21 August 2013    Game On or Game Over Share

Game On or Game Over: eSports

Microsoft versus Sony, Battlefield verses Call of Duty, and Forza versus Gran Turismo. These are some of the rivalries that can get people talking about console wars. To promote solidarity, Stevivor.com and StickyTrigger.com have donated two stunningly brilliant (and good looking) writers to tackle some of gaming’s most controversial subjects. “Game On or Game Over” is your place to get inside the minds of Nicholas and Andy as they seek to find the true meaning of gaming. Both are award winning authors – although the awards haven’t been mailed yet, or created yet, they have won many! Trust us, we wouldn’t lie!

Nicholas: Last week we discussed our opinions on the gaming community. This week, I wanted to stick with this theme, but focus on a side of the community and gaming that we haven’t really touched on before – that is, eSports. Now from what I’ve seen in the past, the answer to the question I’m going to ask you has only gone one of two ways – either you agree, or you don’t. So without stalling any further, to begin, I wanted to ask you – do you consider eSports as a legitimate form of sport?

Andy: Oh man, you cut right to the quick on this one. I have very mixed feelings on this topic, but I’ll throw this out there to start. No, I don’t think eSports is a legitimate form of sport. Now, before the internet mobs descend to tar and feather me, let me explain. Does it take skill to be an exceptional player? Sure. Yet, I just can’t, in good conscience, consider playing a video game a sport. There are many things in life that require a unique skill set to excel at, but that doesn’t mean they are a sport. Let’s take an exceptional accountant, it can be a stressful position, lots of money can be riding on decisions they make, and they press buttons (sometimes) to accomplish their job. Does that make accounting a sport? I don’t think so.

I know the whole eSport scene is pretty new and still growing, but the general idea of it goes against why I am a gamer. I play games to relax, have fun, experience some cool things, and once and awhile meet a few people. From what I have seen of the eSport scene here in America it’s honestly not something I would ever want to be a part of. As a gamer, I just don’t see the benefit of it. Maybe it’s as simple as me not “getting it”. Maybe you, or some of our readers can explain it to me. I really don’t see why it’s a big deal. So, I’ve talked about my initial feelings about it, what are yours?

Nicholas: I’ll be honest here mate and say that I’m of the same belief as you on this one. I mean no disrespect to competitive gamers, but it too is something I’ve never seen the ‘point’ of. Much like you said, gaming to me is something that I’ve always done for fun. I suppose it can be argued that I take gaming a little more ‘seriously’ than some people (I guess anyone who actively writes about gaming would be in that boat), but it’s never anything more than a hobby or an interest. I’ve never been bothered to ever get ‘good’ at a game/genre before either.

Make no mistake though, I’m not belittling the skill of competitive gamers or the effort they put into being as good as they are, but it still isn’t a ‘sport’. For me, a large part of why boils down to the fact that gaming has no real physical exertion – and I am reluctant to call anything a ‘sport’ if the most you’re doing is sitting down and using your fingers. Here’s something that’s going to blow your mind though. Last week there was a DOTA 2 tournament in Seattle Washington, called ‘The International 3’ (or TI3 for short). The team which placed first won … *wait for it* … $1.43 million! Now I don’t want to come across as jealous (honestly I’m not, more power to team Alliance for winning), but I wanted to ask – what do you think about a group of gamers winning almost $1.5 million just for being the best at a video game?

Andy: You know, I guess if people can make money off it more power to them. It’s not something I would think about doing personally. I do think that in the age we’re in, maybe this is just the direction things are going. I think a great deal of it does come down to personal preference. In some of our past articles I’ve talked about how much ‘the experience’ of a game means to me. I have to be honest, I haven’t watched much of these eSports stuff because – well I’d rather play a game myself than watch others do it. I don’t watch Twitch, aside from a few rare times when a friend is doing something and I am mostly there to chat – Hi Baxy!

