Becoming quite the phenomenon in the past few years we have seen E-Sports rise in popularity to heights that were never imagined possible and I don’t think any of us had seen this coming. Sure local competitions were always fun to partake in or go watch, personally I have been an avid watcher of EVO tournaments for years, though never thought that this type of thing would peak like it has as of late. While I don’t think E-sports are inherently a bad thing, I think it is somewhat ridiculous to compare these guys to Football or Hockey players, an unpopular opinion I know. Either way I think that those who can make it into the major leagues of gaming deserve to be there and deserve to get all the admiration that they get because they do work really bloody hard. There are two ways in which I take issue with the E-sports world however; the rabid followers emulating the pros and the companies that churn out garbage trying to capture that essence.
Now for anyone who has played Hearthstone, League of Legends, Overwatch, or anything else with a popular E-sports scene you will know exactly what I am trying to say. There is always those players who attempt to copy and paste the play styles of pro players, suck terribly at it only to end up being the most cancerous people you have had the displeasure of playing with; this is something that is the worst in Overwatch lately. This inflates the ego of already toxic individuals who just take every opportunity to try to steal a bit of that glory that the pros experience with none of the skill to back it up. There is also the issue of these pro players influencing the community enforced meta (in some games like League) which is rather stale and unimaginative if you ask me because never should you get insulted for trying something different. Now there is something to be said for the replicating of useful strategies or builds, which is completely understandable, but we all know that there are some who think it makes them the next pro Team SoloMid player. Naturally it is probably more true that popular E-sports tend to invigorate the game that is being played, but it isn’t the average player who has the most impact on your games; it is that dick who got mad at you for not playing to the meta or failing to exceed their oh so lofty expectations.
Oh boy now the fun part, talking about the company shills who attempt to do whatever to create that next big E-sport. This ends up with perfectly good ideas or games being turned to mindless repetitive garbage that could have been good if they tried to build the game on its own merit. The biggest example that hits closest to home for me is Warhammer 40K Dawn of War III; the latest in an otherwise really enjoyable game series that falls quite short. The single player campaign is fine and there is never an issue with playing missions for all the different available factions as it builds a congruent story (usually) and gives you an opportunity to try different things. Now the issue with DoW III is that the game-play is so stale, boring and repetitive that it isn’t that much fun to play. It has that Starcraft II syndrome where it feels like every unit has an ability and focuses on spamming said abilities than actual strategy or match-ups. Not to mention the game-play focuses on these Elite units that you really need to actually get anything done, which are also for ability spam both active and passive. I can’t neglect to mention the fact that the only way to get resources is to capture limited resource points on the map which feels like it is forced just so there is always something to watch, and it just doesn’t feel right to me. So it feels like instead of making a good Warhammer 40K game based on it’s own merit they just wanted to make something fun to watch without it actually being fun to play. What happened to the days when sequels were actually sequels that improved upon the predecessor? Regardless DoW III just has corporate decisions stamped all over it and as a fan of the series it is rather saddening.
What I am trying to say in all of this wordy ranting is that E-sports have helped to bring video games up to the mainstream for better or for (mostly) worse, and at the risk of sounding like some kind of hipster, the mainstream has helped to create some not-so-good games because of these big companies. Yes E-sports have helped people enjoy their games at new levels and made it so some people can make legitimate careers out of their passions, but all in all it is a mixed bag that has influenced the gaming market in some depressing ways. Funny that a lot of the popular E-sports weren’t made to be popular like that, looking at you League of Legends and Starcraft, turns out they are actually enjoyable games.
TLDR; E-sports have had mixed influences on the gaming community, leading to some bad games by companies trying to capture their essence and some toxic meatheads that try to emulate the pros, but while it leads to those things it does have its good merits. Warhammer 40K Dawn of War III is the perfect example of a great game series ruined by a company trying to make the next big E-sport.