Pro Gaming Fans Rush To Pro Gaming's Defence

Yesterday, I wrote a post tweaking 27-year-old professional gamer David "Zaccubus" Treacy for his comments in an interview with Alienware, mostly for what seemed like an attempt to blame pro gaming's lack of success in the mainstream on "cheesy" television productions. It sounded defensive, especially since, well, I don't see the appeal of eSports at all.

There has been a lot of feedback - some might call it a backlash! - since, some fair and some less than. At the very least it proves beyond doubt that there is a passionate and wide-ranging audience for professional (or at least structured, competitive) gaming.

Eventually pro gaming supporters started sending facts and figures to back up their arguments. Unfortunately before that, I was also accused of things that had nothing to do with the content of the article: of thinking pro gaming is only for kids; that I have never watched a pro gaming event (I have); and - most damning - that I played and enjoyed Pokémon. Oh, and that I have some sort of sexually transmitted infection that only FarmVille can cure.

I'm not going to paint the whole pro gaming community with the same broad brush by judging all of them from a few bad eggs, but I won't pretend it didn't make "giving pro gaming a chance" more difficult.

Still, I can understand why some are upset. The things I wrote were in response to Alienware's interview with David Treacy, not to pro gaming at large, and I apologise for treating it too casually. The bare-bones interview didn't make a strong argument for why pro gaming is (or is not, based on the numbers we've received) slipping into obscurity. The title - "Pro gamers staying alive, chasing the dream like the rest of us" - indicated that the interview would prove in some way that pro gamers are struggling. Treacy's answers, as well as a lot of the responses we have received, seem to point toward the opposite conclusion.

Some objected to my use of the phrase "regular people" at the end of the post, even though I was trying to make a joke about how I objected to Treacy's use of the phrase. It was a poor choice of words - on Treacy's part, but also on mine - to bring "regularity" into the argument. I have my nerdy pursuits; you have yours.

To pull directly from Treacy's response to a question about live competitive gaming in the US: "Only recently, thanks to MLG, can we see what gaming events should look like: Great shoutcasting, well presented, and without the need to cheese it up for regular people to understand." That comment insinuates that there's something irregular about the competitive gaming community, and lumps non-fans with non-gamers, which simply isn't a fair inclusion to make. That would be like saying those who don't play baseball can't possibly be fans of MLB, which obviously is not the case.

Ultimately, what I'm going to walk away from this with is more information and a small glimpse into the number of people who are passionate about eSports that I probably wouldn't have gone looking for on my own. I've tried watching pro tournaments, and I just wasn't that into it - maybe in the same way that you've tried a Final Fantasy game and just weren't that into it. In the end, we're all gamers and if we shared the same interests, the gaming industry wouldn't be as vast and successful as it is.

Joel Johnson, Kotaku's Editorial Director, added:

I've been following eSports and pro gaming as both a gamer and a tech journalist for over a decade. (I won't bore you with the shared daydreams I had with my friends about our plan for a Tribes television event, but suffice it to say we were sure it was going to be the most compelling new televised sport since the invention of snooker.)

It's hard not to be pessimistic about pro gaming's future at times, but no more so than when it seems to focus on attaining some sort of parity with other televised competitive sports. That's about as useful as trying to ask when video games will be better than movies. But the numbers and stats being passed around in light of Jen's post do show one thing: there are hundreds of thousands of people interested enough in some games to watch competitive play online. (Millions if you lump all the big games together. And tens of millions if you toss in Starcraft.)

That's not nothing.

For all the kvetching about responsibilities Kotaku has or doesn't have as a publication, one decision I made when I came on board went against my own personal instincts: we may criticize individual games, but we're going to celebrate gamers and the obsessive, passionate niche communities that make gamer culture so varied, even if each niche isn't a writer's particular jam. That's not to say we won't criticize things within gamer culture with which we disagree—bad attitudes, racism and misogyny, genre snobbery—but I don't want anybody to get the idea that we think we're an ever-so-slightly cooler variety of dork than anybody else. We know we're not.

The pity is that's exactly what torqued Jen about Treacy's interview in the first place: that he implied there was something lacking in "regular people" who couldn't be bothered to enjoy eSports, when the truth is some people—passionate gamers, even—just don't enjoy them. That didn't read entirely, but if it takes a dashed off opinion to get pro gamer advocates talking about their obsession of choice, I'm going to take it as a net win. — Joel Johnson

Here are some of the more informative responses to the article, received by Joel after tweeting for pro-gaming fans to weigh in:

