriately. Counter-Strike is the only exception to this and female teams have gained recognition for their achievements when playing in women’s leagues. The bottom line is, however, that community misperception is the detriment of female pro gaming divisions across the competitions. It is because we compare men to female that we hinder the growth of one that is quite dissimilar to the other.

Community mis-perceptions such as comparing males to females quantify two differencing genders. When we compare, we look at how much each gender has succeeded, with more pro gaming males, a higher rate of success whereas females are on the other end of the spectrum (less females, lower rate of success). Problem is, we criticize females for their lack achievements while ignoring the amount of failures (losses) males have accrued more of. When we disapprove of females, it is often due to our knowledge of male capabilities and chances to succeed with the omission of the overall numbers. Women-only tournaments are not about the separation from men but rather the desire to create its own female heroes.

 Females should be praised for their own separate achievements; different standards and expectations for different types of people. Aren’t we then setting a lower standard for females over males? No, that is a comparison; we are actually just setting a system or scale for female E-sports. Females should have female tournaments and the reason for these events is that you want to expose all sectors of an E-Sport. As one user said on the topic of female-only tournaments:

“I just want to say chess has a female-only World championship. Women are allowed to play in normal tournaments–in fact, Polgar, the strongest female player perhaps ever, never competed in the female World championships–but they also have one that is exclusive to them.

It’s not emphasizing a disparity so much as a difference. Tournaments only for a country isn’t racist; tournaments only for women aren’t sexist. In any area where one group dominates in both numbers and skill, it’s okay to have separate systems to encourage other groups to join.

Especially since, and let’s be completely honest, e-sports/dota is pretty much male-dominated, we should do everything to encourage new players.”

[Reddit user Christoper on /r/Dota2]

This falls into place with my: “regional tournaments to promote regional champions” from my last article (Splitting the scene for Regional Champions). Gender/Sex has parallels with geographic location, except its biological. The argument of having regional tournaments for American and European players is the same for males and females; champions within their socio-cultural reach. While it may seem like we want to increase the number of champions in a given year, we are, in fact, asking for the term to be widened in diversity.  Right now, females in StarCraft II are used for more marketing purposes and pushed less to achieve, especially when the opportunity to succeed is about once a year.

Right now, there are a wide variety of females who obtain little to no credit for their recent accomplishments: such as the IESF female winners. We need to praise those who achieve and value others who try. In the case of females, it is a lot easier to distinguish those who participate in tournaments and others who play the game for more entertainment purposes. While entertainers are found throughout the scene, a heavy favoritism should be put towards those who seek to extend the potential ability of the female gender rather than take advantage of it. In CounterStrike, female leagues and teams are still in growth (ESWC and ESL), however, they are much more ahead of the RTS scene who has had only two recent major events for females (Zowie Divina and lESF).

15-year South African, Gabriella Issacs takes second place at IESF Female. — Photo courtesy from ThisIsGame

Nonetheless, in the end, it comes down to one’s own opinion about the importance of female players. I don’t think there is a real objective answer that would soothe all mind and souls about this predicament. Females sit uncomfortably on a double-edged sword where they cannot be proud of their gender without being indiscriminately bashed nor can they earn the recognition of being who they are. Should gender matter in a fair and equal world? Nope. Should women be accepted as different and a minority? Yes, acceptance is the key here and with openness comes the push to improve.

Splitting the Scene for Regional Champions

If you thought self-promoting yourself as a content-creator was difficult, imagine trying to stand-out as a top foreign player amongst a sea of other players with all the same capabilities as you and with near identical quality of material offered to their viewers. For many current top foreigners, aspiring teams and their players, there is a struggle to maintain both interest and motivation to play the game with the starvation of real achievements in their careers. This absence leads players to alternative measures to earn both finances to continue their profession and assume other roles that aren’t of the competitive nature (entertaining, marketing).

When I was managing for many teams like Team Dynamic or Quantic (among many other teams), my biggest challenge was motivation – getting and keeping my players morally and emotionally compelled to keep practicing. I always told myself: “You can’t force them to play, you can only give reasons to play” and even then; it was nearly impossible to get someone to want to practice at a game that emotionally beats and breaks them down. Couple that with the lack of recognition for their achievements and you get a very emotionally-exhausted and frustrated player. Motivation is strongly pushed by the interest of the game, the thrill of succeeding and the rewards from achieving in events. As we’ll see with my example and explanation, maintaining a willingness to improve is not that easy when you don’t see the perks of it all.

