Lentis/Electronic Sports (eSports)

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Introduction[edit]

Electronic sports, or eSports, is the competitive play of video games.

History[edit]

Arcades and contests[edit]

Donkey Kong arcade machine

One of the earliest video game competitions was held by Atari in 1980.[1] The national tournament featured the arcade game Space Invaders and attracted over 10,000 players.[1] In 1982, An informal national arcade game competition was held at Twin Galaxies Arcade in Ottumwa, Iowa.[2] Although the meeting was actually a LIFE magazine photo shoot, eighteen of the best arcade gamers competed against each other in the most popular arcade games of that time including Pacman, Donkey Kong, and Centipede.[2] With these competitions came the rise in popularity of well-known gamers such as Billy Mitchell, David Palmer, and Jeff Peters.

Internet multiplayer[edit]

The first online multiplayer games were made for PLATO,a network intended for educational purposes. The first of the games made for PLATO was made in the late 1960's.[3] The first multi-user adventure game was 1978's MUD.[4] Doom II, the sequel to the revolutionary 3D first-person shooter that was extremely popular to play on local networks, added internet play in 1994.[5] Quake introduced client-side prediction in 1996, a feature that allowed gamers to play on dial-up connections without stutter-filled motion. Starcraft, released in 1998, used Blizzard's Battle.net service to host multiplayer games of up to 8 players. Online multiplayer enabled gamers to expand the competitive scene and play with players around the world.

Large tournaments[edit]

Intel Extreme Masters 2009

By the 2000’s, eSports events were being hosted globally, growing to 696 total tournaments in 2012.[6] Eventually, gamers participating in eSports started organizing tournaments on the global scale. Online leagues such as the first person shooter game based Cyberathlete Amateur League (CAL) allowed players to organize ranked teams and matches. Amateur leagues such as CAL became stepping stones to professional leagues -- for example the Cyberathlete Professional League (CPL), which involved cash winnings for tournament winners. The CPL culminated in an annual World Tour competition until 2008. The Evolution Fighting Championships (and the qualifying tournaments for it), Major League Gaming National Championships, Electronic Sports World Cup, the Intel Extreme Masters, and Global Starcraft II League competition are other examples of large professional gaming tournaments.

In Korea, upwards of 120,000 Starcraft fans have turned out to live competitions held at sports arenas.[7] The World Series of Video Games was televised on CBS in 2007.[8] ESPN aired 4 seasons of Madden Nation, a reality TV show following top Madden players. In Korea eSports has broken into the mainstream; Korean TV offers channels such as Ongamenet dedicated to eSports.

These tournaments helped legitimize "pro gamer" or "cyberathlete" as a profession.

Streaming websites[edit]

Online streaming technologies such as Justin.tv enabled eSports competitions to reach worldwide audiences by 2007. Major League Gaming and other competition organizations have introduced pay-per-view for eSports events.[9] Tournaments such as the IGN Pro League bring upwards of 300,000 concurrent viewers for their tournament streams.[10] Major League Gaming's spring season alone pulled in 4.7 million unique viewers and 437,000 peak concurrent viewers.[11] TwitchTV attracts around 23 million monthly users seeking to watch video games.[12]

Culture[edit]

Professional gamers[edit]

Pro gamer Bisu (Kim Taek Yong) of SK Telecom T1

With the introduction of large eSports tournaments, cash prizes and sponsorships for competitive gamers became available. Some gamers chose to make a career out of eSports and become "pro gamers" or "cyberathletes". A pro gamer, who may be part of a team, enters eSports tournaments to make their living. Cash prizes have been as high as two million USD (at the League of Legends World Finals).[13] Pro gamers such as Daigo Umehara may train up to 9 hours a day.[14]

Sponsorships also provide additional revenue for pro gamers and tournament organizations. Since eSports now has a large audience, companies (usually catering to the gamer demographic) sponsor competitions and even players themselves. The Intel Extreme Masters is one example of a competition sponsored by a major corporation. Players may change their screen name to include their sponsor, or endorse products.[15] Some companies offer gamer-oriented products, such as "high performance" controllers or headsets.[16] Commercials and sponsorships are shown to online and offline viewers. Competitive gaming has created a niche for these companies offering technology products to a hardcore crowd.

