In my struggles getting into League of Legends, I have seen multiple pop ups on the game screen about the LCS (League of Legends Championship Series) and the various results and recaps of matches. Being a curious soul and wanting to see if I can improve my game, I decided to watch a couple of games to see what all the fuss is about.
My god is it boring.
Now, this may be because I’m a League noob and I don’t understand most of the jargon and fancy things which are flashing on screen, but these games bore me to tears. The competitors don’t seem that charismatic, the casters never seem to go beyond being mildly interested in what is happening in the game and the matches themselves can last up to 70 minutes, with only a few comebacks or exciting moments to break up the monotony. Again, this is probably because I am still getting my head around what a jungler is, but from the perspective of an outsider or newcomer watching a sport, it seems too dull and drawn out to hook me in. The combination of complex jargon, bland commentators and so much happening on screen within a game, I don’t understand why the LCS finals pack out venues like the Staples Centre every year.
This was the Staples Centre during the LoL World Championships. The mind boggles.
The same goes for Starcraft as well but in this case, it is the blinding speed of mouse clicks, unit movement and again, torrents of jargon that make it totally inaccessible to the casual player wanting to get a feel for esports and how they are played. Don’t get me started on competitive FPS games with the matches I have watched consisting mostly of enemy teams shouting abuse at each other, while players use the same guns over and over again. While the barrier for entry is much lower and while the player energy is much higher, the general feel of competitive FPS coverage is not something that I would really like to watch, unless I want to see adults hopped up on energy drinks swearing very loudly and guns firing for a sustained period.
So with the MOBA, the RTS and the FPS ruled out as good esports, what is left to watch? Competitive Hunger Games on Minecraft? Speed running? In my humble opinion, the best esport to watch is without a doubt is competitive fighting games. Watching a fighting game tournament like Evo is much easier to get into due to the simplicity of the core mechanic of beat up the other guy until he dies, the brevity of the games combined with the massive capability for comebacks and the most important element when it comes to any sport at all, Hype.
Fighting games can generate hype better than any other genre. Watch any high-level fighting game tournament and I bet you, there will be over 10 moments of hype even before the quarter finals start. Take what arguably the most famous moment in fighting game history, the match between Daigo Umehara and Justin Wong during Evo 2004. Without an in-depth knowledge of Street Fighter, you get excited due to the way the two fighters are playing, the atmosphere in the room, the commentary and the fact that Daigo has what seems to be no health in his health bar, yet he comes back and wins the match after doing something which gets the whole room on its feet. You may not know what a full parry is, yet you know whatever is it, it is making people go mad.
Watch this match from Evo 2012 and tell me you didn’t get hype.
That’s another reason fighting games are superior, the tournament atmosphere and commentators are much better at getting the spectator into the match than any other esport. At LCS games, everyone has to use inflatable clappers to politely show their excitement while at tournaments like Evo, not only do the fans go mad but the commentators go mental as well. Again, this makes you feel so much more hyped up to continue watching rather than the rather dry atmosphere watching other esports. Commentators like EFC Yipes, Seth Killian, Maximilian_dood and prog make the fighting game experience come alive and get you hyped up. Listen to any match with Yipes commentating and you will either be hyped up or laughing your head off.
Mechanically as well, fighting games have the ability to create more memorable moments, due to the fact fighters can comeback from being destroyed in one round or pull off crazy combos or finishers to get the audience even more excited. Take the X-Factor mechanic in Marvel vs Capcom 3, it is made solely for people to comeback from a beating and turn the tide of a game in a couple of seconds while ultra-combos in Killer Instinct allow people to showboat or style on opponents after a match, raising the hype bar even further. While games like League of Legends do have ways for players to comeback, they aren’t as spectacular or instant as some of the amazing reversals you see in fighting game tournaments.
So, if you want to get into esports, fighting games are your best bet. Keep your eye out for Evo this summer for more crazy matches and if any rabid fans of other esports feel I have misjudged your game, show me a match that is truly hype and I may reconsider. Otherwise, fighting games are the king.