Author: Foxy. from

Meet my friend Andrew ‘Attero’ Golec, this pro gamer was a prime example of a passionate player who gave it his all, remained almost consistent in skill and never received any real opportunities minus a few mentions and showmatches. Attero’s history is short: started with VT Gaming, went on to join Team Dynamic and continued to be amongst the top North-American/SEA and Europe players in the scene. His minor achievements include qualifying for HomeStory Cup IV (2011 – winning over MajOr & KawaiiRice), reaching MLG’s championship bracket in Anaheim (2011 – winning over LastShadow, Jinro and Complexity’s RSVP). Attero is a player who streamed constantly and talked throughout his games for six to eight hours a day, every day. All this work and attention towards his game, his small following and dedication for nearly a year lead to a couple of interviews, guest on’s Kings of Tin and ChanManV’s Pro Corner webshow. After managing more than 50 players in my time, Attero is amongst my top 6 recommended players. Attero’s story is not uncommon; in fact, it’s too common and too unfortunate. The story of how foreigners cannot achieve and become recognized due to the scene’s over-extension to reach an international audience is becoming popular. What this means is that with the rise of big-league teams stepping up their weaponry from prominent foreigner semi-automatics to Korean automatics, you leave a huge gap of aspiring players with no room to excel or shine at all.

With Koreans found in nearly all channels of competition: weekly tournaments, North-American/European qualifiers and national and international main events, areas where are foreigners meant to earn a reputation and a financial buffer to support their goals? A core passion that most gamers, like Attero, rely on to dedicate themselves begins to dwindle when the chain-of-effects comes into play:

  • Lack of success creates an absence of media exposure
  • No public recognition creates an unlikelihood of invitationals or major team contracts
  • The player thus begins to lack of finances leads to needing a part-time job.
  • This part-time job takes away from practice and weakens his ability to play
  • Trailing behind in competition, the pro gamer eventually falls off the competitive curve and fades.

*To note that Korean pro gamers also face their own problems within the scene.

It’s certainly not the Koreans’ fault that they just play better and practice more diligently, you can’t blame someone for doing something better, and it should be a force of motivation. But at the same time, there is definitely a lack of outlets for foreign players to shine and rank themselves amongst one another with a monetary prize-finish at the end. The suggestion of regional-prized tournaments ranging from different levels helps alleviate the frustrations for many players and connect them back with challengers they can build off from one another. The upsides to these competitions would be:

  • Viewers and prosperous team owners (who cannot necessarily afford a Korean or are looking for more fan-favourite/relatable players) can easily determine who is the best of the best within their region/country/continent and offer them a suitable contract.
  • Players who are the best in their region have something to put on their list of achievements. This also widens the amount of “valuable” free agents for showmatch organizers and smaller tournaments to invite as well as create more pride in more local/country talent than international (something I think Europeans are quite closer to than the Americas).

Indeed, if we point to Blizzard’s World Championship Series; it helped create national recognition for players like JonnyREcco, put more emphasis on Scarlett’s ability to compete and helped put ViBe back on the map (who has been pretty quiet and undistinguished since It’s Gosu). Blizzard’s WCS gives promise to the American scene [and Terran] with MajOr and helps distinguish other great talents of Europe and South America.

The downside to all of this is that, presumably: no one will watch. The general public’s assessment of North-American talent is low [I disagree] and Europeans are just below the Koreans. With that common notion in most people’s minds, who would watch tournaments of only national players when we wouldn’t be necessarily watching “the cream of talent and build-execution“? Blizzard’s World Championship Series does hint at how this may not be entirely true. Unfortunately, there are no popular continental leagues to further test this issue.

Blizzard’s World Championships is a segmented display of offering opportunity to upcoming foreigners with geographically-near goal achievements.

With region-based leagues, this could incite national companies to be more interested in sponsoring local teams as well as regional tournaments. For some companies, they only make sales within their nation, thus this could be both more financially supportive of them to sponsor and more worthwhile as their core consumer group is directly involved and centered towards. Affordable costs for companies to be supportive also generates local understanding and interest in a layered, prominent subculture.

In another area, regional tournaments would hasten the amount of cycling through current foreign professionalsThis is to say that players who were renowned back in 2010 and 2011 would not have as strong as an impact on the scene as they did before due to prominence of newly-succeeding players. At the moment, the perceived importance of some foreign players right now remains both due to their reputable team or by the fact that they remain relevant through other means of content (see: The Thin Corridors of New Content). If the scene is able to show who is currently at the peak of competitiveness on various scales, then established pros can be re-ignited with the desire to improve and retake their position rather than rely on past outdated successes. On the flipside, upcoming professionals will also have a more immediate goal of beating out those who are within reach (in terms of skill level).

A good mix of region-based leagues and international tournaments creates a balanced and constant cycling of both aspiring professional players and levels of champions from local to national to international. With a more gradual spread of tournaments, there should be a result of less emphasis on having a Korean (currently the best players) on your team and more demand for foreigners to improve instead of becoming the marketing extremity. This will also add more stable grounds for smaller teams to compete rather than rely on mercenaries to compensate (Team Legion, Check-Six, Alt-Tab) for roster inadequacies.