E-Sporting Chance: A Tale Of Two Heroes

By RPS on November 27th, 2011 at 5:23 pm.

The world, yesterday.
We’ve decided that it’s time for the hivemind to turn its unblinking gaze on the world of e-sports, and to do that we’ve recruited our chums over at ESFI World to give us a weekly taste of what’s happening on the various competitive and pro-gaming circuits around the world. Introducing this new column is the story of the recent MLG finals in Providence. E-sports drama, it turns out, can be years in the making… [Photos in this article by Zhang Jingna.]

I’m here to talk about e-sports. Who am I? I’m Samuel Lingle, Senior Editor at www.ESFIWorld.com, one of the few independently operated e-sports news and e-sports coverage websites out there (independent meaning not affiliated with a team or league). We are going to be producing a weekly article on Rock, Paper, Shotgun with the goal of introducing e-sports to a broader audience.

Some of you won’t be interested, and that’s fine. Some of you are already die hard fans, watching your game every day, cheering for your favorite players and teams, listening to all the e-sports talk shows, wearing your Team Liquid shirt to work each day. Some of you will have heard about e-sports, but have yet to take the leap and find out what it’s all about. Some of you don’t know what e-sports is at all. So let’s enlighten you, in the simplest way possible.

E-sports is competitive video games. Playing at your local LAN tournament to win a $50 Best Buy gift card and bragging rights over your little gaming domain. That’s e-sports. Playing with a team in some online league or ladder like Gamebattles.com or ESEA.net? E-sports. Attending a major tournament, complete with professional players, live crowds, cameras, interviews, and more? Most definitely e-sports.

Sports aren’t necessarily about grunting and sweating, they’re about competition. They’re about beating the other guy. They’re about being the best you can be at something. And that’s the essence of e-sports and what makes it so great.

I won’t preach about why everyone should love e-sports. That gets tiresome fast and is somewhat insulting to people who simply don’t enjoy it. Just like anything else, e-sports isn’t for some people. But it’s clearly a phenomenon for many others, and crucially important to PC gamers – that’s a fact that can’t be ignored.

Right now, the current king title of e-sports is indubitably StarCraft 2, in large part due to its accessibility to spectators. The methodical pacing and build-up in the early game allows commentators to present the events unfolding onscreen, even to a lay audience. It’s visually pleasing, and you can understand some of the action without deep knowledge of the game. You don’t need to know two hundred different spells and items and their effects like you do in the popular Action RTS titles League of Legends and Dota 2. You don’t need deep knowledge of the map architecture and an appreciation for just how hard it is to aim a mouse or joystick like you might for Quake, Counter-Strike, or Call of Duty. All of these games, and many others, including fighting games like Street Fighter and many others from various multiplayer genres, make good e-sports, but some are better to watch than others.

What’s important, however, is the people taking part. Heck, I used to play Firearms Half-Life Mod in the Cyberathelete Amateur League (CAL) with my team, Irresistible Six (and we /were/ irresistible – in more ways than one). There were maybe twenty or so other squads, and the competition there was fierce. We had rivalries and trash talk and controversy and Nations Cups and everything that makes e-sports exciting and fun, without all the money and cameras and sponsors. It was about the thrill of competition. And that’s what e-sports is all about.

Much like “real” sports, e-sports is a thing of stories. It’s about the hard-working underdog who exceeds his talent, toppling the unbeatable champion. It’s about the former champion struggling to regain their past glory. It’s about the people who chased their ambitions, giving up their time to pursue that elusive goal of being the “best”, whatever that might mean.

So I’m going to introduce you to e-sports by telling a story. It’s a story you can read many ways, with an unlikely hero and despicable villain, or as a tale of redemption. It’s the story of the two finalists at Major League Gaming’s final tournament of 2011, the National Championships of the 2011 MLG Pro Circuit.

The Pro Circuit ended in Providence, capitol of the nation’s smallest state. The venue itself was unassuming, a small convention center, significantly smaller than any other MLG event this season. For those unfamiliar with the event scene, MLG tournaments are conventions where thousands of StarCraft 2, Halo, Call of Duty, and League of Legends players and fans pack into a hall filled with rows of consoles and computers and three big stages where the fans end up fighting for seating because fire codes prevent MLG from meeting the massive demand!

These events can be a bit chaotic, with matches showcased on a number of feature stations and screens, commentators excitedly chattering on the loudspeakers, and people milling about, watching matches, cheering, swarming players for autographs, spilling out from the stage seating into the surrounding area and generally enjoying themselves.

Despite serving as the 2011 National Championships, Providence was your typical MLG event, save for two important details: a prize pool ten times bigger than any of their tournaments this year and the amazing field of talent that money attracted. Providence would be a story of talent, but that’s just the overarching plotline.

The NaNiwa Story

Our story begins in Dallas, with the controversial Swede, Johan “NaNiwa” Lucchesi. The twenty-one year old Protoss player began his StarCraft 2 career with a reputation for “bm”, or “bad manner”, an alias born in Korea referring to unsportsmanlike activities like trash talk and rage, a taboo in the StarCraft community. NaNiwa was emotionless after a win, but violent after a loss. He is one of those intense competitors who simply hates losing and isn’t afraid to let everyone else know it. He was honest in the media, often getting him into trouble but also winning him fans for his sometimes refreshing views. He often struggled with authority, failing to follow protocol and eventually getting disqualified from the Electronic Sports League Pro Series, a major league in Germany. His attitude problems and inconsistent play prevented him from finding a stable professional team until the U.K.-based Team Dignitas finally gave him a chance after recognizing his potential.

At MLG Dallas early in April, NaNiwa took full advantage of the opportunity Dignitas afforded him. He swept the entire tournament, molding his competitiveness into a play style that was varied and notoriously mistake free, because he simply would not accept anything less than playing perfect. And near-perfect he was, with a 22-2 map win-to-loss ratio and zero lost matches on his way to the championship. The competitive Swede barely cracked a smile after the win, saying he felt “okay” after taking the tournament. He expected nothing less than winning from himself, and it was about to become a habit.

