ESPORTS

ESPORTS place in gaming

People talk about “furthering” video games as a medium, But what do they mean by this? better story? More immersive? better graphics? more realistic? Why not being able to fill a stadium with screaming fans cheering for their favourite player/team?

Over the last year and a bit, I have gotten deeply immersed in the Starcraft II community and competitive scene. If you follow me on twitter you will see me spamming my feed with my opinions on the latest event that is happening, or getting angry because of a certain thing I find imbalanced. Starcraft II is widely considered the most popular ESPORT as it has given competitive gaming a shot in the arm, in the western world at least (we’ll get onto the Korean Starcraft scene in bit). Although it’s the biggest it’s by no means the only game with a competitive scene; there’s Counter Strike 1.6 and Source (soon to be Global Offensive as well), there is Quake live although sadly it seems to be declining by all accounts, there’s Halo and CoD for you console FPS players out there on the MLG(Major League Gaming http://www.majorleaguegaming.com/) circuit and there are several Moba titles such as League of Legends and the up and coming Dota 2 to name the few that come to mind. But why with such a wide array of games do such a small portion of gaming enthusiasts pay attention to these titles that are filling stadiums or giving away huge amounts of prize money to people who devote their time to mastering a certain game?

This is a call to people! there are other ways to “further” games other than just playing them. If you are looking for story there is tonnes of it to be found in the competitive scene, not from the game itself but from the players and their personalities and struggles. The first example that instantly comes to mind is from the last MLG, 16 year old Lee "Leenock" Dong Nyung charged his way through the open bracket, where some of the scariest players in Starcraft II were such as two three time champions of the GSL(Global Starcraft League http://www.gomtv.net/) Lim “nestea” Jae Duk and Jung “MVP”Jong Hyun whom are considered the two best Starcraft II players of all time. Leenock not only made it through the open bracket but won the entire competition, playing a total of 9 best of 3 matches in the championship bracket alone, you may be asking whats the big deal? But the main focus of this story is that Leenock is only 16 years old and still in school. Amazing no? Well more amazing than that he had made it to the GSL finals as well and took second to Jung”jjakji” Ji Hoon in one of the greatest series in Starcraft II. Competitive gaming has some of the most intriguing stories in any game but it’s not the game but the players that are creating these storylines and they can be some of the most gripping of all.

Immersion can also be found in competitive gaming, I have found very few things as tense and awe inspiring as watching two of my favourite players battle it out.In the Dreamhack winter finals Song”LiquidHerO Hyeon Deok was three games to one up over his opponent Lee”EGPuMa Ho Joon but PuMa managed to fight back so the series was even at three apiece. Think football, this was the equivalent of being 3-1 up with ten minutes to go, you think it’s done but then they opposition score not once but twice. I have never been more tense than watching HerO(whom I was supporting) lose his huge lead to PuMa but then play a flawless game in the final match, I pretty much gnawed my fingernails clean off and the relief at the end was it’s own reward. Adding to the feel of the matches, Dreamhcak added heart beat monitors to the players showing PuMa to be the cold hearted killer with a steady 100 or so beats per minute while HerO lived up to his reputation of being really nervous and had a heart rate anywhere from 109 to 160 beats per minute.

Competitive gaming can also have positive effects on how people view gaming as a hobby. Yes there are people who are renowned for bad manner(BM) but these people are drowned out whilst the positive role models such as Mr manner Shawn “LiquidSheth” Simon a person renowned for being one of the nicest men in the ESPORT community, or Aleksey ”TtE.White-Ra” Krupnyk, who I have had the pleasure to meet, and is a hotbed for insparational quotes, such as “more gg more skill”. Both of these men are shining examples of the good influence gaming and the people within the community as a whole and how they are perceived by the people outside the community (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VchuKnJONSk)

ESPORTS is growing in the west it’s bringing in real big name sponsors such as team Evil Geniuses(http://myeg.net/team/) being sponsored by Monster energy or MLG being sponsored by Dr Pepper. All I can hope is that competitive gaming can grow in the west like Starcraft: Brood War did in Korea, there are TV channels dedicated to Brood War and top Brood War pros are equivalent to Footballers in the UK. Teams in Korea can also be compared to football with KeSPA(Korean eSports Association) similar to the FA in football KeSPA are the ruling body that control pretty much everything that goes on in the Korean Starcraft:Brood War scene. Also Korean Starcraft Brood War teams are sponsored by huge companies like Samsung. hopefully this is an indicator of some of the things to come in western competitive gaming but hopefully without any of the controversy that has happened with KeSPA in the past, but I won’t go into that here.

ESPORTS is a relatively new aspect of gaming, it’s been around for many years(in my young mind) but gaming it’s self is a young industry, competitive gaming only really came to exist because of the Internet, yes people would hold LAN parties but there was really no way to share to experience with the rest of the world. Then in 2010 good internet speeds and easy access technology streaming was available to the masses. Starcraft II may have hit at the most opportune moment for any game plus the years of Starcraft: Brood war history propelled ESPORTS to a new high where MLG is reporting hundreds of thousands individual viewers at any one time.

If you take one thing from this, please take that ESPORTS is a great form of entertainment and you should at least try and watch some events, you never know you might like it :)

Homework:

if this wet your appetite in any way here are a few links you could check out

http://blip.tv/day9tv/day-9-daily-100-my-life-of-starcraft-3505715 Day[9] on his life as a brood war pro gamer

http://www.youtube.com/IPLAcademy IPL academy for SCII newcomers

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f8fZ0hYo2wo Ben”MrBitter” Nichol interveiws and plays with the quad amputee Matt Fink aka “looknohands”

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