If 2010 and 2011 are to be remembered in a future full of professional gamers and wide-audience viewership of “e-sports,” they will certainly be recalled as years in which the phenomenon of watching other people play videogames skyrocketed from an obscure nerdy niche to a regular nerdy niche.
Sure, South Korea has lived and breathed this way of life for over a decade with Starcraft, but with the release of Starcraft 2, spectator fever has taken over PC gaming in a big way. Tournaments are regularly bankrolling the most well known players, and streaming commentary is so popular that now professional commentators are becoming commonplace.
And it’s spreading outside of Starcraft’s universe: with over 35,000 players tuning in to Justin.tv and similar sites to watch Super Street Fighter 4, Marvel vs Capcom 3 and Mortal Kombat tournaments take place, it appears fighting games are gaining crowd momentum, too. With all this excitement, money, and public interest pouring in, it seems like society is on the precipice of mainstream acceptance of e-sports as an acceptable voyeuristic past-time, much like regular sports.
But there’s one tiny problem.
Wait, why should I explain it to you? You’re not even a fucking blogger.
What the hell does that have to do with anything? Exactly. It doesn’t. But if you’ve spent any time trying to learn a competitive game, you’ve probably encountered comments like this all the time.
“Man, Ryu is really hard to beat.”
“What the fuck are you, 4800 BP rank C garbage? Step up your game before you complain”
“Geez, wouldn’t it be cool if Queens were massive units to counter Forcefields?”
“Wouldn’t it be cool if you shut the fuck up, Bronze League moron?”
No, I’m not rank C or in Bronze league, nor do I spend a lot of time complaining about balance or posting balance suggestions in forums. But spend a few days on GameFAQs, TeamLiquid, Steam Powered User Forums, or anywhere with a budding competitive gaming community, and you’ll quickly learn that players who aren’t in the top 2% of the skill curve aren’t welcome at the discussion table.
Look, I get it. I know that someone who doesn’t make SCVs past the 5 minute mark is terrible. I understand that a player who doesn’t even know MK9 has a block button probably isn’t too well educated about meter management. I understand why these players’ opinions aren’t strategically sound. But for fuck’s sake, maybe we could all be a little nicer about it?
When low-tier players jump into forums or onto streams and talk about the game, sure they’re misinformed. But if proponents of e-sports and competitive gaming want their hobby to become slightly more publicly acceptable than pissing in grandma’s garden in broad daylight, they’re going to have to play nice with the newbies. Think about the rest of the world for a minute. Ever go to a sports bar on Super Bowl Sunday, or sit around talking football with your cousins at a barbeque? Ten dollars says conversations like this don’t pop up very fucking often:
“Did you see that pass? Manning is amazing! I can’t believe that play isn’t more popular at the 40.”
“Dude, shut the fuck up. Have you ever played football competitively? Even in the minor leagues? I bet you didn’t even play on the high school team.”
“What does that have to do with anyth-”
“Yeah I didn’t think so, you fuckin scrub.”
There are a few reasons nobody talks like this. First of all, unlike e-sports, it’s not very easy to become a professional or even serious hobbyist football player without ridiculous luck. But more importantly, these conversations don’t happen because they are bat shit insane and would make you look like an asshole.
Yet drop by Team Liquid and post your thoughts on a recent Starcraft 2 match, and do a shot every time someone asks you how big your dick is…err I mean what league you’re in. Or do a shot whenever your opinion is treated with contempt before it’s treated with an earnest willingness to educate. I guarantee you’ll be dead of alcohol poisoning before a 7 Roach Rush could be knocking at your door.
Simply put, e-sports will never become mainstream unless the competitive gaming community can get over itself and open a dialog with lower level players, hobbyists, and unskilled spectators. The average baseball fan can’t throw a curveball. The average NASCAR fan would shit himself if he drove over 140 mph. Hell, half the world’s soccer fans can’t afford three meals a day, nevermind spare the energy to insult one another over what constitutes perfect goalkeeping. Yet despite the fanbases of these sports being almost universally non-competitive (or even non participating) audience members, sports are incredibly popular, if you haven’t realized. Maybe part of that is that they’ve been around longer, but I’d bet part of it is that the average viewer is allowed to share his or her opinion without getting publicly humiliated by everyone in hearing distance.
So before you flame, rage, or insult the next poster who asks why kill streaks aren’t in Battlefield, take a deep breath and think about the impact on the future of competitive gaming; because damnit I want to play Guild Wars 2 in a stadium as thousands of people cheer on my PvP team.