On the highest level today, eSports can challenge some of the biggest traditional sports in terms of engagement. Long since having broken into the mainstream, the upward trajectory of this market has transformed the gaming landscape, and it’s only growing bigger. While the expansive size of the current eSports world involves many important components, few are as relevant to the roots of videogames as community spirit.
Of course, no community comes out of nowhere. In the modern age, the rapid expansion of eSports in the mainstream often reflects the progress made by eSports pros and the tournaments in which they test their mettle. No longer simply a matter of a title’s base popularity, modern eSports succeed or fail because of the scene as a whole. It’s an interesting relationship, and one which we feel is worthy of investigating.
Tournaments Connect Players
Tournaments have a long-time legacy of turning players into friends, and eSports brings this idea to an entirely new level. As competitive gaming has gotten more popular, the technology surrounding it has lowered the communication barriers, fostering an increasingly connected and streamlined environment.
Back in the old days, the only way to get others to share gaming experiences with you was to visit an arcade or come over to play at somebody’s house. Many of us have fond memories of these times, but there’s no denying that they could be complicated and costly to enjoy. Today, the accessibility of online systems combined with more convenient UX has driven connectivity to new heights, both for individuals and for groups.
With eSports now in the mainstream, many of the hurdles which held back older and smaller tournaments have gone by the wayside. There are now far more resources available for those who create tournaments, and there’s a far greater understanding of eSports by the public which eases implementation. Building, taking part in, or just spectating eSports is more achievable than ever, and that’s great for bringing players together.
From the perspective of the spectators, a sense of togetherness is the result of how far eSports communities have grown over time. Services like Twitch are a big part of this, where millions of viewers in hundreds of games have essentially created an eSports culture. Memes and shared ideals are now common, revolving around specific teams, games, and players, with concepts often taking a jump outside of a specific game and into the broader eSports zeitgeist.
When a team stays off of the capture point and loses a match because of it, it’s common for spectators to share in calls of ‘C9’ in reference to a famous Overwatch moment. When a player’s team in a team-fighter gets two characters hit at once, fans yell out ‘Happy Birthday’, taken from much-loved commentator Yipes. The eSports arena is filled with little moments and references like this, which helps build on this idea of an evolved community, where acceptance and shared understandings of history are key.
Contributions from the Pros
As for what makes tournaments stand out, thanks also have to go to the pros who keep the game at the highest level. Like any sport, these pros serve as rallying points for players and spectators both, as they work to illustrate what’s possible at the highest skill tier of the game. Early on, it was players like Quake 3’s Fatal1ty who demonstrated the heights which players could reach, and in the much larger market of the day, the best players can become celebrities in their own rights.
Players like Faker in League of Legends and F0rest in CS: GO are among the best in the world, but it’s not just their talent and skill that makes them great. Rather, they also contribute to the game by their friendly demeanor and ability to act as figureheads. Like Michael Phelps in swimming and Carl Lewis in track and field, the best can draw in viewers and players both, making the game bigger and better for their involvement. The rise of professional teams such as FaZe and 100 Thieves has also helped draw in viewers by providing them with an entity to support across different titles, although naturally some people just follow specific players wherever they go as that’s where their loyalty is.
Attaching Other Industries
Together, all these elements add up to create such a high level of popularity that games reach into other markets, to attract those who might otherwise not be interested. Perhaps the most popular example of this is the modern online betting and odds websites which are built around eSports. Operating on a professional level by showing odds and allowing bets, outside industries like these help eSports break into a wider audience. This creates a downstream effect of drawing in more fans, raising the profile of players, and making games bigger because of it.
With eSports now finally being taken seriously by the mass media, it’s fascinating to see how far the games and their communities have come. From literal beginnings in basements, the biggest tournaments now offer hundreds or thousands of dollars in prizes, while being broadcast internationally on major channels. Having just broken the billion-dollar barrier, eSports has come a long way, and thanks to the fans, the pros, and the tournaments that host them, it shows no signs of slowing down.