Alex Nguyen (and others from /r/starcraft): "Pro-gaming/eSports is here, and in full force. Dreamhack, a tournament in Sweden, this past month pulled 900,000 unique viewers. 210,000 of them concurrent. And that was for only one game, League of Legends. Source. Have you heard of LoL? Have you seen the Team Liquid Calendar? It lists upcoming Starcraft 2 tournaments, including the NASL, which boasts a $100,000 prize pool. For Season 1. Seasons 2 and 3 have $100,000 and $200,000 prize pools, respectively. Have you seen South Korea's love for eSports? GomTV's Global StarLeague (GSL) July event has a prize pool of $121,900. They host an event roughly every other month. The previous event, a Super Tournament, had a prize pool of $190,082. IGN seems to know what's up. They love what's happening so much they're hosting a series of Starcraft 2 tournaments, and hired a staff of full time Starcraft commentators and video production guys to polish it to one of the most smoothly run tournaments of all time. As a last word about Starcraft 2, check out the premier tournaments. Eyeball those prize pools, and tell me that eSports isn't huge. MLG's Columbus, a general eSports event that included StarCraft 2, Halo: Reach, and CoD: Black Ops, in June had over 10 million streams. And this was only a 3 day event."

Nicolas Schweikhard: "You misrepresented eSports as this thing that goes on between 12year old's with HALO or Call of Duty but in reality that is not what eSports is. eSports is a growing market and companies are realizing that by sponsoring teams and players along with events."

Katie Goldberg, Major League Gaming: "More than 15,000 fans attended the recent Pro Circuit event in Columbus, Ohio (June 3-5) and more than 1,300 players from around the world competed. Even more impressive, the LIVE streaming of the event delivered a record-breaking 22.5 million online video streams to viewers in 164 countries – that is more than the NFL draft on NFL.com. The online viewers, combined with in-person attendance made Columbus the largest Pro Circuit competition in MLG history and we expect a similar turnout at the Anaheim Pro Circuit July 29-31."

Nick Fraser: "If you're looking for a pro gamer to feature I would recommend covering Chris "Huk" Loranger, a Canadian StarCraft 2 player. Huk moved to South Korea almost a year ago to compete in the Global StarCraft 2 League, the most prestigious StarCraft 2 tournament (aired live on Korean TV). He is currently dominating at StarCraft 2; in the past few weeks he won DreamHack 2011 (Sweden) and HomeStory Cup III (Germany), and just this morning he easily defeated his opponents in the latest round of the GSL. You can watch this here, matches 2 and 3.

Notice that it costs $US9.99 to watch those videos with ads, and yet it already has over 20,000 views, despite the matches only having been played a few hours ago. That also doesn't count live views. That's a lot of viewers and a lot of money in eSports!"

Jeff Dicker: "An outsider to hockey isn't going to know who Ryan Kessler is, but does it make watching any less boring? If you want to know who LiquidHuk is, just do a google search! More to the point, if you don't enjoy watching a basketball game, does that make you a "regular person" and all basketball fans basement dwelling weirdos?"

Adam Larson: "Professional gaming in a downturn is absolutely false. At one point it was on dropping, but in the past year it has exploded with more organizations jumping in. Even IGN has gotten in on hosting professional tournaments. Two years ago there wasn't enough content to keep me occupied, now there is too much for me to even keep up with."

Hunter Swensson: "I had played highschool football and was looking to play in college until I tore my knee up. After that I knew it was destiny for me to go pro in Halo through MLG. After placing pro I obtained a sponsorship from Kicker and worked with Toyota during SEMA the past 2 years on the Toyota All Terrain Gamer. For the past 2 years I was flown to Las Vegas and kicked it with the likes of Ryan Sheckler, Travis Pastrana, and other sponsored athletes. To be in that crowd of people as a sponsored athlete for gaming has got to be a sign that proves pro gaming isn't lame."

Erik Lorentzon: "Is there a reason to think this is just a fad? Not really. Gaming will likely never be as big as traditional sports. But there is only reason to think it will grow. Look at pretty much any study on gaming. I have yet to hear of one that doesn't say gaming is growing. And that's where the target audience is. Gaming is a natural part of pretty much every kid's life now, much more so than it was 10 years ago when professional gaming was just getting started, not even mentioning 20 years ago which is close to the latest a professional gamer of today could have been born. And it's only natural that the number of people who are into competetive gaming will increase as the number of gamers increase."

Steve Ericson: "All I found wrong with the article in question is the irony that Kotaku celebrates otaku but Jen speaking for Kotaku shit on a gigantic subset of gaming otaku, one that is much larger than her article gives the impression that she knows of."

Sawyer: "As someone who watches e-sports (in this case, Starcraft II), I'd like to liken watching SC2 to watching any other professional sport. Starcraft is the chess for nerds who don't play chess. There's a ton of strategy and possibility involved, but there's way more going on than in your typical chess game. You see, if you don't like football or soccer or baseball or rugby or golf, don't watch it. There's no point in watching something you're not interested in, even if it's commentated well. But, consider the following: A person with only rudimentary or zero understanding of Starcraft can get into it due to the accessible nature of the casters. Totalbiscuit, for example, is really bad at Starcraft, but he's an exceptional commentator. He's as good as a play-by-play caster as John Madden (Okay, maybe bad example but you get my point) is at casting football. Hell, I'm not very good at SC2 but I watch it to learn and be entertained."

