The competitive games being featured as part of the eGames competition over in Rio from 15-16 August has been announced. Remember the eGames? They were announced a little while ago as an esports tournament that would run alongside the Olympics in Rio but wouldn’t actually be part of the Olympics. So a kind of Olympics-ish-by-proximity affair which seemed to be experimenting with the idea of a tournament run on the basis of representing your country and gaining medals and national glory instead of, say, a multimillion dollar prize.
When the event was announced they hadn’t actually got the list of games to be featured but today’s announcement explains that it will be Hi-Rez’s gods-brawler Smite and then Super Smash Bros on Wii U. They’re also showcase matches so… it doesn’t really feel like they’re saying anything is at stake?
I wrote a long post about my own reservations on the subject at the time but the main point was that it seemed like a kind of ‘heart in the right place’ idea but nothing about the launch helped me understand either how the event would work or where it fits in terms of the current esports landscape.
Looking at the announcement (and this is without having spoken to anyone on the committee about this) it seems like such a tiny event. From the launch I got the feeling that it was aiming at something bigger than this, but I also couldn’t see how the committee would actually pull something sizable off.
Take the two biggest competitive MOBAs as an example. League of Legends teams around this time are dealing with playoffs and then transitioning into training for Worlds. Top tier Dota 2 teams are preparing for and then competing in The International which has that massive prize pool instead of “medals and kudos”. So, for games like that it’s disruptive to a pre-existing scene if you want that top tier presence. There’s also that national element. Some teams are composed of players from a single country but so many others are international. Would they have to forge new relationships and work with rivals in order to compete, potentially giving away information that would affect events in the regular season or tournaments?
The whole thing seemed fraught with problems from who would play, what they would play and then what the incentive actually was to take part. It felt a lot like that thing where outsiders think esports needs to be made “legitimate” in some way, and then just transplant it wholesale into a traditional format because that’s seen as more established and somehow better. I’m not saying that *is* what happened here, but it’s what it felt like. I mean one of the official quotes at launch talked about bringing “dignity” to players.
This isn’t to dismiss the games that are being played, nor the players who will attend. I also don’t want to dismiss the event out of hand and maybe it will grow and change over time. But what I am saying is that, even now there’s more information, I still don’t feel reassured that this is happening for the right reasons, with much understanding of what would be genuinely beneficial to the scene right now, or even just what people will watch or be interested in.
I feel like if the UK Government is supporting an initiative to “positively shape the future of competitive eSports” I’d be so much more excited about something like friendly and inclusive after-school clubs where ANY kid could learn about teamwork and had access to current gen hardware and was encouraged towards positive attitudes and managing frustration and productive competition/ambition. A UK version of High School Starleague or similar.