By: Umer Altaf
While it’s hard to imagine meeting a person today who doesn’t know of video games or gaming culture as a whole, you might still be forgiven for not knowing that gaming competitions are growing rapidly. These so-called eSports tournaments pit the best players out there for specific games in remarkably fierce and intense competition, often lasting multiple days. Last weekend, the SFU eSports Association held such an event. The C-LAN was a two-day tournament spread across seven different games and considered one of the largest of its type in the region. Upon arriving at the event, I was admittedly shocked at the scale and intensity of the endeavour. The people there were not enjoying a casual weekend of playing video games with their friends, they were there to win. I spoke to several people at the event, including Kevin Gomez, who serves as one of the VPs for the SFU eSports Association. Over the course of the conversation, I got to ask him just why this medium of competition has grown so popular, and what impact has it had on the players engaging in it.
The conversation began with a discussion of the sport itself and why it has the sort of presence today that it didn’t just a few years ago. Gomez explained that as time has gone by, the stigma associated with gaming has declined. The statistics do not contest this opinion. According to a recent study conducted by the Entertainment Software Association, nearly two billion people in the world are now gamers, with the average age of one being 35 years old. Clearly the notion of gaming being a hobby reserved for introverted young kids has become outdated. Though perhaps not in its entirety. Gomez argues that it isn’t just the love of the game or the fierceness of the competition that draws so many players in. There is a clear social component to the activity that is sufficiently removed to be enjoyed by the more introverted or shy.
In addition, the stereotype of the male gamer is also being broken, though admittedly not at the rate one might hope. When asked about the disparity in the field along gender and sex lines, Gomez honestly answers that while not always the case, much of gaming culture is unfriendly and hostile. Women that come to tournaments feel a sense of alienation and are often challenged on their ability and skill set. He further states that because of this, the onus must be placed on the players, and that the community collectively needs to call out those that try to make the events unsafe for others. As time passes, more and more people will hopefully be able to enjoy the activity that so many have come to love.
Though there is something inherently good about people finding an outlet for themselves, it is not particularly clear if contests at this level of intensity are the best case for such relief. Speaking to Rui Yang, the current VP Internal of the SFU eSports Association, I asked about what impact these tournaments has had on the health of the contestants. Yang argues that while there has been a crackdown as of late to try to minimize the use of drugs such as Adderall, it is still more or less impossible to find yourself competing at the global level without making some sort of sacrifice. In South Korea, largely considered the most competitive eSports nation on the planet, players often adhere to strict regimens that include 14-hour practice sessions with little time for rest. As more and more companies are beginning to take interest in eSports in the form of sponsorship, the associated prize money for such contests has dramatically increased. As a direct result, players have more and more incentive to try to push their limits and boundaries to try to secure the win.
We have no reason to believe that the love of gaming is going to slow down anytime soon. As such, those involved in the activity need to ask themselves how best to strike a multitude of balances. The thrill of competition must be contextualized within the lense of health, and the comfort of community must be redrawn in the favour of inclusion. Whether this community ends up meeting such lofty goals is still unclear. One thing however is exceedingly obvious: eSports are here to stay.
Super Smash Bros. for Wii U: Kantrip
Super Smash Bros. Melee: Fauxhebro
League of Legends: Huevos Del Equipos
CS:GO: Erik almeal
Starcraft 2: ElhayM