Jonathon F. Wagner: "My professional game of choice is Starcraft 2. I play it (not well), I watch it, and I like dissecting what goes into being a professional for this game. I like following my favorite players. I like the drama. I like how close the games can be. I like how the most minute detail can mean defeat for a player. I like the aesthetic. I just like it, okay?

I'm not alone. Reddit has it's own subforum for Starcraft. So does Something Awful. Almost ten thousand people watch the Day[9]Dailyevery day. At Dreamhack in Sweden, over 140,000 worldwide tuned in to the Starcraft 2 tournament alone. Over 300,000 for the League of Legends tourney. Not to mention South Korea and the GSL. Banks sponsor tournaments over there. That's crazy cool."

Dakota Lasky: "I think what a lot of people miss, and Kotaku in general could learn from this, is that competitive gaming is not just about the competition, it's about the community. It's about being with the people that love to play the game the way you do and making friends that way. I can tell you that my favorite thing about all the tournaments I attend for the games I play competitively, such as Super Smash Bros and Gears of War, is to be able to hang out with other gamers (many of them have become good friends through going to such events) and having a great time. Hell, we all even hang out outside of tournaments to practice and have a good time."


Comments

    I think this comic is particularly apt. But the comments about community are spot on.

    If you're a person by yourself, obsessing over anything, you're a bit of a weirdo. Get a group of people together and you've got yourself something pretty damned fun. There are many communities for this sort of thing and they're often very welcoming.

      There is no pro gaming defense... it's meant to only be a hobby, nothing else. Playing video games as a profession is a joke, nothing more nothing less.

    "Don’t get me wrong, I love watching people who are better than me at video games play them for money, especially when I don’t know those people.

    Oh wait. No I don’t."

    Hmmm....no wonder there was a bit of a backlash about the article. Stupid remarks that have no place save in a Kotaku article. Then again, it's typical US Kotaku "journalism"

      Dammit, we need a freaking edit button.

      -Stupid remarks that have no place in a Kotaku article.-

      I don't know Cadel Evans, Jonathan Brown or any other sports star but I sure as hell enjoy watching them do their thing.

      I treat pro gaming in much the same way I treat every other sport I watch, as an entertaining competition.

      The first article about this, I responded with a comment about personalities and narrative. Those are some of the reasons that I find all of these things entertaining.

        I think (emphasis that this is just me thinking out loud) the issue you're overlooking in your numerous camparisons between pro-gaming and actual sport competitions is that in a game of Starcaft II there are only a finite number of ways a game is ever going to play out. Reading up on some of the professionals in the industry you've named, there seem to be a very small core of tactics and techniques they ever use for each game.

        In a live sport event there's an infinite number of possibilities that affect play that adds a great deal to the excitement of a match. I think that's the issue I have with pro-gaming, nothing really out of the ordinary happens. It's like watching a professional rock paper scissors game.

        Maybe if a contestant ever went to bite of another Pro-gamers ear mid match to psyche him out it'd spice things up.

          The possible outcomes in both cases are limited by the abilities of the players and the rules of the game.

          As someone who watches a lot of both real sports and esports, I just don't think you're on the right track here. There is a depth of strategy available in most competitive video games, some of it is not apparent to those not familiar with it. You could say the same of boxing if you aren't including examples of people going completely outside of the rules by biting their opponent's ear :p

        I'd be quicker to compare Pro-gaming to Poker comp's, or chess matches (although they have a psychological component that's more obivous at the pace they play compared to gaming), but then again these are both poor spectator sport unless you're all ready interested in the subject.

        Pro gaming is insignificant. Always has been, always will be.

        Exactly what Aaron said.

    It's hard to see how such a backhanded article could be seen as remotely appropriate in response to the original interview.

    There were so many aspects of his arguments that could have lead to legitimate commentary: what he defines as 'regular', why he felt we should focus on television, what his thoughts on online are, etc. eSports is often seen as that arbitrary line in the sand between 'casual' and 'hardcore' gaming, but is even that true etc etc etc.

    Instead it was just a nasty schoolyard jab at 'those weird kids who like eSports'.

    Kotaku has some great opinion pieces that provide good entertainment and insight. I've read some I agree with, some I don't. But these report 'stubs' that have been going on [another example is the Final Fantasy music 3DS game] that do nothing but take a wild snipe at people from a different subset of gamers seems woefully contrary to what a site like this should be.

    If I wanted troll articles I would go read IGN or something.

