Roundtable Question: A lot of the biggest esports events related to sports games either started or hit a new stage in the last week. If you watch esports, why do you like them? If you don’t, why don’t you have interest?
Chris Huber: I don’t watch esports because I’ve never had the desire to watch somebody play video games (I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to any childhood friends of mine who were forced to watch me play video games). Outside of GTA, I exclusively play sports games because I live in Cincinnati and real-life sports haven’t really worked out for me in my lifetime. So instead I can try to make things happen or let them play out how I’d want them to happen in video games, which I know is a degree removed from the real thing. So watching somebody else do the same thing is two degrees removed from the real thing.
Now, forgive my ignorance, but I feel most esports are based around people creating their own characters or teams of players, which I have no connection to. In real-life basketball, for example, I might watch a guy play four years of college basketball then another 12 years in the NBA. And with NBA 2K seemingly more and more focused on the single created player experience and less and less on the traditional modes I play, I’m less likely to tune into something that advertises that decision. I also just feel like there’s too many things to watch. I don’t really binge watch anything, and I only watch like maybe five or six shows and that still sometimes feels overwhelming. In other words, I don’t feel like I even have the time to get into it. I get why some people are into it, but it’s just not for me.
Michael Larson: The only esports I can watch are non-sports related esports (or sports-adjacent like Rocket League) as I find the meta of default Madden/FIFA/NHL/etc. so unimpressive and unappealing. I just can’t get into watching a game built around replicating a sport when it doesn’t do a good job at representing said sport. If I want to have fun with virtual football or hockey, I’ll do so on my own and enjoy the experience I make for myself. I also think that I can do what many of the pro Madden, FIFA, NHL players can do with enough practice. The skill gap between pros and your average top leaderboard players isn’t big enough to be impressed by the pros, in my opinion.
Esports such as Rocket League, CS:GO and League of Legends are games that I can watch as there’s no real-life expectations added to them. The games and their respective metas are what they are, and those players can do things in those games that I would never be able to do no matter how long I played. This element gives me the same experience I’d have watching a professional hockey game. They think and react at levels that are seemingly impossible to reach even if I played the game nonstop and that’s what makes watching those esports impressive to me.
TJ Henderson: I think eSports are fine, which is to say that I am okay with their existence. The reason I can’t bring myself to watch them consistently is partially because I could be playing the game myself, but also they tend to represent a version of gaming that’s always bothered me. Generally speaking, these players have spent so much time with a game that it starts to resemble less of a game of skill and more of a winning pattern, or a “correct” way to play. This results in somewhat of a sanitized experience and, depending on the game, a fairly predictable chain of events.
Matthew Ederer: I do not have any interest in esports, yet. I could easily see myself getting into them one day, but esports have yet to really attempt to “get” my crowd, that is the 32-year-old dudes who have no real desire to watch people play video games. In order for esports to matter to me, they would need to either start playing games that I care about — every single second of esports I have ever seen centers around League of Legends, give me the NBA Street 2 League! — or start showcasing people with personalities that I can connect with and cheer for. Like all sports, esports’ mainstream success will be determined by their ability to create stars. They aren’t doing that yet, and no I don’t know who or what Ninja is.
Chase Becotte: I feel like I am the target audience for esports. Any time I’m not watching real sports, I’m probably on Twitch watching streams. I watch competitive Rocket League, and I will always at least check in on competitive FIFA, Madden and the NBA 2K League. However, the majority of my time is not spent watching esports because they don’t keep my attention. I echo some of the concerns above that the sports-game esports are not really like watching real sports at all. In Madden, you’re watching a ton of running plays right now. In the NBA 2K League in the past, it’s been five-out where minimal stuff is run and it’s just either going isolation or running around a pick and roll over and over until a breakdown occurs. With FIFA, it’s a little more interesting to watch because it’s a little harder to “do the same thing over and over” but a lot of the players on the teams are still the same or are designed in similar fashion because there’s still a meta.
Basically, these games are just not dynamic enough yet. They’re not interesting because everyone is the same more or less. So instead, I focus most of my time on Twitch towards watching particular people play games because those personalities help to make any game interesting to watch.