NaNiwa quickly became a sensation, vaulting himself into prominence as arguably the top StarCraft player outside of Korea, one of maybe four or five players capable of challenging Korean dominance, and showing that his attitude issues were largely a thing of the past. He proceeded to win the Gadget Show Live Invitational later that month and continued his success over the next quarter of the year, placing highly in the Team Liquid StarLeague, Homestory Cup III, the European Battle.net Invitational and MLG Columbus and Anaheim.

Eventually, he decided he needed a new challenge: Korea.

“I have nothing left to prove here,” said NaNiwa at the Homestory Cup, and so the Scandinavian traveled halfway across the world to compete in the top league, the Global StarCraft 2 League, early in August.

In StarCraft, Korea has been the gold standard of competition since Yo-Hwan “BoxeR” Lim, the “Emperor”, kick-started the e-sports revolution there in the early 2000s. Six figure contracts. Endorsement deals. Professional team houses replete with coaches and strict training regimens. Korea had it all, and they brought much of the same with them when StarCraft 2 was released – including the Emperor himself.

But in Korea, things did not go as planned for NaNiwa.

NaNiwa struggled desperately even while fellow non-Korean players had at least some success in the harsh competitive environment. Players like Chris “HuK” Loranger and fellow Swede Kim “SaSe” Hammar seemed to thrive in the tougher practice environment, but NaNiwa simply couldn’t put together any results. His impressive mistake-free playstyle seemed to deteriorate under the pressure of Korean play, and it seemed like the older NaNiwa, brooding, rowdy and uncontrollable, was returning.

His troubles weren’t limited to in-game, either. While by all accounts NaNiwa seemed to enjoy his new life in Korea, avoiding the homesickness that plagues many other players, he suffered through a love triangle, his girlfriend stealing a kiss from a visiting teammate. He struggled to maintain the same practice schedule as his Korean counterparts, struggling to fit in at the Korean team houses where he was often the only person fluent in English. He ended up leaving his team, Dignitas, spending some time as a free agent before joining up with Complexity Gaming. It was a turbulent time in his career, and it seemed like his star was waning.

His record in Korea currently sits at 0-4, losing every series in which he’s played. Instead of carrying the torch and lighting the way for fellow non-Korean players in Korea, as many expected him to do, NaNiwa has dropped it. He even performed worse at the few tournaments outside of Korea in which he attended, placing disappointingly low at MLG Anaheim. He finally hit his low point in early November, when he was eliminated in the first round of the GSL for the second straight time.

“Fuck everything, fuck my life,” tweeted the Swede, “gonna practice twice as hard for everything in the future and not give a shit about anything else.”

MLG Providence: The National Championships

The story heading into Providence was a simple one: it was the toughest tournament of the year outside of Korea. The National Championships were the culmination of Major League Gaming’s 2011 Pro Circuit, featuring ten times the prize money compared to any of their other stops: a whopping $50,000 for the StarCraft 2 champion. That, along with MLG’s reputation as one of the premier tournaments worldwide and one of the best in terms of live fan support, attracted the A-list of StarCraft 2 players.

Players like NaNiwa and the aforementioned HuK entered with top seeds thanks to their performance in previous events, placing them near the top of the tournament bracket, needing to win only a few matches to reach the finals.

That didn’t mean they were favorites, though; all eyes were on the Korean princes, the king of Zerg, Jae-Duk “NesTea” Lim and Jong-Hyeon “MVP” Jeong, the world’s strongest Terran. The two teammates on Incredible Miracle are StarCraft 2′s premier players. They are both three-time GSL champions and have each bagged over $200,000 in prize money since the release of StarCraft 2. If you ask a StarCraft analyst who the best player in the game is, most will say MVP. (The rest will choose NesTea.)

Neither had a seed for Providence because they did not attend enough regular MLG events to earn one. The prize pots at regular events were not worth their time. That meant they had to brave the dreaded Open Bracket at this one, a gruelling portion of the tournament where 128 gamers go in and 16 come out after a marathon of six three-game series.

Before that, MLG put on a little sideshow: the MLG Global Invitational, a $12,000 tournament that pit the top four players ranked in online qualifiers from Europe, North America, and Korea against each other in a spectacle on Providence’s opening night. The two qualifying players from Korea were MVP and NesTea, with NaNiwa as Europe’s representative.

After NesTea dispatched America’s entrant, Greg “IdrA” Fields, NaNiwa would meet MVP and, to the surprise of the crowd, slayed him in a close three game series. The last time MVP had played in America, he looked untouchable, winning BlizzCon. The way NaNiwa beat him was impressive. He didn’t use “cheesy” tactics, risky strategies that try to surprise an opponent or exploit a specific weakness to get a quick win. NaNiwa beat MVP, the player many label as perfect, in two straight-up games, showcasing the impressive decision making that catapulted NaNiwa to elite status during his impressive string of victories earlier in the year.

Next up for NaNiwa was NesTea, and he proceeded to take revenge on the player who bested him earlier this year at BlizzCon. A stunned crowd cheered as NaNiwa awkwardly took the stage, unsure as always of how to receive such attention.

In a post-game interview, in typical NaNiwa fashion, he frankly answered a question regarding a choice NesTea made in the last game of their series, calling him an “idiot” for making a poor decision. When the Korean heard about it, he vowed to take revenge of his own, saying that he “knew he could beat him” and that he was tired from his flight. A rivalry was born.

That rivalry was born out on the second day of the tournament. As NaNiwa awaited in the championship bracket thanks to his lofty seed, NesTea plodded through opponent after opponent, sweeping his six open bracket foes to land him in the championship bracket position he was hoping for: three wins away from a rematch with NaNiwa. Naturally, those three more foes never stood a chance.