Professional gaming has also created a market for eSports training. Some pro gamers offer private lessons for a fee. The University of Florida and Oberlin college have offered classes in competitive video games. [17][18][19] Many pro gamers broadcast their practice sessions, creating informal training footage for others as well as more eSports entertainment in a non-competitive setting.

Commentators[edit]

Professional eSports commentators, also known as “casters” or “shoutcasters,” are those who commentate on games as pro gamers compete to add excitement and provide analysis for viewers.[20] Prominent casters such as Dan “Artosis” Stemkoski and Nick “Tasteless” Plott commentate games full-time. Artosis and Tasteless have grown in popularity working for the Korean broadcasting company GOMTV, which led to them being featured in the documentary Sons of Starcraft.[21]

Sean Plot, listed in Forbe’s top 30 Under 30 entertainment innovators of 2013, commentates games on his web show, Day[9] Daily.[22] He provides both high level analysis of games as well as guidance for new players, helping them "Be a Better Gamer", his show’s tag line.[23]

Fans[edit]

Though some members of the gaming community long resisted the eSports fan label, the entertainment of eSports has cultivated such high levels of excitement that dedicated viewers now embrace their fandom.[24] Whether at tournament events or online, fans find ways to show their passion for their favorite players. Competition viewing at bars, or the "Barcraft" phenomenon, has even recently sprung up in the United States.

Professional gaming organizations[edit]

Professional gaming organizations, such as Evil Geniuses (EG), SK Gaming, and Team Liquid, have formed to support players as competition has increased. Organizations assist players by covering costs of travel and living while players in return provide exposure for team sponsors.[25] The salary is crucial since most events take months to award prize money.[25] Some organizations also provide gaming houses, such as the EG’s Lair, for teams to improve practice conditions.[26] The gaming houses build chemistry, and the players can push each other to the limit by playing each other, giving criticisms and analysis, and developing new strategies.[27] Teams also employ coaches and analysts to help the players and ensure that they continually develop.Teams are supported by funding from sponsors. The team Evil Geniuses has many sponsors including Monster Energy, Kingston, and Razer.[28] Team players can support sponsors through advertisements on game broadcasts and web sites, as well as logos on player jerseys.

Organizations sponsoring events[edit]

Major League Gaming is an eSports organization that was founded in 2002 by Sundance DiGiovanni and Mike Sepso.[29] It began as a website that organized competition between players and teams. Anyone could sign up for an account and start competing in online tournaments. In addition to an amateur scene, MLG has a pro circuit that has events in Orlando, Anaheim, Columbus, Raleigh, and Dallas. These events hold several tournaments for professional teams in many video games such as Starcraft II, Call of Duty, and Dota 2.[29] In recent years, MLG has provided commentators and widespread coverage for major events and matches in their pro circuit and broadcasted events on G4 and the USA Network.[29][30] In the future MLG plans on providing analysis, highlights, and other game-related news in an ESPN format.[30]

Riot Games, the creators of League of Legends, have started their own professional league called the League of Legends Championship Series (LCS). Several regions participate, and tournaments are held periodically with the World Finals Tournament occurring at the end of the year. For season 3 (2012-2013), the total prize pool was 5 million dollars.[31] All regular matches are held in Riot studios, but any playoffs and tournaments are held in arenas such as the Galen Center, home of the Season 2 World Championships, and the Staples Center, home of the Season 3 World Championships.[32] Fans can attend events such as these. Riot Games streams all matches for free to further promote their game and eSports.[32] Blizzard Entertainment hold a series similar to Riot Games’ LCS in support StarCraft II, called World Championship Series (WCS).[33]

Businesses[edit]

Streaming companies that provide a medium for viewing others play games have been created in response to the growth of eSports. Twich.tv broadcasts 10,000 different video games at any time, and in October of 2013, it attacted 45 million unique viewers.[34] Professional gamers stream frequently, and Twitch.tv not only allows a streamer to broadcast what he is playing but also allows live communication between the streamer and his viewers.[34] Streaming services are likely to remain popular as the current generation ages and introduces the next generation to video games.[34] Companies such as Ongamenet and GOMTV broadcast game competitions on television.[35] These businesses generate revenue from advertisements and operate as conventional television broadcasting companies.