However, my main complaint against eSports and the “MLG” crowd is, I think they are influencing the creation of games way too much. I’ll use Black Ops 2 as an example. There are several things that most “casual” fans disliked with Black Ops and MW3, yet one of the heads of Treyarch (David Vonderhaar) stroked his ego and his want to be part of that crowd, so he left those things in – and in-fact, made things worse for normal gamers, and added features just for that crowd. I gave up trying to enjoy Black Ops 2, and I was a big Call of Duty fan, but when a developer lets one niche group dictate the direction of a game, all gamers suffer. If eSports want to take an existing game and do their competitions, tournament, etc. no skin off my back, but when they actively add/change/remove game elements from even making it into a game, then I have an issue with it. It could be a generational thing, a location thing (I live in Minnesota and there’s not a lot around me). I know we’ve been slanted a little towards the negative spectrum, so let’s try this, do you see any positives in regards to eSports?

Nicholas: If I can play devil’s advocate for a moment, it would be interesting to find out just how ‘niche’ the competitive gamer group is when it comes to the Call of Duty fanbase. I’ll admit, I’m not what you would call a eSports fan and I wouldn’t call myself a fan of CoD either (hell, I’ve never owned a single game in the franchise), but I do know that it’s a popular series amongst competitive gamers and those who like to stream gameplay online, so I wonder whether those changes were made and those features kept in because there was a loud enough voice asking them to be. I’m not necessarily saying I disagree with you, but I guess I can somewhat understand why if any franchise was going to be swayed by the opinions of competitive gamers, that it would be Call of Duty.

As far as ‘positives’ go though, I don’t really think that eSports necessarily has any, but by the same token, I wouldn’t say that it has any ‘negatives’ either. Let me explain. It’s nice that eSports gives those super-serious gamers a platform to hone their skills and prove themselves. It’s nice that eSports gets gamers together – some to play, some to learn, some to admire – but these aren’t the sort of ‘positives’ that you’d associate with actual sports for example – where you’d say people are getting fit/being healthy in the process. I know that it sounds like I hate on eSports and I know that I’ve been fairly negative in this piece, but it’s just something that I’ve never understood – so it’s not something I can really appreciate. I wanted to end on this though – in asking for opinions online, Mark Ankucic said that comparing sports to eSports was a lot like comparing apples to oranges. This really opened my eyes to how I perceived eSports, and maybe it is wrong to consider them in the same league to begin with. Along with any other final thoughts you might have, do you think this is a fair thing to say?

Andy: You know, maybe it’s semantics. When I hear the word ‘sport’ I automatically think of a set of predefined boundaries of what I consider a sport should be. Maybe my feelings on it would be a little different if they called it ‘eComp’ or something along that line. I can’t hide the fact that I’m not a fan of the whole scene, and what I know about it.  I will say, I do think there are some positives around the it though. Bringing people together, people coming together because of gaming, I can’t say that’s ever a bad thing. I’d also like to quote someone, Dan Amrich (OneofSwords) from Activision – who I respect a great deal, is always fond of responding to angry comments with the phrase “Play what makes you happy and ignore the rest.” I think at the end of the day I’m not a competitive gamer, I play games to have fun and relax. While I don’t care much for the whole eSports scene, I think, as gamers, there is room for everyone.

If eSports gamers can advocate for things that enhance gaming for everyone then I am all for it. Because, no matter which side of the fence you are on, video games – regardless of the game being played – makes us all the same. We just may have different reasons for playing. I’ll close by saying this, I am reasonably certain this article is going to rile some feathers of people in the eSports scene. I’m OK with that, but, I’d like to invite those who are riled up to share some perspective about it. I am willing to discuss and learn about it, but please be respectful and let’s see if we can have a good conversation around this topic.

Tune in next time for the next instalment of Game On or Game Over. If you have any ideas for our next article, feel free to contact Andy or Nicholas on Twitter.

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Nicholas Simonovski

Nicholas Simonovski

Events & Racing editor for Stevivor.com. I'm a fan of all things cars, gaming, and Pokémon. I used to be an angrier person, but I'm a lot calmer now. Oh, and I own a Mazda RX8 too!