NesTea fought through nine players to earn a rematch with NaNiwa, only to be slapped down like a fly. The Swede strode onto the stage with an awkward gait, walked over to his rival’s booth, and gave him a bit of traditional Korean trash talk – a thumbs down. Mild, I know, compared to some of the antics we see in the NFL every week, but the move endeared NaNiwa to some and angered others. The Swedish terror was back.

At the end of the second day of the tournament, it looked like NaNiwa might be unstoppable. He wasn’t just winning games against the two best players in the world, he was soundly dominating them, controlling the pace of the match with sound scouting, decision making and tactics. He looked in control in all of his games, until he met an opponent no one would suspect.

A new challenger

After an early loss in the championship bracket, it looked like Dong-Nyung “Leenock” Lee, a sixteen-year-old Zerg playing in his debut tournament outside of Korea, would do what was expected of him: place well, but behind many of his outstanding countryman. The chubby and unassuming kid was humble but determined as he decided to flip the script with the most impressive single-day performance in StarCraft 2 history.

A fan favorite due to his cute nature and unrealized potential, the youngster had recently put up the best results of his career, going his deepest ever in the GSL. That didn’t put him on the same level as MVP, the defending GSL champion, Sung-Won “MMA” Moon, or the man who knocked Leenock into the lower bracket on Saturday, Soo-Ho “DongRaeGu” Park.

But Leenock would beat all three of them on his way to the finals, exacting vengeance on DongRaeGu in a classic seven-game series and notching two MLG champions, IdrA and HuK, to his belt.

That landed him in the final match against NaNiwa, a seven-game series with $25,000 on the line. As the upper bracket winner, NaNiwa could close the series out quickly by winning two of the first three games, and with the way he had played up to this point, it almost seemed like a foregone conclusion, despite Leenock’s amazing run. The kid from Korea wouldn’t let that happen; he implemented an amazingly aggressive strategy, an early roach rush, in every game of the series, and NaNiwa struggled to find an answer. His favored forge fast-expand build order crumbled against the pressure. Someone finally found a way to make the Swede uncomfortable in a tournament where he had always played calm, collected and under control.

The Korean jumped to a 3-1 lead and went for the early assault a fifth time in the final game. A flustered NaNiwa simply couldn’t defend, but he ended the series by showing just how much he’d grown since his early days as a player: he typed out “congratulations” and exited the game.

Little Leenock was all smiles as he took the stage, embarrassed to bask in a crowd chanting his name. The trophy MLG handed him was bigger than he was.

Like many Korean players, Leenock was humble and shy after his victory. He plans to help his parents out with the $50,000 soon to be added to his bank account. He thanked his teammates for helping him practice, and his team for giving him the opportunity to attend such an amazing tournament. And of course, he thanked the fans.

Leenock beat five MLG champions and two GSL champions on Sunday to win the championship. His age makes his accomplishment all the more impressive. The players he beat may have the same amount of StarCraft 2 experience as he does, but many of them have been professional gamers for years longer. He himself believes that no other gamer his age could do what he does, due to the challenges inherit with playing professionally at his age. Heck, the only reason MLG Providence was Leenock’s first tournament in America was that the IGN Pro League hosted their huge IPL3 event at Bally’s Casino in Atlantic City, and he wasn’t allowed to attend due to his age.

MLG Providence Conclusion

These were just a couple of the stories from the gamers competing at MLG Providence, and they are just a few among the many. Every competitor has their own story. These are people who pour their heart and soul into their craft, give up their lives, their friends, their family, to chase a dream. Those stories, the drive to compete, the fact that anyone can win, if they try hard enough, is what makes sports, and e-sports, so great.

MLG Providence had everything you could want from an e-sports tournament, save a full fledged stadium packed with 60,000 people and 2,000 beer vendors and a massive jumbotron blasting Bon Jovi during breaks in play. The event brought in around $1 million to the local economy, according to the WPRI. Yep. E-sports is serious business.

Oh, and that stadium? DreamHack, Sweden’s largest e-sports event organizer, actually booked a hockey arena this weekend for their winter tournament. But more on that soon.

[For a bunch of video interviews with Providence competitors and general “from the floor” videos, please visit to our YouTube channel]

The End

So I ended up getting a bit long-winded there, but I don’t plan to next time. We’re still trying to figure out what this column will look like each week, and we may favor a more structured format in the future, relaying what’s happened in a variety of e-sports communities, what’s coming up, and where you can go to watch all the action. If there’s something you guys would like to see or learn about e-sports, please let us know!

www.ESFIworld.com

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117 Comments »

  1. psyk says:

    MMMMMM bloody callus lovely

  2. mentor07825 says:

    In Soviet Russia Zerg spawns you!

  3. colinmarc says:

    Watching Leenock come out of nowhere and absolutely steamroll much more established players was a treat. You might not know this, but there’s lots of places you can watch these tournaments live, which is really fun. In particular, wellplayed.tv collects streams from around the web in one interface.

    Or, if you feel like going out and seeing people (crazy I know), there are Barcrafts (starcraft shown live at bars) cropping up everywhere. I’ve been to a few of the Boston ones and they’re a blast.

    • Vesperan says:

      When I watched the NaNiwa vs Leenock games I couldn’t help but feel NaNiwa was a one trick pony. A good trick and an excellent pony, but why didn’t he vary up his starting build order after Leenock sorted a way to beat it?

  4. Stewox says:

    Hey RPS … what about Dreamhack 2011 ???????????????????

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Hey Stewox … how about read next week’s column ???????????????????

    • Stewox says:

      Well … i meant that, there wasn’t any indicator for stream links so more people can tune in – it was for MLG but not for Dreamhack :(

      Don’t tell me they don’t do it unless they get paid.

    • Valvarexart says:

      Hey guys … how about less ????????????????????????????