Identity as a sport[edit]

Though many people reject eSports as a sport because it lacks physical activity, eSports boast other sporting characteristics.[36] Aside from gamers’ practice regimens, hand-eye coordination, and reaction times, the United States now recognizes eSports players as professional athletes, granting them visas under the title. [37] Thousands of competitive gamers, hundreds of casters, and millions watching remind of traditional professional sports, and many people have related eSports by classifying them as competitive games similar to chess and poker.[36][38] On August 11, 2013, a record-breaking 4.5 million viewers tuned into Twitch.tv to watch a series of tournaments including Dota 2’s The International 3, Starcraft 2’s World Championship Series, and Call of Duty: Black Ops 2’s European Gaming League. [39] On average, each viewer watched over two hours total, casting a shadow on the dedication of viewers of other sporting outlets. [39]

Impact on game design[edit]

With the growth of eSports, game developers have added features to support competitive play. Many games, such as Halo, Call of Duty, StarCraft, and League of Legends, include matchmaking, which gives players a way to play against opponents of similar skill. Developers of Call of Duty games put game features up to community vote.[40] Xbox 360 Achievements and Xbox Gamerscores allow users to compare their gamerscores earned by completing challenges within games. Some games like Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 include built-in broadcasting technologies to let hardcore gamers show their skills.[41]

Criticism[edit]

Parents' opinions[edit]

Some parents have trouble accepting eSports as a career path for their children. Starcraft 2 gamer Aleksey "White Ra" Krupnyk was at odds with his family in Ukraine, a country with little support for eSports, until Aleksey's parents believed he could become a national icon[42]. Lesser known gamers share their difficulties of earning parental support through blog posts. Many of their parents believe they should be concentrating on school or getting a traditionally recognized job[43].

Not all parents share this same view. James Harding, a former gamer turned commentator, dropped out of college to pursue a career in eSports. His parents fully supported his decision[44]. In the pro gaming team Dynamic, many of the younger players' parents travel with them to competitions and help negotiate their contracts[45].

Violence and profanity are popular parental concerns in competitive gaming. Dr. Craig Anderson, a professor of psychology at Iowa State University, states that children who play video games are "40% more likely to exhibit aggressive behavior after playing."[46] Mothers Against Videogame Addiction and Violence (MAVAV) states that "the video game industry continues to market and promote hatred, racism, sexism, and the most disturbing trend: clans and guilds, an underground video game phenomenon which closely resembles gangs." MAVAV expresses its concerns by sharing stories of children whose violent actions seem to stem from violent video games[47].

Female harassment[edit]

Female gamer harassment has become an issue in eSports. Some females complain about sexual harassment from male gamers through voice chat and messages. Users can post examples of harassment on the website "Fat, Ugly or Slutty".[48]

In live competition, pro gamer Aris Bakhtanians made offensive comments about fellow pro gamer Miranda Pakozdi's appearance and started sniffing her, causing Pakozdi to quit the competition.[49] When confronted about his actions, Bakhtanians stated that "sexual harassment is part of the culture" and used freedom of speech as a justification[49]. He and others claim that this is a natural part of gaming with a predominantly male population. Others say that the eSports community needs to mature and eliminate sexual harassment[48][49].

