So, what is esports and why do people like myself watch it? Great question. There’s a great debate on what defines esports and I believe that it is an evolving set of criteria. I’ll go through a rough definition and then
Esports can be described as a competition in a video game between two or more individuals in a competitive manner. Generally between professional players.
For example, one of the oldest esports (Quake) was an arena FPS between two players competing at the highest level to see who would be the best at Quake. PS best Quake song and shoutout to esports legend Rapha for such longevity.
Nowadays, there are many esports. 5v5, 6v6, battle royales, team based, arena based and it’ll keep growing. Over time, the lines have been blurred on what esports is and as we continue to evolve as an industry those lines will continue to blur further.
Why do people watch it?
The simplest reason for why people watch esports is because they enjoy it. It’s similar to watching your big sister play mario as a young child and seeing her try and try again and then FINALLY beating the level. The hype, the enjoyment there’s nothing like it. Now imagine that scene with thousands of other individuals for a game you thoroughly enjoy. It’s super pure and brings a lot of people back to that moment. For others, watching the absolute highest levels of competition at a game you play has nothing matching it. Even though the majority watching will never compete, it’s fun to watch and have that social aspect with people.
The parallels with regular sports are there for many who watch esports. They don’t relate to day to day sports like basketball or hockey because they may not have interest in it. However, they instead relate to video games they grew up playing and seeing and can relate to fans similarly in that aspect.
Are there games that are esports titles and some that are not?
Think of esports like a pizza with different toppings. They’re all pizza but have a different flavor and appeal to a different crowd. For example, CS:GO is one of the oldest esport titles and appeals to a wide variety of people. It’s easy to follow if you don’t play the game and SUPER high skill cap for those who do follow. Casuals and hardcores can follow along and cheer for the same things.
Dota 2 on the other hand, does need quite a bit of in game knowledge to follow along with. Even if you haven’t played in a while it’d be hard to follow along with the ever changing meta.
On the other hand, if I made a game and started calling it an esport title and marketed it with a few players, chances are it wouldn’t catch on. I could meet the definition in a literal sense but I wouldn’t dare put it into the same breath as CSGO or Dota 2. Esports generally perform best when they start from grassroots initiatives and grow organically.
Where is esports now?
Esports is in a different place to a lot of people. For the publishers it’s a marketing vehicle to promote their game and give it extra life. For others, It’s the industry that has allowed teams, talent, tournament organizers and the many thousands who are employed in the industry to flourish. No one person owns the term and it’ll continue to evolve as the industry matures as well.