    • DazedByTheHaze says:

      Maybe TL mirrror their stream-list for mon3yzzz? Would be nice to have the PC game streams I watch in the same place where I get my PC games news? Maybeee, even combine the two? You can bring me the money back later that you will make out of this. … ;)

  5. Miker says:

    Very /very/ happy to see RPS turning its ear to eSports. I’ve spent so many weekends wrapped up in StarCraft 2 tournaments, and I’m looking forward to many more.

    In related news, Liquid`HerO’s play in Dreamhack Winter this past weekend was utterly ridiculous, and he’s quickly become my favorite Protoss player by far. Insanely great micro and harrassment, so fun to watch.

  6. Nimic says:

    I am glad that RPS has finally decided to stop hurting ESPORTS.

    • Vinraith says:

      Not that I really care if they were, but how exactly was RPS “hurting” esports?

    • evilbobthebob says:

      It’s just a slightly dumb in-joke from the SC2 Reddit whereby anything that is not directly supporting eSports is HARMING ESPORTS!!!1!!

    • psyk says:

      By not covering it? RPS being the largest most influential pc gaming site that has ever been.

    • Vinraith says:

      @evilbobthebob

      Ah, thanks. I’ll just go back to hurting esports by not giving a damn about it, then. :)

    • Nimic says:

      Now, technically evilbobthebob, it’s not a Reddit thing. It’s more of a general SC2 community thing. So… basically Team Liquid and Reddit, I suppose.

      And yeah, I was basically going for the joke. Though in a way it does make natural sense for someone as massive as RPS to cover something as important to gaming (for some of us) as e-sports, and even more so when it comes to SC2.

      I’m pretty sure Starcraft 2 is a bigger e-sport than anything has ever been on a world basis. Obviously Brood War (Starcraft 1) has always been huge in Korea, but less so elsewhere. I’m not an expert though, I’ve basically only ever followed two e-sports: CS 1.5/1.6 many years ago, and SC2 since it’s release. I haven’t played SC2 in months, yet I still catch every big event that I can.

    • DazedByTheHaze says:

      I loled :)

    • smokingkipper says:

      @Vinraith has lost his passion.

    • TensaiBoy says:

      ????????????????????????????

      (yuck memes)

  7. jplayer01 says:

    Thanks for the story. It was an interesting read since I haven’t had the time to follow the SC2 e-sports scene. I’m definitely looking forward to future weeklies about it.

  8. DigitalSignalX says:

    Glad to see my favorite PC game blog starting to cover e-sports more – I routinely watch casts from Day[9], TotalBiscuit and TeamLiquid for SC2. Keep it coming!

  9. ix says:

    I like comeback stories, but without all the bullshit about inter-player rivalries. I think that’s pretty much the worst of mainstream sport commentary imported into e-sports, even if it probably is inevitable.

    So, good effort on covering e-sports, but if coverage in e-sports is all about how disrespectful naniwa was, or who Idra trash talked this time, I’d rather just watch the casts.

    • Jody Macgregor says:

      I wound up skimming half the post for just this reason. Making an introduction to e-sports all about the personalities and rivalries — especially when the guy you’re writing about sounds like a douche — is the wrong way to interest me.

    • bigblack says:

      I disagree, respectfully. The human drama component in competition is interesting, and differing temperaments and personalities add a dimension to the games and play-styles. Who doesn’t want to hear about a troll/douche/bad-sport losing and an underdog/darkhorse winning every once in a while? Player profiles absolutely add to my enjoyment of these types of stories and I enjoyed this coverage.

  10. Radiant says:

    PC Esports is not just StarCraft 2, Dota 2, Counter-Strike and League of Legends.

    What about fighting games?

    Streetfighter 4 AE [available for PC] at Dreamhack [Europe's best] AND GodsGarden [Japan's best] this weekend.

    If you want a write up for those I’ll be more then happy to write one for you myself.

    Starcraft has enough limelight.
    Think of the fighting game community as the indies of esports we need all the exposure we can get [and not just a throwaway line in a huge esports article].

    • Kaira- says:

      Aren’t those fighting games still mainly played on consoles, though? I don’t know much, but what little I’ve been following, this has been the image I’ve been getting.

    • subedii says:

      I was thinking the same thing. Even if it’s on PC, the impression I’ve always had was that Fighting Games = console. I mean, apart from SF4, it’s not like there are any of the other recent ones even ON the PC.

    • Radiant says:

      It’s easier for tournies to set up a bunch of xboxes.

      But the majority of top players now play on PC as it’s easier to stream your sessions with.
      Also the mod scene on PC is doing ridiculously wonderful things with stock characters.

    • Radiant says:

      @subedii Very true it’s only SF4 that’s on PC but that is one of the major games [the other being Ultimate MvC 3].
      SF4 is a huge part of fighting games right now and has it’s own set of sponsored teams and players. [both dreamhack and godsgarden were SF4 I believe]

    • cosmicolor says:

      It’s a shame that major fighting games never took off on PC. There are good reasons for it, though, and some not so good.

      I think one thing that’s interesting to note wrt fighting games as a part of esports is that there doesn’t seem to be much positivity towards it. Whenever I see the subject come up on somewhere like Shoryuken or Neo Empire the overall opinion is always one of negativity or just outright apathy. Among my local scene, outside of the one guy I played with who I think got into Team Dignitas (The name Lumpy ring a bell?) or is at least connected to them, nobody seems to have an opinion on esports.

      I think if fighting games outside of SF4 are to be considered among the wider esports then either organisers should be open to more games than SF4, or the scene needs to be more accepting.

      But then again, I just go off of internet discussions of the subject, I couldn’t tell you what everyone in the UK fighting game scene thought of esports. I could be wrong for all I know.

    • Radiant says:

      Neo empire. Again with the tone lowering!
      Stick to something like Iplaywinner, SRK and Eventhubs [hubs just as a tool to quickly see what's happening right that second].

      And whatever you do stay out of the comments section; most of the internet were raised by wolves.

