Why it's hard to get into eSports

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eSports is growing. Year on year, more people are watching, commenting, and just generally getting involved.  But for all that growth, we still see plenty of people rolling their eyes and tuning out.  Is it just that it’s boring to watch other people play games?

Judging by the amount of “let’s play” videos on YouTube, I don’t think voyeurism is a problem for gamers.  We like watching people play games, especially if they are particularly good (or bad) at them.  It’s entertaining and sometimes inspiring or informative.  It makes us want to play better, and can be particularly helpful when it comes to new mods or characters.  So, what’s different about eSports?

I think it comes down to understanding.  There isn’t much that’s more irritating than watching a game and having someone ask “who’s winning?”  Of course, the problem is that, unlike traditional sports, eSports can be incredibly difficult to explain.  It’s hard enough to explain the off-side rule to a woman, try explaining champion selection, laning or ganking to someone.  It gets even harder when you add in build order or jungling.  Plus, every game is different.  I played League of Legends enough to have a fairly basic understanding, but that doesn’t equate to knowledge of Dota 2.  Oh, and don’t even get me started on COD or Fifa.

As a result of this knowledge gap, it’s almost as if every sport in eSports is a different league of traditional sports.  You don’t see avid rugby fans easily switching to watching American football, baseball or curling.  Everyone has preferences with athletic sports, why wouldn’t it be the same with eSports?  

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Unfortunately, despite the growth, eSports is still relatively small compared to traditional competitive games.  This means that many pro-gamers have to play multiple games on a variety of platforms to garner enough attention and sponsorships.  This is like expecting Messi to play a bit of basketball on the side to make ends meet.  It just doesn’t make sense for professional athletes, which is what pro-gamers are supposed to be.  While there are some pros who are associated with only one game, there isn’t the same iconic level to attract new fans to the sports – there isn’t a Tiger Woods or Michael Phelps for eSports.  C’mon, there isn’t even any eye candy for people who feign interest!

While I am trying to learn more and understand eSports, there is simply a high barrier to entry.  I’m not interested in playing any FPS, so why would I be interested in watching someone else play?  I have a vague understanding of MOBA, but I’m not sure I could spend a weekend watching people play.  Then again, despite a love of basketball, I’m not sure I could spend a weekend watching people play that, either.

What do you propose to help people get into eSports?  Do you think these problems will solve themselves over time, or is eSports destined to only grow to the size of a large niche?  

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Last Updated: July 24, 2013

Zoe Hawkins

Wielding my lasso of truth, I am the combination of nerd passion and grammar nazi. I delve into all things awesome and geek-tastic. You can read more of my words over at www.borngeek.co.za, or just follow me on all the social networks to get the true range of my sarcasm and wit.

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