Competition within video games creates excitement, drama, and most importantly profits. eSports are gaining traction within the the professional sports world. The Cleveland Cavaliers, Golden State Warriors, and Houston Rockets have all recently purchased franchise spots with the League of Legends North American Championship Scene. Even the New York Yankees owners recently invested in a professional eSports team (Echo Fox). Will we see Derek Jeter come out of retirement to play Overwatch? Which eSports are the most enjoyable to watch?
I believe eSports have a lot to learn from traditional sports. Take my ambivalence with traditional ball sports aside, they are fun to watch. People like watching traditional sports because they can see all the action and they are easy to understand. After watching soccer, hockey, or basketball for a few minutes most people will discover that the goal is to get the ball to the net at either side of the playing field.
Spectators are able to easily follow the center of the action and easily understand the basic rules. Now compare this basic structure to other sports. Most of my friends argue that baseball is not fun to watch, mostly because the rules are more complicated and the pace of the game is much slower.
Now compare this basic structure to eSports. The most limited factor with eSports are the multitude of complicated rules and systems that exist within these games. League of Legends has a complex system of leveling, buying gear, and unique player roles that make it hard to follow for someone unfamiliar with the scene.
Nevertheless, League of Legends consistently dominates the top of the Twitch.tv viewer lists. Most MOBA’s or Massively Online Battle Arena’s have a similar set of complicated rules. Heroes of the Storm is probably the least complicated, which may be a reason it has been featured on ESPN during the Heroes of the Dorm championship.
MOBA’s, first person shooters, strategy games, and fighting games dominate the eSports scene currently. Which is the most fun to watch? Each struggles with their own set of spectator issues. First person shooters are notoriously difficult to follow, as the perspective constantly jumps between players. Strategy games are often boring in the beginning and often conclude without any resolution, as one player GG’s and quits.
The Fighting Game Community becomes fighting games’ own Achilles Heel. They introduce difficult jargon regularly. Like the term “wake up” referring to the moment a character stands up after being knocked down. Commentators now refer to this as “Breakfast” and I have heard on a few occasions “Getting some pancakes.” It also seems that the FGC wants to separate themselves from the mainstream, with this years EVO Championship having many issues that kept it out of the limelight.
If eSports want to truly become the next big thing, they need to embrace spectators. Make the action easy to follow, and the rules simple. Allow spectators to view the action at all times. Most eSports require a camera controller to determine what the spectators see and often switch quickly as the action moves across the map; causing confusion and disorientation to the viewers.
Maybe the next big eSport will just be digital versions of traditional sports, like FIFA or Madden.
What are your favorite eSports to spectate? Do you see them growing with the influx of capital from major professional organizations?