I’ve been watching a lot of esports lately. Whether it’s through tournaments on Mixer or Twitch, and broadcasts on TV, something is fascinating about watching the best players in the world compete on a global stage. What’s even better is seeing competitive play from games that you enjoy on a daily basis. I’m fond of Rocket League, Rainbow Six: Siege, and Overwatch tournaments. In addition to watching masterful gameplay, it also helps me develop strategies that help improve how I play. Unfortunately, esports does little to convert those who are skeptical of the growing medium. In those regards, there’s still a way to go before esports are a household thing.
Last weekend, I was flipping through channels when I saw the Overwatch World Cup being broadcast on Disney XD. I was confused because Overwatch and Disney are two brands I would never imagine working together. Regardless, I sat down with a bowl of popcorn, a glass of soda, and my laptop, and started watching China compete against Denmark. From the opening moments, I was hooked on the intense gameplay unfolding in front of me.
After an hour of watching, my dad came downstairs and sat on the couch next to me. He started watching the Overwatch World Cup but showed skepticism. He was confused as to why I would watch it instead of playing the game myself. He also had a tough time keeping up with what was happening on screen. Honestly, I can’t blame him because Overwatch is fast-paced, with 10 players on the field at the same time, executing complex strategies and flashy moves that could make people who lack knowledge about the game feel out of place.
He watched for a while, lost interest, and then we changed the channel when the tournament finished. I thought for a while about why he didn’t find it entertaining. Could it be that there wasn’t anything relatable for him? Could it be that he just doesn’t find competitive video games entertaining? I know he’s not against video games since he plays them, but maybe he finds it more fun to watch than play. My dad ended up telling me that he just doesn’t know why it exists.
I think the problem with esports is that most games are first-person shooters or MOBAs. It’s tough to explain DOTA 2 and League of Legends to people unfamiliar with the genre. I find those games overwhelming to play (though I’ve put hours into DOTA 2), but I find joy in watching professionals compete against each other. What needs to be done is for esports organizers to put accessible games in the spotlight.
Rocket League is the perfect game for mainstream audiences to watch. It’s a title that is easy to understand, the gameplay is intense, and matches with teams of equal skill can be unpredictable. Rocket League’s unique take on the soccer makes Psyonix’s masterpiece a delight to watch. As suggested by another Xbox Enthusiast writer, FIFA 19, NBA 2K19, NHL 19, MLB The Show 19, and Madden 19 are the games that should be front and center in the esports community if you’re looking to sway people to watch competitions.
Most people understand how different sports work. Football fans would love watching Madden; basketball fans could enjoy NBA 2K19 and so on. While there’s a case to be made for just watching the actual sport, esports are a thing that continues year round. When a particular season is over for a sport, fans could watch video game competitions based on the sport of choice that they fancy. Who knows? These people might end up liking certain professional players and then follow the esports circuit religiously. It only takes one great decision to make something work.
It’s clear that the industry is leaning towards esports. Most first-person shooters are developed with esports in mind. There are competitions for Halo 5: Guardians and Gears of War 4 that stream on Mixer regularly. As games are released, we should expect the esports community to grow as well. I don’t watch sports often, but I watch esports regularly. For the naysayers, think of it this way. esports fans are basically the same as football, basketball, and baseball fans. We watch games when they’re on, follow our favorite teams, and even attend events when local venues host them.
esports is something that will keep growing. With every new game and with each tournament broadcasted, new people are discovering esports. We’re at the point when major channels like TBS and ESPN show Street Fighter V, Overwatch, and Counter Strike: Global Offensive fairly regularly, with the sports network showing Madden occasionally as well. While video game fans are thrilled that their hobby is becoming more mainstream (I’ll never grow tired of seeing Overwatch on TV), there’s still skepticism from people on the outside. It’s tough to convince people who don’t like esports the reasons why they are great. I don’t think this is an impossible task, but work needs to be done before the general public accepts esports.
Various promoters and networks need to come up with the right group of games to broadcast. They already have their hooks sunk into us with Overwatch and the annual EVO competition. I believe the solution is definitely sports games, and then keep the new viewers around by showcasing different games after the fact. It’s no coincidence that esports continue to grow. The Overwatch World League (OWL) finals were in the Barclays Center this year, a major arena. If events like that can sell out full arenas, there’s clearly interest in the medium. I hope there are ways that publishers, developers, promoters, and TV networks can work together to make esports bigger than we could ever imagine. esports are already big; it’s time to make it bigger.
Andrew Gonzalez is the Co-Editor-In-Chief of Xbox Enthusiast. When not writing about Xbox, he’s usually reading comics, talking about Taylor Swift, and dreaming of the perfect Jet Force Gemini Reboot. You can follow him on Twitter. @AJGVulture89