The Roar
The Roar

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Esports are just as social as traditional sports. Here's why

Playing and enjoying eSports is an inherently social activity. (Riot Games)
Expert
14th February, 2018
19

I’m almost surprised we are here again, but it seems the shackles of stereotypes and misunderstanding still weigh down the esports name.

I don’t completely understand how anyone can look at a team training, competing and working together in front of crowds of fans who gather and rally their support as antisocial. However, it seems this narrow-minded view is still proliferating. I find this misconception damn near offensive.

Not everyone has to enjoy playing or watching esports, just as they don’t have to like regular sports. Some people will never take to sports while others may like football and cricket but hate rugby. The same is true for video games.

The additional barrier of complexity that comes with some esports will mean many will remain in the dark about the rules. It’s easy to see how the uninitiated could miss the mental and reactionary skills required to pull off plays that might otherwise seem much more obvious in physical form.

I can see how to some outsiders this all might just look like a bunch of kids messing about on computers when compared to watching athletes running on a field.

Under the skin the similarities between these two sporting worlds are surprisingly similar, but this isn’t always a good thing. Both involve players competing at their peak with high demands placed upon their mental and physical capabilities – and training and enduring for hours on end to hone skills often ends in facing with injury or obsolescence.

Reliance on performance-enhancing drugs, negative exposure from media and psychological risks are all potentials in both industries, and lumping them on esports alone because it’s new and scary is blatantly turning a blind eye to those who’ve suffered in the past years of sporting history.

Likewise, pretending the positives are unique to traditional sports is incredibly short-sighted and pretentious. It’s easy to look from afar and declare it to be lesser out of fear and misunderstanding, but it also shows a level of ignorance and an unwillingness to accept, adapt and learn.

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Like any hobby or common interest esports will intrinsically bring people together. From simple interactions like water-cooler conversations about recent games, all-time great plays and favourite players to hosting watching parties, going to esports bars and even playing games with friends, esports encourages social behaviour.

I know this because as someone who isn’t particularly social I’ve held conversations examining play and getting excited over bold moves, had friends over for pizza to watch games and been inspired to play more with friends and work as a team, and I’m even planning to go to my local esports bar for an upcoming game.

Fans and players of esports simply don’t exist in a vacuum. They can’t. Stadiums packed to the brim are the obvious proof of this, but it’s more about the small personal interactions. Personally and as a spectator it’s about the fun conversations with friends and the shared shock and awe of watching athletes at the height of their game.

Similarly, though I can’t speak from the perspective of a league professional, I doubt their experience is all that different from a traditional sportsperson when it comes to working in a team or even against their opponents.

We live in a connected world that is often misconstrued by technophobes of being absolutely isolating. While some may see someone engaging with a computer playing an eSport as being alone, they’re missing all the people on the other side of that. They’re missing the opponents with which players are directly engaged and the teammates who are each fulfilling roles specifically built to rely on and help each other.

The coaches, families and friends who offer support on the backlines and even the physical hugs and slaps on the back of an excited team victory and the respectful handshake of elites recognising their equals seem to be overlooked, and all I can think is that some don’t want to see.

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There’s a resistance against esports for being new and different, and while in many ways it’s not perfect, it’s certainly not antisocial. Writing uninformed negative think pieces only stirs up fear from the uneducated and outrage from the afflicted. Pouring gasoline on flames unnecessarily is no doubt good for clicks, but I had thought we were past the times of such prejudice.

Regardless it seems some traditional sports fans can still look at it only as though looking into a dirty mirror. While most of the good and the bad exist on both sides, a quick clean would reveal much of the bias exists merely in the perception.