    • Radiant says:

      As an aside, a lot of the negativity around the discussion of esports in the fighting game community stems from it’s relative youthfulness.

      You have to realise that the people surrounding fighting games, at this time [call it a new resurgence], are actual players.

      Compared to the larger games [LoL and Starcraft], where the players are quite removed from the esports discussion, there you have a lot of evangelists who don’t actually play the game at a high level.

      Keeping in mind the nature of fighting games, the combativeness, more so then any other online game and you can understand why there is a lot of brash talk and whatevers floating around.

      It’s like boxing if boxing were discussed just by the fighters.

  11. Flobulon says:

    Great!

  12. Burning Man says:

    That was an absolutely mesmerizing write-up. I do believe you could take what you did for lunch and turn it into a script and it would make a fairly decent movie.

    • shitflap says:

      I didn’t find it long-winded in the slightest. I loves me a good gaming narrative. Keep up the good work Sam!

  13. Teronfel says:

    It’s nice to see e-sports getting bigger and bigger.Especially SC2 is really fun to watch and more enjoyable than the others.

  14. BurningPet says:

    Yeah, i can finally say that i am also into sports… although, i have the slight suspicion my friends will raise their highbrow higher than they normally do when i say i dont like sports, if i say that the sports i like is actually Esports.

    NEED MOAR NERDY FRIENDS.

  15. wererogue says:

    I was really enjoying Harlequin’s coverage of high-level Dawn of War 2 games, until he dropped off the map. Does anybody know if there are any other good DoW commentators?

  16. Vandell says:

    Glee! Now I can come to RPS for more e-sports coverage? HELL YES!

  17. Om says:

    “Sports aren’t necessarily about grunting and sweating, they’re about competition. They’re about beating the other guy. They’re about being the best you can be at something. And that’s the essence of e-sports and what makes it so great.”

    So much for the joy of simply taking part

  18. spindaden says:

    I love human interest stories like this. If you’re looking for input on the form of this column going forward, I would love to read something like this every week.

    News is all well and good and probably atleast a little “watch out for live news from tournament X happening date to date on our awesome site” plug wouldn’t go amiss, but tbh, personally, I wont watch the streams, so whether something is happening now or happened 2 months ago doesn’t matter to me.

    I do love a good story though. More please.

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    LTK says:

    I’m more or less apathetic towards e-sports but this was a good read.

  20. wssw4000 says:

    I just want to comment on the notion I got from the article that e-sports can be considered an actual sport. Because they are not. They are games, much like chess. A sport requires excellent physical fitness to compete. The very idea of calling some fat/skin-and-bones, generally out of shape person an athlete is ridiculous.

    • psyk says:

      Curling?
      Shooting?
      Ski jump?
      Bobsleigh?

    • wssw4000 says:

      What about them?

    • BrokenSymmetry says:

      I agree with wssw4000. The beauty of sport is the physicality of it, the beautiful, fine-tuned bodies executing it. Yes, the “grunting and sweating” is what defines sport.

    • psyk says:

      “A sport requires excellent physical fitness to compete.”

      ooooooo look at the muscles on those curlers

      Snooker?

      Basically your definition of sport is crap

    • wssw4000 says:

      Personally, if I was one of those “mop” guys my arms would fall off.

    • Vinraith says:

      Bowling.

    • wssw4000 says:

      @Vinrath

      Here is from the ever credible Wikipedia:
      Bowling is an anaerobic type of physical exercise, similar to walking with free weights. Bowling helps in burning calories and works muscle groups not usually exercised. The flexing and stretching in bowling works tendons, joints, ligaments, and muscles in the arms and promotes weight loss. While most sports are not for elderly people, it is possible to practice bowling very well at advanced ages.

    • psyk says:

      Darts
      Bowls (lawn)

    • smokingkipper says:

      Darts? Phil Taylor won the Sports Personality of the year award a few times I believe.

      I believe the old English meaning of the word sport, is a none work activity carried out in free time.

      And I guess if enough people want to relax the meaning of the word, then consider it relaxed.

    • Nimic says:

      Frankly, if you somehow managed to play at the level that the top guys do, then you’d see how physically demanding it actually is. Most of them are actually in pretty good shape, because they kinda need to be.

    • wssw4000 says:

      @smokingkipper

      Where I am from sport is defined as a physical activity. True it was once considered any game or recreational activity but not anymore. I’m not even going to comment on letting any random yahoo define what a word means.

      @Nimic

      I’m skeptical about that.

    • psyk says:

      “True it was once considered any game or recreational activity but not anymore. I’m not even going to comment on letting any random yahoo define what a word means.”

      Wait so it ment one thing then changed so you have let a “random yahoo define what a word means.”

      Where does lawn bowls fit in to your world of sports?

    • Nimic says:

      @wssw4000:

      You being skeptical about it doesn’t make it any less so. There are “unfit” players at the top level too, obviously, but most keep in shape. Have you seen the speed these guys play at? It might not make them any more suitable to have a wrestle or run a marathon, but it’s physical all the same.

    • TensaiBoy says:

      I dare you to play 60 min of Broodwar with 700 APM and then tell me it’s physically trivial…please go ahead.

      Not that that has anything to do with “sports is only physical”, that’s just not true but you can discuss that with the people who make dictionaries not us, eh?

    • Dunkass says:

      E-sports are a sport in the same way that chess is considered to be a sport. Still clearly defined, just not in the same physical manner as other more “traditional” or athletically demanding examples. A chess master isn’t exactly assumed to be what you’d call a physically primed athlete, but is still just as much of a highly skilled competitor within his respective sport.

      There is clearly a line which can be drawn between the two categories, but that doesn’t necessarily mean one deserves any less credit as an individual sport than the other.

    • psyk says:

      Jousting was a sport (might still be, not heard of people jousting now days though)

      Sitting on a horse holding a pole.

