keekerdc.com

essays and pithy thoughts

An indecent proposal

in glhf

How big is big enough?

In response to: http://www.teamliquid.net/blogs/viewblog.php?topic_id=287965

The Realist

Anything is possible; less than that is probable. While passion for the scene is necessary and great, unbridled optimism for growth beyond what any Western culture can possibly sustain without a generational shift is just idealism for the sake of popular acclaim, for upvotes on reddit, for pages of overeager head nodding on TL.

2011 was a great year for Starcraft. And that’s pretty much it; just Starcraft. Oh right; nearly forgot – Korean players. Yes, I did say that as SC2 wins, all under the esports umbrella wins; but that’s in the long run. In the short run, there’s just one winner.

SC2 has exploded out of the gate. How long is it reasonable to expect the scene to maintain this trajectory? Does the game just continue to grow by a thousand percent every year until the entire globe is swept up? At the current rate, Starcraft would easily eclipse most if not all major sports in attention and popularity before the decade is up. Is that really realistic?

Of course not. And that’s why nobody should be disappointed if things start to cool off a little bit into 2012 and especially 2013. I’m not screaming ‘bubble’ – quite the opposite. I think things will continue to grow. The theme of the 00’s was one of unscrupulous shucksters, and that problem is more or less at bay. But I think what I linked at top is more akin to ideas embodied in DOW, 30000 by 2008 than an actual blueprint for further indefinite explosive growth.

SC2 has struck a chord with a generation who grew up with games. It has spread quite quite rapidly through the population of gaming-inclined folks who became legal within the last 10 years. There’s exceptions that fall outside that age group, I know, save it. Just pull up an archive from MLG, or ESL, or Dreamhack or whatever. The demographics are not hard to perceive. That demography has been the same since this whole thing grew legs in the early 90’s. It is not going to change rapidly. My dad is not going to skip a Bears game for MLG; I don’t care how many voluminous tomes of personal interest stories you might find to share with him; there’s a game on, now shut up. There’s just a point where you’re going to run short of new people to convert, and I think that point comes sooner rather than later.

We should welcome a bit of a breather over a hellbent call for Ludicrous Speed. There’s some things that need to be fixed.

But that’s not what this post is about. It’s about calls for things like…

Stadia.

A stadium setting is great for live physical-ball-based sporting events and concerts because they can take full advantage of a large, three-dimensional area to create a spectacle.

Esports lives on flat rectangular screens. Spectating an esports event is more analogous to a cinematic experience than it is to attending a football match.

Try to picture an esports event in your large sporting venue of choice. I mean really try to picture it: thirty to sixty thousand people encircling a large field of some sort of rectangular shape. How would you, in that setting, provide a more optimal experience to everyone there than you would in a more intimate setting, such as theater that’s not a 360-degree stage, or a bar, or your couch and a fifty-inch television?

The dream of taking the whole portrait of Redskins vs Cowboys, with all the trappings of such a weighty cultural event, and simply swapping in Complexity and EG is a nice dream. Unfortunately, it just won’t translate.

Movie theatres and larger live theater venues I can picture more realistically, and I think the Barcraft movement has proved there’s room to explore this notion of getting people out of their homes to congregate and share the spectator experience. But there’s limits.

The ‘ESPN’ of esports.

We don’t deserve it; at least not yet. There’s not enough going on to sustain even one 24/7 channel dedicated to just esports.

How many full-time employees – and by extension, money – do you figure it takes to produce a program like the modern Sportscenter? I know it’s fun to think that we’re better and smarter than all those traditional media farts that run radio and television stations, and that we could produce a better product with half the people in half the time, and do it on Starcraft! Fun until you try it. Instead we have quite reputable organizations acting very impressed with themselves for pooping out slideshows.

There’s also a bit of ‘not invented here’ syndrome rearing it’s ugly head. We like to think we’re in the midst of uncharted territory, when we’re exactly where every sport that has ever gotten big has already been. This has all been done before. Yea, I know; it’s wild. Hey, this channel we want to see, it already exists. It’s called ESPN.

If there really is demand for such a thing, such demand will be filled through YouTube and streams first. And then, if ESPN doesn’t see value in it and snatch up wholesale the crew behind it, maybe we’ll see it as a standalone network on TV. It’s certainly not happening next year.

Why imagine ways it can fail or doubt it? Because that’s what rational people do when it comes to wildly irrational business propositions; they take a dream and figure out why it’s bullshit, and then reframe it until the dream fits reality. That’s how actual growth is achieved. ‘Reach for the stars’ is an empty platitude. How about reach for something you can grab onto?

Becoming an obnoxious proselytizing member of the Cult.

I’m not going to bother everyone new I meet about esports. I’m just not going to do it.

But that’s what this post is really about – empty yourself and fill it with esports. It’s the only way to achieve enlightenment and reach nirvana. Love the players, and tell them so every chance you get. Love the leagues; praise be to the sponsors on high! Voice criticisms, but only as much as absolutely necessary, and whatever you do, don’t get angry at anything. Become a stream guzzling, ticket buying, sponsor spamming, happy-faced supporter of anything and everything within a whisker of esports.

I like gaming, but not that much. I like soccer, too. And my cats. And spending time with my wife. I like eating out. I’m pretty lucky to be in a career I actually enjoy quite a bit.

Do you really want to see esports grow as fast as it optimally can? Don’t make folks like myself out to be lazy warts who could be doing so much more for the cause but aren’t; if only we were capable of being such a mindless tool wide-eyed dreamer!

You need us just as much as people who jam every last social media channel with esports minutia. Esports will certainly continue to grow, but we don’t have to turn ourselves inside-out to achieve it. I’m not, and neither should you.

Just keep doing what you’re already doing, esports. You’ll be just fine.