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

Hope Corrigan Columnist

By Hope Corrigan, Hope Corrigan is a Roar Expert


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    Playing and enjoying eSports is an inherently social activity. (Riot Games)

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    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.

    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.

    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.

    Hope Corrigan
    Hope Corrigan

    Hope has been writing about video games since 2012 and has no plans of stopping now. Generally, a healer main who just wants everyone to have fun.

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    The Crowd Says (19)

    • Roar Pro

      February 15th 2018 @ 8:05am
      George K said | February 15th 2018 @ 8:05am | ! Report

      Just wanted to through my two cents into this,

      I have always, always wanted to play football however I lack the coordination to do so. Whilst many are quick to say just practice the fact of the matter remains the environment is quite competitive and at the end of the day some level of natural talent is necessary.

      Has this stopped me from playing football? Of course not, I’ve played with friends of similar ability both IRL and online.

      Whilst I don’t agree with EAs practices what they have done with the FIFA license has given people like me a chance to have a greater appreciation for football; the in depth tactics, stats and the like.

      Dismissing esports as being ‘sad’ is just a slap in the face towards progress. At no point will this eclipse traditional sport. Why can’t we both exist?

    • Roar Guru

      February 15th 2018 @ 9:40am
      JamesH said | February 15th 2018 @ 9:40am | ! Report

      Fair points. I have about as much chance of beating these players in a FPS match as I have of being drafted into the AFL (i.e. none).

    • February 15th 2018 @ 12:03pm
      Damo said | February 15th 2018 @ 12:03pm | ! Report

      As a casual gamer (not so casual before I had kids) I do have interest in e-sports. However after watching some of the recent OWL and other tournaments in the past, I feel the e-sports scene needs to improve on a lot of things before it can take the leap into mainstream such as:
      1) TV Presentation is akin to WWE, which while fun for a bit can get old very quickly
      2) There appears to little control around issues such as gambling and doping. I know other sports have this problem too but it appears unchecked here
      3) Corporations often control the leagues/tournaments (such as Sony/Microsoft/Blizzard/Bungie etc) , rather than the leagues having a self sufficient business model using the aforementioned products.
      4) The pathways into e-sports is non-existent for Australians and in fact many (though not all) tournaments are invite only rather than going through any regional qualifications.

      That’s my opinion, and I’m likely wrong on some of the points above but to me as a casual watcher that is certainly the appearance the sport currently has.

    • Roar Guru

      February 15th 2018 @ 12:39pm
      Connor Bennett said | February 15th 2018 @ 12:39pm | ! Report

      I went to the CS:GO IEM last year, my first live eSports event, and it was insanely fun! How anyone can say eSports is anti-social or “like pokies to millennials” as the SBS piece you linked stated, is beyond me.

      It’s like the whole Pokemon GO argument all over again.

      These things, these events, bring thousand and thousands of people together. People at the CS:GO event were spending hours hanging out and talking to other people they’d never met before in their life, they interacted with a whole crowd of people with similar interests.

      Some may laugh at it, but strangers were high-fiving and laughing with each other whenever their favourite team got the final kill cam in a game. The atmosphere is of excitement at these things and everyone there loves the same thing and wants to enjoy it with other people who love it.

      If you don’t like eSports, don’t watch it… but let other people enjoy it

      • February 15th 2018 @ 2:02pm
        Jack Russell said | February 15th 2018 @ 2:02pm | ! Report

        Well said, but let’s not overstate the popularity of it. I’ve watched a bit of the OPL on twitter, and the most glaring thing is the number of viewers at any given time – it’s always only a few hundred. Admittedly the OPL is only going to have appeal in Oceania, but it’s hardly on the cusp of mainstream popularity when it’s only getting tiny audiences. When it gets into the tens of thousands at a minimum then you can say it’s a serious entertainment product.

    • Roar Guru

      February 15th 2018 @ 1:19pm
      Mango Jack said | February 15th 2018 @ 1:19pm | ! Report

      But is it “sport”?

      It’s obviously not anti-social, and I don’t doubt the skill required, but to me a sport has to include a significant level of physical exertion. I’d also add, and it’s only my opinion, that when non-human elements have a greater influence on the result than the person controlling it, it’s not really sport. For this reason, I don’t consider horse racing or motor racing as sports. All legitimate activities, just not sport in my book.

    • February 15th 2018 @ 1:37pm
      Kris said | February 15th 2018 @ 1:37pm | ! Report

      I distrust things I don’t understand. Things that I don’t like must be unlikable. People engaging in pursuits I wouldn’t must be wrong. Why don’t people knit anymore and what’s wrong with a bracing game of quoits? When kids are by themselves they should read a book, or do a crossword, or knit because being by yourself and playing a game instead is a completely different sort of thing. And they should pull up their pants and wear their hats properly.

      • Roar Pro

        February 16th 2018 @ 2:15pm
        Alexander Clough said | February 16th 2018 @ 2:15pm | ! Report

        You’re far too commie for my liking with your love of “quoits”, and “books”. The only book is the good book and should only be read by a trained professional.

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