    • wssw4000 says:

      @TensaiBoy

      I once played 2 clan wars in Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory back to back, that was about 1.5 to 2 hours of intense play if I remember correctly. And while it was tiring, physically it was indeed trivial. It was my concentration that was sapped, not my ability to move the mouse or press keys.

      @Dunkass

      Yes, a chess master is not an athlete. What they do is not easy and their skill is worthy of praise but they are not an athlete. This is what I’m arguing.

    • Hendar23 says:

      Well snooker, bowling, curling, I’d call those games, not sports. Shooting is a skill, which you can use to play games if you wish. Thats just how it seems to me.

      It doesn’t really matter, it takes dedicatiohn to get really good at any of these things. Arguing over semantics is fun.

    • Vinraith says:

      @psyk

      Do you have any idea how much that pole weighs? Or how hard it is to precisely position it while also controlling a horse (and wearing heavy armor)? Jousting actually requires enormous strength and skill, it’s not a very good example here.

      And yes, by the way, people do still joust and there are still significant competitions.

    • psyk says:

      I would call football a game :p

      “The average lance weighs about 5 to 7 pounds. Some riders prefer lightweight lances and have found that pool cues with added metal points will weigh only about 1 to 2 pounds. On the other end of the scale are the riders who prefer much heavier lances (12 to 15 pounds) to increase stability in the face of wind resistance. Arm strength and comfort levels determine the ideal weight for each individual.”

      Best skill in jousting? balance

    • Ysellian says:

      We really need a name for a competitive game without the physical aspect. Frankly I love e-sports, but I never liked the term “e-sports”.

    • slM_agnvox says:

      Surprised that no one chimed in with an auto racing example. Auto racing is regarded as a sport, right? I’d list its most important physical demands as lightning fast reflexes, hand eye coordination and a tolerance for sitting in an awkward position at uncomfortable temperatures. Been a decade at least since there was a clutch to press down. Other than withstanding quite a lot of acceleration I’d say the sport of auto racing and esports sound like they have a lot in common.

      (Not withstanding the fact the driver, the only one really competing on that physical level, is only part of a larger team)

      People will always argue what is a sport or not, but as a name for competitive gaming ESPORTS certainly gets all the important ideas conveyed in as few syllables as possible.

      ((EDIT: Did a little more research and seems most outlets regard auto racing, rallying, motocross, etc.. as MOTORSports. So if auto racing can be a MOTORSport, I see no reason SC2 cannot be an ESport))

    • Laephis says:

      Glad someone else had the guts to call a spade a spade. No one calls chess a “sport” and yet for some reason people playing computer games feel their activity is somehow more legitimate by calling it a sport. Get over it, guys. You’re playing a game, not participating in a sport, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Hijacking a word in an attempt to lend more credibility to your activity just makes things look pathetic. If you want to be accurate, this is “competitive gaming”

    • psyk says:

      What?

      “Chess is a recognized sport of the International Olympic Committee,”

      Dupe comment avoiding

    • Laephis says:

      How does a statement from a corrupt international committee define the meaning of an English word? Sports are physical activities. Chess is a game of skill. Darts are a game of skill. Poker is a game of skill and chance. None of these are sports. Words have precise meanings for a reason. It’s time to drop the inferiority complex and let games be games without feeling the need to “legitimize” them in the eyes of the general public.

    • psyk says:

      Screw what sport monkeys want sport to be classified as, gay used to mean happy the meaning of words change.

    • JackShandy says:

      This is an extremely important issue and I’m glad to see so many fine people devoting time and energy to it.

    • MD says:

      I’d say a viable definition of ‘sport’ is a game in which the execution of physical skills plays an important role. If you start adding in a requirement for a certain level of exertion or necessary fitness level, you’re likely to exclude some pretty well-established sports, e.g. lawn bowls and competitive shooting.

      This way all established sports are definitely included, while games like chess are definitely excluded (the skill is all in the decision-making; nobody is better at physically moving the pieces than anybody else). It opens the door to games like Quake or Starcraft (in which speed and precision are very important, even though SC is a strategy game), but I don’t see why that’s a problem. These are games in which physical skill is extremely important; it just happens at more of a micro level than in most other types of sport.

      I think one of the reasons people get worked up about this sort of definition is similar to the reason they get worked up about definitions of ‘art’: a failure to distinguish between accepting something into a category, and giving it a stamp of approval that puts it at the same level of importance and respectability as the other members. Any definition of ‘art’ that gels at all well with the common usage of the term is going to include some rubbish; and any definition of ‘sport’ that includes all commonly accepted sports is also going to include some low-physical-intensity games, which not everyone will consider ‘proper’ (i.e. respectable) sports.

    • Premium User Badge

      stahlwerk says:

      I’ll wait for what Roger Ebert has to say on that subject.

  21. Vinraith says:

    Reply fail, disregard.

  22. smokingkipper says:

    http://videos.cnet.co.uk/crave-tv/barcraft-tournament-in-london-40001882/

    London Barcraft event.

    Pretty cool stuff.

  23. TensaiBoy says:

    Also the BroodWar Proleague has started for those who are interested.

    [SPL] VODs here or with english commentary here

    regards♥
    (SC2 will be included next season it seems)

  24. PanpipeSolo says:

    YES.

    Thank you RPS.

  25. Hendar23 says:

    If these guys practice 8 hours a day, do they not end up with crippling RSI? I play any game for a couple of hours a day and I get shooting pains up my arm, shoulder pains and my backs fucked. Do they get massage therapists in these traning houses?

    • TensaiBoy says:

      That’s actually a recurring problem yes. Looking at Starcraft:Broodwar for example Flash had to get surgery and in SC2 TLO had to stop playing for quite a while.
      It’s one reason Progamers actually work out (even if it’s not apparent with a lot of the blokes).

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      There are very few situations where a programmer should be hunched over a keyboard banging out code for hours on end. You should be taking frequent breaks not only to relieve RSI and avoid other physical issues, but to think and design.