Despite complaints of harassment, companies have rarely responded to complaints. Incidents of sexual harassment on Xbox Live have been reported to Microsoft, but until 2012 Microsoft took little action[49]. Reported gamers did not lose their accounts, and all interview requests with Microsoft to discuss this were denied[49]. Microsoft’s denial inspired the online video series "Extra Credit," which covered the issue of harassment specifically on Xbox Live[49]. Extra Credit was later invited to a meeting with Microsoft. Soon after, Microsoft stated that "bullying and harassment are not welcome on Xbox LIVE" and that they are working on "near and long-term improvements to Xbox Live."[49]

Generalizable lessons[edit]

Video games grew out of their original purpose and a new niche for their use developed into eSports. A whole infrastructure of professional and amateur players, competition organizers, competition sponsors, and broadcasters supports eSports. These social groups recognized the opportunity for exploring their interests with eSports, whether for profit or personal development. In turn, these social groups affected technology use and development around eSports, progressing competitive game design and harnessing internet technologies to broadcast games. Businesses and existing social groups involved in computers and video games capitalized on the competitive gamer niche and developed a mainstream gaming market, despite existing social norms. Technology is a medium for expression of passions, and these expressions shape technology.

References[edit]

  1. a b "Players Guide To Electronic Science Fiction Games". Electronic Games 1 (2): 35–45 [36]. March 1982. http://www.archive.org/stream/electronic-games-magazine-1982-03/Electronic_Games_Issue_02_Vol_01_02_1982_Mar#page/n35/mode/1up. Retrieved February 1, 2012. 
  2. a b November 1982, Ottumwa, Iowa contest page @ Classic Arcade Gaming (dot com)
  3. PLATO: The Emergence of Online Community by David R. Woolley
  4. MUD History
  5. The History Of: Doom
  6. Field of Stream: How Twitch made video games a spectator sport by Ben Popper
  7. PBS Frontline Digital Nation: Korean eSports
  8. Video Game Matches to Be Televised on CBS by Seth Schiesel
  9. As Video Gaming Goes Pro, Viewers Pay Up by Scott Simon
  10. Top 100 peak viewers recorded in October 2012
  11. Major League Gaming: About
  12. Twitch and the video game voyeur revolution by Eric Caoili, Tom Curtis
  13. League of Legends $2 Million Championships come to a close
  14. SRK Interview with Daigo – AE2012, Being a Top Gamer, and a New Training Regimen
  15. EvilGeniuses
  16. Razer Gaming Products
  17. Pro Gaming lessons
  18. University of Florida Fall 2010 Courses
  19. Oberlin Course Offerings Spring 2006
  20. Shoutcaster
  21. Sons of Starcraft Documentary
  22. Forbe’s 30 Under 30: Entertainment
  23. Day[9TV]
  24. The Evolution of an eSports Fan
  25. a b Frag documentary - History of pro-gaming HD
  26. EG Lair
  27. Get rich playing video games
  28. Evil geniuses sponsors
  29. a b c MLG Homepage
  30. a b Major League Gaming Looks to ESPN Model To Expand eSports Coverage
  31. League of legends esports growing
  32. a b League of legends championship series homepage
  33. Blizzard WCS
  34. a b c The ESPN Of Video Games
  35. GOMTV
  36. a b Will eSports Ever Become As Popular As Real Sports? by Zeke Phillips
  37. ‘‘The US now recognizes esports players as professional athletes’’
  38. Can video gaming become a real sport? by Charles Curtis | ESPN The Magazine
  39. a b ‘’Dota 2 twitch biggest esports streaming day’’
  40. MW3 Playlist Poll
  41. Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 embraces eSports with built-in broadcasting, seasonal league play by Michael McWhertor
  42. White-Ra: Starcraft 2's beast from the East by ThermalTake | ThermalTake Technology
  43. HOW TO CONVINCE YOUR PARENTS ABOUT ESPORTS? | Blizzard Entertainment
  44. 2GD | Liquipedia SC2
  45. Destroying the social stigma that blocks us from growth by Alan LaFleur | eSports Business
  46. Video Games and Violence: What Every Parent Should Know by Elisabeth Wilkins | Empowering Parents
  47. Mothers Against Videogame Addiction and Violence by MAVAV
  48. a b E-Sports and Female Gamers – The Good, the Bad, and the Very Very Ugly by Immortal Phoenix | Cross Platform Gamers
  49. a b c d e f g Sexual harassment in the world of video gaming by James Fletcher | BBC News Magazine