Stick to eSports?
Obviously, it has been a bit of a drag without having live sports around, right? So all of you who you so desperately want to #sticktosports aren’t going to do that over the next month or two or three. We are humans, after all, not simply sport-content drones, so it’s nice to have other interests. Though sports are passion (and sports are life for a lot of us), it’s a rough time for fans, writers, athletes and everyone else afflicted.
So some of us are going to find things to talk about and enjoy. Whether it’s politics, music, cooking, “Tiger King,” or trying to push the narrative that “Call of Duty: Warzone” is sports, like I’m about to do.
When “Warzone” dropped a few weeks ago, I gave it a shot, and now I can’t get enough of it. The free-to-play Call of Duty game is the latest of what seems like an endless field of battle royale games, the latest big trend in multiplayer gaming. The concept is simple: You drop into a safe area (colloquially known as “the circle”) and battle other opponents as the circle shrinks in size every few minutes until there’s a winner, whether it’s solo or with a team.
I’m an avid gamer, I always have been, my whole life. I buy and play (and trade in) more games than I’d care to admit, and more than my wife needs to know about. (Hi, sweetheart! No need to check the bank account). But through that all, I’ve always kind of rejected the concept of eSports as pSports (that’s physical sports).
No matter how much I gamed, I always rejected eSports as an equal to pSports. It seems ridiculous as a concept, right? You mean to tell me that because I grew up playing “GoldenEye” on my N64, that I could have made hundreds of thousands of dollars playing eSports? Come on.
But after long discussions with friends who are deeply embedded into the “League of Legends” cult, I’ve come to a conclusion: eSports are sports. Period. End-o-story.
Most multiplayer games require ample coordination. They require communication. Teamwork. Strategy. Quick decision-making. In a battle royale game, it’s open competition, where you have to beat out up to 149 different players to get a win. And some of it is a bit of dumb luck. Needless to say, when a pumpkin-headed moron teammate decides to rush into an area on his own before alerting teammates and gets killed, it’s a bit of a frustration.
Sounds a lot like sports, doesn’t it? Teammates or athletes who go into business for themselves will often cost the team something — whether it’s a scoring play, a match or a title. The parallels are endless.
Playing fields always change, after all. The sports world is always evolving in some way, whether it’s through strategy, analytics, technology or equipment. Why can’t that be true on the whole?
That might hurt for the Facebook user who’s about to leave a lovely comment: “I thought this was SPORTING News?!” Listen, the argument of “who’s an athlete and who isn’t” is a debate as old as time. Are golfers athletes? NASCAR drivers? Curlers? The answer is yes. Athletes come in all shapes and sizes; a dude who sucks down donuts can still be athletic, even if he doesn’t look it. The same can be said about sports.
“Fortnite” (or “Fork-knife” for the meme aficionados) is one of the biggest gaming sensations to hit the planet since, well, probably “Call of Duty 4,” which released in 2007 and drastically changed online multiplayer gaming forever. While online gaming stretches back decades, the capabilities due to technology make the possibilities limitless. Now, pro sport teams sponsor eSports teams around the world, dumping millions of dollars into a drastically expanding field.
Some games ratchet up the intensity, like “Rainbow Six: Siege” — a 5-on-5 tactical shooter that requires strategy, coordination, precision and communication, and as of February, the game has over 55 million registered players around the world. Pro league events happen throughout the year with some of the biggest eSports organizations and teams moderation. Prizes for first-places winners can eclipse the six-figure mark.
Obviously, the physical aspect of eSports — or lack thereof — is what’s going to turn people off to the debate. Yeah, you’re not slapping on your favorite jockstrap and cup combo and grabbing the Gatorade squeeze bottle from the cabinet to play “Warzone” (though staying hydrated is important, folks). No, you probably won’t catch a top play on “SportsCenter.” There might be a little bit difference between watching a tight end get blasted over the middle vs. a sick 1v5 on “Siege.”
Still, playing a video game competitively requires a fair amount of skill and coordination, after all. Most “League of Legends” players retire before they’re 25 years old; a fair amount of that is because the reaction time required to play some of these games slow around age 24 — and some of them retire as millionaires and then decide to enter the world of streaming video games. That field itself has grown increasingly popular among not only former eSports players, but pro athletes as well.
Winning a game of “Warzone” might not be as enthralling as winning a game of pickup to you, but the rush is all the same. It does take a bit of hard work, which is weird to say for someone coming from my generation, probably one of the last “go-outside-and-play” ones in human history. But for future generations, this is all they might know. A gamer might not be able to throw 95 mph, but there’s no guarantee a star pitcher might be able to push mid-lane on “LoL.”
This all said, hopefully pSports are back soon and we can get back to talking about which meathead beaned a batter for flipping his bat, or talking about the latest Zion dunk highlight.
But until then, I’m going to keep slamming Ring Dings and coconut water while dropping hot on Boneyard.
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