Continually growing, there is a machine with millions of parts, each just as important as the other. It is building something great; a large, exciting spectacle for all to enjoy in some way. This machine is ‘esport’. It is a part of society that has perhaps been lurking for years now but has been innovating and breaking out into mainstream media, gaining attention more and more each day. Understanding what esport is, how it works, its intricacies and nuances is a detailed machine with millions of impossibly broad parts. Despite this, there are broader concepts and explanations of esport that serve useful for anyone curious about this industry that’s here to stay. Through breaking down some of the most critical and core aspects and then making a comparison to more mainstream concepts of a similar vein, it will begin to help rationalise esport. Thus, outlining the relevance of the industry today, its impact so far and where it’s heading in the future.
Esport exists in a very fluid state, meaning the landscape is constantly changing and adapting to external factors. With this being said, there is also an element of esport that is consistent through these adaptations, which is its competitive nature. It is a competitive discipline, whether it is two individuals or two teams against each other, there will be an outcome that brings a winner. Notable games that have been a part of esport for many years and have a large audience behind it include DOTA2, League of Legends, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Overwatch and Call of Duty. Each represents unique subsection of a greater community online. Within these games, team play and individualistic skills become apparent and in both physical and mental ways – whether this is how a player interacts to information being communicated or reacting mechanically to something happening on their screen. Ensuring there is a fanbase and audience behind an esport title is crucial for an array of reasons. It drives viewership analytics, which is used to gain sponsorships and to evaluate the success of an event. It also encourages a player base for the respective games, that is the group of people who own and actively play the specific game. Viewership is a large aspect of broadcasting esport titles, where these days, tournament organisers such as ELEAGUE have pushed for games and events to run on TBS and other television stations. Of course, this is associated with being an approach that traditional sport would take, hence frequent comparisons between the two.
In order to rationalise esport being the new and exciting spectacle, it is often compared to traditional sport. Despite contrasting timelines of operation, funding and audience sizes among other factors that gauges success and longevity, esport mirrors aspects of traditional sport that act as points when discussing and defining esport. A key similarity is the existence of many ‘codes’ of esport; akin to all varieties and codes of a sport such as the NFL, Football (Soccer) and the NBA. The titles in esport include Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO), League of Legends and DOTA2 and they all share foundational similarities to traditional sports. To elaborate, much like how NFL is taken one play at a time, CS:GO is played as a ‘best of 30’ rounds, one round at a time with a defensive and offensive team. Elements of League of Legends can be seen in a football game through team play, endurance and momentum over the course of a more drawn out single ‘round’ or game. Ever apparent are the aspects that are shared between these competitive disciplines but is reflective of the nature of such. Skeptics doubt the cerebral aspects of esport despite it clearly demonstrating the necessity of both mechanical skills and intellectual ability. Strategy exists in many forms. Whether it is a team style or system of play, an in-game strategy designed to take advantage of another team or aspect of the game, the general metagame apparent at that time or simply understanding the habits of exceptional players and their decision-making processes in X and Y scenarios. Such has prompted coaches and analysts within teams to break down the abundance of data and information present, as well as reports and breakdown analysis for the general public; further validating this aspect of esport. Whilst the in-game characteristics are important to draw connections, as are the players. Stars like Shaquille O’Neal, Christiano Ronaldo and Roger Federer both define the peak but sometimes represent something larger than the game they play. Figures who stand tall and push the limits of their game are integral to building the viewership and raising the skill ceiling, they are players like Olofmeister, Dendi and Faker; each iconic and renowned for their ability to make the impossible, possible. They make the game memorable and serve as symbols for viewers and audiences to get behind – similar to the stars of other sports; who like Shaquille O’Neal are even getting behind esport these days supporting teams and events.
As the industry continues to grow globally, its relevance to society is increasingly present. Considering Shaquille O’Neal is not only involved but also financially invested in esport among other people and organisations such as Marshawn Lynch, Steve Aoki, the Golden State Warriors, and Coca-Cola. Investments like these give validity to esport having a future in addition to establishing a better scene now. With the continual growth of events in terms of production as well as the inclusion of more countries, the audience and viewership potential are climbing into the hundreds of thousands and occasionally millions. Esport is able to achieve this through how it incorporates technology and competition along with mental and physical ability, similar to sport but in a way that appeals to younger audiences who make up the bulk of esport audiences. Through its ability to drive a narrative and promote competition in the same way sports do, esports not only integrates technology but does so in a way that reflects what the younger generations are seeking. This is the key behind not only why esport is relevant in society today but how it will have an impact in the future as it continues to grow.
The esport machine is growing each and every day, it is apparent the factors that contribute to this. Understanding the fundamentals of the esports industry and how they mirror traditional sports works as a means of rationalising it linked with insight on the relevance of the industry today and going forward in the next few years. Thus, defining esport, but in another sense, this piece should stimulate thought for esport and encourage anyone to look further into the industry.
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