All over the internet, there are endless stories about the unstoppable rise of esports. Whilst the basic fact that esports is set to become a billion dollar industry this year is hard to ignore, for most people the competitive gaming realm can seem at best opaque. This is despite the efforts of major broadcasters attempting to make esports a true entertainment phenomenon.
But at the moment, it seems as though everyone from sports regulatory bodies to traditional viewing audiences still seem largely perplexed by esports. Whether it’s the constantly changing range of games being featured, or the fact that esports has a somewhat ‘toxic’ reputation, there are many things that need to be addressed before competitive gaming well and truly enters the mainstream.
Are the nature of the games the biggest issue?
One the biggest reasons as to why sports governing bodies tend to get nervous around esports is the violent nature of the games. First-person shooters like CSGO are entirely dependent upon the core concept of killing the opposing team, whilst violent battle royale games like H1Z1 revel in plenty of onscreen gore. Such graphic portrayals of violence have hardly made esports likely for inclusion at the Olympics anytime soon.
Whilst some titles like Overwatch are undoubtedly action-packed, they almost seem too chaotic for wholesome family viewing. And at the other extreme, one of the biggest reasons as to why Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds’ viewing figures have stalled is the fact that many of these battle royale games are pretty boring. Whilst it might be interesting for the player to walk around an alien landscape picking up items, for the viewing audience, it’s hardly made for thrilling entertainment.
However, there are signs that sports simulators might stand a chance of getting greater widespread appeal. Although esports betting resources like www.esports.net tend to focus on first-person shooters and battle arena titles, franchises like FIFA are starting to pick up speed. With exciting new projects like the ePremier League and Formula One Esports Series starting to be taken seriously, there’s hope that these will start to find greater interest amongst mainstream audiences.
Are potential fans put off by toxicity?
Esports is well known for its often impenetrable language. A quick look at any esports thread of Reddit shows no end of weird terminology and when you factor in esports team names like Ninjas in Pyjamas and Unicorns of Love, it’s no surprise that many outsiders get turned off by what they come across.
Many in the esports world aren’t exactly making it easy for themselves. Whether it’s a Fortnite star like Ninja declaring that he won’t play against female competitors, or Overwatch players like xQc going on homophobic rants, it seems as though these young gamers are having a tough time in watching their behaviour.
Such actions won’t just turn off sponsors from investing in their talents, but it also makes esports much less inclusive for all. Whilst there were hopes that things will have progressed since the GamerGate scandal of a few years ago, the sad fact remains that unless you are young, male and probably white, then esports remains a tricky area to gain access to.
Is fair play the main issue?
Whilst the traditional sports world has plenty of regulatory bodies who aim to ensure fair play and a clear competition format, esports is so young that it has barely had chance to take stock of itself. After all, there still isn’t a defining tournament for iconic titles like Counter Strike Global Offensive.
The lack of transparency over playing performances and past statistics also makes it difficult for outsiders to follow the progress of their favourite players and teams. With esports teams frequently winding up operations after a couple of years or getting merged with other teams, it makes for a very chaotic and confusing spectacle.
Then you get the problematic fact that many of the biggest esports tournaments are owned and operated by the games developers themselves. Take the Heroes of the Storm tournament that was unceremoniously axed by its parent company, Blizzard Entertainment. This makes esports a much trickier prospect for viewers and sponsors to follow when compared to sports that have been in existence for well over a century.
Thankfully, it seems that efforts are underway to stabilise things in the dynamic esports world. Blizzard Entertainment have successfully established their Overwatch League in a way that mirrors the format of many standard sporting tournaments such as the NFL.
By featuring a league with a fixed set of teams with no promotion or relegation, it will help fans get much better acquainted with the esports organisations. Plus by introducing a fixed salary for the gamers, it’s hoped that it could encourage the competitors to stay in the game longer so that esports becomes much more of a valid spectator sport.