      Nobody writes hundreds of lines of good, nontrivial code without pausing a few times. And if you find yourself writing tons of trivial boilerplate, well, there are tools for that. And often design alternatives to avoid that.

  26. psyk says:

    NA

  27. dsch says:

    Please, ‘slew.’

  28. sidhellfire says:

    It is sad that e-sport forcuses on silly games mostly. Simracing for example does that properly, but attention whores tend to focus on flashy games like over decade old Counter-Strike (which never was near as “pro-gamey” as Quake3, yet aroused more people) and crappy arcade like need for speed. Even choice of strategic games – Warcraft3 and then Starcraft -> both more oriented on fast paced gameplay rather than advanced mechanism to promote “wiser” and more cunning commander. Basically these e-sport strategy games are about execution of few schemas and their counter-schemas whilst fighting with dumb AI. IN FPS genre, we’ve got league of games such as Modern Warfare – seriously? It’s not even a shadow of i.e. Return To Castle: Wolfenstein. Esports are basically uninteresting because games that are ought to be fun to play and popular, are not often as fun to watch.
    I would love to see sports games like FIFA, NHL or NBA there, but not played as 1v1 but actual team matches, with humans instead of AI controlling rest of squad. (Basically Fifa Pro Clubs, NHL Virtual Player, and NBA2k MyPlayer Online mode).

    Long story short: games on e-sports spotlight are too easy. It’s like instead of finding who’s fastest on the olympics 100meter run, we have every competitor almost same pace, with everyone waiting for opponents to trip over.

    • bigdeadbug says:

      @sidhellfire – Your broad assertion that you can get some really awful games in the E-sports scene is correct. It is bound to happen, when you have big name companies trying to get as much publicity as possible and/or E-sports competitions looking for easy ad revenue.

      The view you have of SC2 is incorrect thought. It does focus on reaction times etc. but there is also a detailed Meta game going on that can easily win or lose a player the match. You won’t find to many slow paces “thinking mans” games in E-sports because they will almost certainly be boring to watch.

      Your analogy also makes no sense and it compounds the fact you seem to be whining that the games you liked are no longer played. You may not like that but don’t take your anger out on the current games because of it.

      As for your FIFA etc. idea – you may as well go watch a real game at that point, it being in digital form won’t add much.

    • FunkyBadger3 says:

      “I would love to see sports games like FIFA, NHL or NBA there, but not played as 1v1 but actual team matches, with humans instead of AI controlling rest of squad.”

      Why not just watch the real thing?

    • sidhellfire says:

      Same can be said about every sports game. There are dozen reasons in fact. Referee that does not make mistakes, lack of corruption. Playing as a one player, instead of whole teams adds the only thing, that is not easy to master in computer gaming – cooperation. And the problem with e-sports is that games are (on professional level) to easy. It’s about not making mistakes than actually being more skilled than opponent. Simulations are not as easy as games on e-spotlight and thus far more entertaining.

      And no, it’s not about nostalgia or games that I used to play – I played many games, CS mostly. and it’s a fact, that Quake was actually better in terms of competition than CS. Period. Tribes were also looking promising, yet I had not a chance to play it a lot online. WCG and ESL and any other league games are mostly silly. TrackMania? Give me a break.

      About thinking games – Had an opportunity to watch few games with good commentary made in Total War: Medieval and I say – they were over 9000 times better than any Starcraft match I’ve seen (and seen some), even there were no Koreans at all.

  29. mittortz says:

    Wow, this is AWESOME. I like following these events, but with work and school and all it’s very difficult to do it on my own. RPS – you are doing something great for my Sundays and the whole eSports community, thank you!

  30. TensaiBoy says:

    curse you reply system *tears*

  31. Metonymy says:

    No one is stating the obvious and important detail here, which is that the current form of Starcraft 2 is very weak, with nearly all games bifurcating into pure cheese plays or methodical build order counters. It’s truly sad to watch these casters try to inject some drama into all-ins or Idra’s unchanging macro game. They haven’t talked about his build order for months..because its robotic.

    The good news is that the SC2 design is bad enough that there’s no way to go but up. HotS could potentially be a far bigger boost to esports than any drama by Mr Autism here.

    Fighting game esports have the problem of being too fast paced, and requiring intimate knowledge of matchups to really tell who is good or playing brilliantly. Whether its SF4 or marvel, if you don’t know the game, it just looks like a big spammy mess.

    Wow arena (or any MMO) never had a chance, it’s just not a competitive game at all, and no amount of bandaids can save a game that has a pve component.

    FPS is a game for small minds, (I love them) and no design, no comp, no matter how great, can change that. The only chance of popularity is super-star players in games that are not centered around bullet weapons. Rockets, shotguns, railguns, etc. are required to make long-term fps spectating endurable. The game has to have things that can be observed, not just plans in the players’ heads.

  32. Crainey says:

    As sad as it might sound to some, eSports has brought a new exciting phase of my life and I’m having perhaps thee most fun I’ve had in my 19 years in this otherwise corrupt and deficient world. Since I have started paying attention to eSports I have found myself absorbed in it’s very family like culture, I’ve started to play games differently (competitively rather than casually) and am having more fun doing so in dreams of being better. The eSports scene has some of the most passionate and interesting individuals I’ve ever saw and it inspires and excites me like never before.
    I recently started meeting new people through eSports just by sporting my favourite team EG (Evil Geniuses) who are just as passionate and excited about it as I am which is lots of fun. I got all my friends into it and we often do weekend long party’s to watch the events like MLG, IPL, NASL and DreamHack. Whilst I have only been watching competitive gaming and the eSports scene for the last 6 months I feel that I have a broad understanding of it already and am more than welcome to answer any questions people may have.

    Very good write-up, as you noted at the end it was a little long winded and I imagine it could be a turn-off if you’re new to the whole thing. I hope RPS keeps up this weekly as I want to see eSports grow and the next big step to do so is by hitting mainstream gaming press which normally starts at RPS (Minecraft anyone?).