    Who the f*** is Jen Schiller?

      Yeah, and can they please be replaced by a proper journalist who knows what they're talking about. kthx.

    Let's take an unknown pro gamer playing a minor league game and get his opinion on esports. OH HE'S NOT MAKING BIG BUCKS? GET TO THE PRESSES PRO GAMING IS ON THE DECLINE

      The fact that taking a snarf is more important/significant than pro gaming speaks volumes.

    Day[9] recently announced the After Hours Gaming League, another good indication of pro gamings growth: http://day9.tv/after-hours-gaming-league/ "Day[9] then recruited eight teams from among the most prestigious high tech companies in the world – Amazon, Dropbox, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter, Yelp and Zynga – to compete in the ultimate gamer showdown."

    I can feel the butt hurt from here.
    "Professional" gaming is a joke & always will be.
    No one wants to watch dorks playing games except for other dorks.

    Sorry to break it to all the teenagers here, your not going to get rich playing games.

      http://www.teamliquid.net/blogs/viewblog.php?topic_id=142342

      you butthurt malcom? yeah, you butthurt.

      Most people playing basketball aren't going to get rich playing basketball. That doesn't mean they can't enjoy watching others exceed at that.

      I could hop on a bike and go for a ride. That doesn't stop me from enjoying the Tour de France.

      I could go to a tennis court and have a quick hit with a friend. That doesn't stop me from enjoying Wimbledon.

      I could go and play a ladder match of Starcraft 2. That doesn't stop me from enjoying the GSL.

      Also, I'm an adult that has a full time job. The fact that I choose to watch professional sports for entertainment says nothing about my maturity, but your willingness to attack those like me says mountains about your own maturity.

      "No one wants to watch dorks playing games except for other dorks."

      Call me a dork but I get kicks out of watching the finals videos that come out of EVO each year. Pretty ignorant blanket statement to make but I guess this IS the internet.

      Dorks? You're calling people dork's on a game blog? I don't think I've heard that insult since primary school.

      I may not get the appeal of pro gaming, I may find watching it dull, but I still love games in general and by extension appreciate the success of any other gamers who can turn their niche interest in a profit. If you get paid for doing what you love then you're winning at life.

      Your complaint sounds like a jealous jab.

      (also I hate Nintendo games but don't tell anyone)

      You keep throwin them insults over the internet while working your burger flipping job and I'll keep watching handsome nerds win a year's salary in prize money in a month...while earning wages from a sponsor.

        you actually believe that nonsense LOL. oh god, my sides hurt from all the laughing. you need to wake up, kid. seriously. for your own sake.

      carl is 100% right. Also, you will never get respect for pro gaming, just like prostitutes never get respect for "doing what they love" by being a whore. Same deal. Both professions are highly unprofitable and never get respect because they deserve neither.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jang_Jae_Ho

    YEAH YOU BUTTHURT?

    I want to comment on this... but I really don't care

    You can call if professional if they're drawing an income from it. What you can't do is call the players athletes, or even call this e-sports. That's just whack.

      whak fo'shizzle

    Good on Kotaku for posting the backlash and being honest and humble on the issue.

    I still think progaming is completely daft though. Unless you live in South Korea where they entire sport has been rigged by organised crime with players pretty much all bribed to fix each matches outcome, then it's really scary.

      You are correct, sir.

    Why eSports are having trouble gaining ground;

    1) Lack of standardisation. Multiple leagues to follow multiple games, multiple different rules and regulations behind competeting.

    2) Pro level players have some of the worst etiquette I've ever seen. Not all are like this, but my god there's a lot of really talented players who have the manners of a street urchin.

    There's many more reasons but those two stick out in my head.

      Well said. Funny part is those are only 2 of many things that make pro gaming a serious joke.

    Shouldn't you be at home playing COD on the 360 or something?

    Posting a picture of a pro-gamer who died in a car accident while attacking it is pretty tacky.

    Maybe you should research the subject you are writing about before you post.

    Pro Gaming is a joke, entirely because all "competitive" video games are simply a bunch of losers abusing every exploit and using only what is unbalanced and overpowered-- and they all do this.

    The amount of tactics used in a "pro gaming" event is about as large as a microscopic organism.

    If it was viable for people to "come out of nowhere, with a gimped but surprising strategy!" then it would be a great sport. Unfortunately, if you don't repeatedly abuse the exact same tactic, even if you're infinitely more talented than your opponent, you will ALWAYS lose, because these games (when played "Pro") are meant to be exploited to the min/max.

    Thus it is a joke. At least in professional sports (Football, Baseball, EU Football, Rugby) you can't exploit the game or min/max your character. You have what you have, and you strategize amongst a large team of players. Gamers are a single player or small team which exploit and demean the entire genre of the very definition of entertainment (IN EVERY WAY!)

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