I think we can safely say that eSports is now a big deal. When you’ve got the DOTA 2 International having a bigger prize pool than the Super Bowl, the US regarding pro LoL players as professional athletes and colleges offering eSports scholarships, it is alright to assume that eSports have made it. The all important question is, what is the next step? Sure, the League World Championships can pack out the Staples Centre but what can eSports do to ensure their long term success and keep people attracted to it? Here are 4 of my own suggestions which game creators and communities need to do to keep the sport going.
1. Make sure spectators are integrated into your game
With the growth of streaming and its massive influence on the popularity of eSports, it’s amazing how many games aren’t really integrating spectators into their experience. I mean, DOTA TV is a step in the right direction, with the ability to equip pennants, check items of players and even select broadcasters, but more needs to be done to get spectators engaged in the experience. Make some incentive for following a team throughout a whole season, allow broadcasters to interact with their spectators more and most of all, actually make your game fun to watch. Build future eSports titles with spectators in mind and make them a crucial part of the top-level competitive scene, rather than giving them a sub-par spectator mode to merely placate fans.
2. Support the grassroots community
This is how you really grow your game and make your eSports and general game community grow. Take Blizzard’s Fireside Gatherings for Hearthstone, which is really helping smaller regional scenes grow, or the Smash UK community, which is making Smash Bros. really grow as a competitive fighter in the UK. The LCS and tournaments like Dreamhack are always going to get the punters in but if you really want to make your scene grow and have new teams, fans and communities spring up, make sure you support your smaller communities! Sponsor smaller tournaments, feature growing tournament scenes on Twitch and promote up and coming teams and players. Not only do you increase your fanbase and generate loads of goodwill, you open up the opportunity to bring bigger competitions to more players as you know the audience is there for it.
It’s good Blizzard is leading the charge, but more companies support their grassroots communities.
3. Be inclusive
Now, this should be incredibly obvious but after seeing the initial announcement that a recent Finnish tournament is not allowing women to compete in Hearthstone and Ultra Street Fighter IV, yet they can compete with men in Starcraft, it’s complete bonkers why this divide exists in eSports. It’s not like in physical sport like basketball where if men and women played in the same league, one sex would be at a disadvantage (this divide is shaky in some other sports mind you), as long as you can use a gamepad or a mouse and keyboard, you can compete in an eSport. Your private parts do not limit your ability to pull off an Ultra Combo or be a Jungler, so there is no excuse for these divisions in eSports games. The tournament organisers have changed their tune, after the rightful internet backlash but the problem is that they should not have had the divide in the first place. ESports have the ability to be the most inclusive sport there is so try to support everyone being able to play at a pro level. Also, try to foster a community feeling by calling out racist, sexist or homophobic communication on streams or in game. A bit of trash talking is alright but keep the slurs out of it.
4. Get better tutorials!
I mention this in my Thoughts From a League Noob article but by far the biggest barrier to entry for many people who want to getting into eSports, is the mountain of jargon they have to process before they even come close to understanding pro play. Be it hitsun, block strings, FADCs, safe or unsafe on block in fighting games like Street Fighter or jungling, peels, ganking, warding or hard carries in MOBAs like DOTA 2 or LoL, most eSports give you little to no help in breaking down these terms for the new player. What it boils down to is the lack of proper tutorials to give new players a basic knowledge of mechanics which they need to know to understand, let alone play at a pro level. Use examples from tournaments or pro games to outline certain techniques and then take them apart piece by piece, give extensive breakdowns in simple language of what terms like wavedashing or zoning actually mean and most of all, don’t just give players long lists of text to read or command lists to rote learn combos. Actively teach players, rather than just dumping a glossary on them and telling them to have at it.
So, there are four of my suggestions for ways eSports can be improved for new players whilst improving the wider community. Have I missed anything big out? Comment below on your own ideas for eSports you enjoy better for everyone.