    • Maldomel says:

      If you’re currently having so much fun and you are happy watching e-sports and trying to play in a more competitive manner, I don’t see why it would be sad. You’ve found a passion and shared it with friends? What’s sad about that? It took you 19 years to found something like that? What’s the problem?

      As long as it pleases you, it’s good. Plus, e-sports are totally cool.

    • Crainey says:

      This is why I said at the begining “As sad as it might sound to some”, I have no problem with gaming and I publicly express my passion for it everyday of my life. This passion is what drives my dream of one day doing the gruesome task (Am I right?) of bringing the masses gaming news and writting for a popular outlet such as this fine website.

  33. Maldomel says:

    That makes me wanna play Starcraft 2 again. Not that I would ever make it into diamond league or tournaments…

  34. asshibbitty says:

    E-sports = huge corporate PR circlejerk

    • kyrieee says:

      You absolutely could not be further from the truth.
      Go be an idiot somewhere else.

    • asshibbitty says:

      What if I said that esports are only enjoyed by people with development disorders, would that be closer to truth, hmmm?

    • Starky says:

      No, it would just make you even more of an idiot.

  35. kyrieee says:

    I was so bummed when Naniwa lost, couldn’t sleep because of it xD

  36. FunkyBadger3 says:

    “They’re about beating the other guy. They’re about being the best you can be at something.”

    These two things are not connected in the least.

    • Metonymy says:

      I think we can safely agree that is impossible to improve at a game like starcraft without competing against someone else, but in that sentence the word ‘improve’ is undefined. Is it really improvement, if it doesn’t result in a win, since the binary outcome of the game is the agreed-upon metric of success?

      Does success have to be measured? Are there any other measurements of success, beyond winning? Can you win if other people also win?

    • Thants says:

      What? Of course they’re connected. In a completive game the definition of how good you are is how good a player you can beat.

    • triple omega says:

      That is only partially true. If you play the best game of your life against one of the best players in the world, you may still lose regardless. That doesn’t mean that you haven’t just shown a huge improvement. Just looking at the scores can be a very deceptive thing. It’s about how the game was played much more then what the end results were.

  37. Kaira- says:

    All this reminds me, that I read some time ago about a competitive league on Age of Wonders II (or was it HoMM 3? Can’t remember). Anyone know what it was called and if it’s still alive?

  38. evilhayama says:

    I would love more of this sort of coverage in further articles!

    What would be better is a preview of why each event is important, the major players, rivalries, etc. I knew that MLG Providence was on, but had I known that it was the final MLG, there was a big prize pool, big names with grudge matches and so on -before- the event I would have tuned in. Links to the streams (with timeanddate.com links!) would be good too, as it’s hard to know when and where to watch these things.

    On the subject of fighting games, I think they are watchable by non-players, but you’ll miss a lot of the subtleties. The big tournament commentators do their best to fill in the gaps for non-players, i’m not sure how well that works though… What they (and SC2) have is Hype. There are lots of little exciting moments and the crowd and commentators really react to them which is fun to watch.

    Having said that they are only technically PC games…. RPS has boardgame coverage though, so expanding the esports coverage to console stuff wouldn’t be that bad… right?

  39. psyk says:

    Oh comment system I hate you do da do da
    Oh comment system I hate you oh da do da dey

  40. Rii says:

    There’s something about the Mercator projection leading this article that is particularly objectionable.

  41. negativedge says:

    Man, I am super excited that you guys are taking the esports plunge. There are always going to be haters, but their numbers are dwindling. The esports fanbase is huge–and more importantly, super active. Every bit of coverage helps, and I hope some of the people on the fence, or who simply have never been exposed to competitive gaming, take the time to give it a shot.

  42. mate says:

    Check out the GSL, even if you only have vague interest. The semi finals are on tonight (probably early morning for most RPS denizens) its going to be ahhhmazing : http://www.gomtv.net/

  43. MD says:

    Please don’t ignore Quake! Should be room next week to put in a few words for the Quake Live tournament at DreamHack Winter :)

  44. Xizor says:

    Love to see this on RPS. I didn’t think you gave Leenock enough credit though, the difference between being seeded and going through the open bracket cannot be stressed enough.

    On another note I don’t mind it being a lot of text. I much prefer long-winded to short and superficial.

    Maybe it would be an idea to have a featured series/match each week that was extra special and a link so people can go watch it.

  45. The13thRonin says:

    @wssw4000: If watching a group of sweaty overgrown man-children fight over a ball before groping each others ass and acting like drug-addled morons in public is the only thing considered ‘sport’ in your eyes then I thank all that is good in the world that you do not consider the things that I love sport.

    The word sport for your information is originally derivative of the words ‘fun’ and ‘competition’ which is why you often might hear people say ‘that was a good bit of sport’ or ‘he’s a good sport’. Not only are e-sports fun (at least for a lot of people out there) they require a serious amount of intelligence, focus and dedication.

    I feel sorry for your narrowness-mindedness…

  46. The13thRonin says:

    Also RPS I’m glad you are finally covering this. Good form!

  47. Premium User Badge

    Craymen Edge says:

    I don’t have any interest in e-sports, or the games they play in these contests, but that was a pretty good read.

  48. Tony M says:

    Regarding your last paragraph on the format ongoing: I think an “e-sports news roundup” column would getting boring fairly fast, and it doesn’t match the style of RPS.

    I’d rather each week you focus on highlighting one player/game/match. Any one story. Even if its a news article disguised as a story.

  49. Premium User Badge

    bear912 says:

    Not enough puns. Otherwise, good read.

  50. cytokindness says:

    I guess this is a good opportunity to post links to the single best commentated SC2 game I’ve ever seen:

    (in four parts)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qEV9niTmeOU&feature=player_embedded
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4aLBqeKd_lk&feature=watch_response
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ww_w7sh6NWY&feature=watch_response