I hope I’m not alone in thinking that this whole personal interest bend is gaining just a bit too much currency in esports thought circles.
I’m going to overlook the thesis of ‘bringing esports to the mainstream’ in this piece (even though it made me gag a little) and just approach it on the merits of it’s arguments.
Right, let’s fix pro gaming, Kotaku.
There’s a stigma about television around these parts, and it’s mostly in the right. We’ve learned the lesson that bending an esport, that hasn’t found full professional maturity, into a television-shaped pretzel is a bad thing.
However, if I were @enekeyhunt, I’d be a bit put out that the rationale behind his quote - “I don’t think we’re ready for TV, nor do I think we should want television” - was left out of the article. What’s the context? No way, no how, at any time? Or is it just not time for that yet?
But let’s say all three quoted there generally agree on the principles behind it, as fleshed out by the other two esports folks interviewed. It makes the contradiction that follows that much more baffling:
TV programs had been focused on the wrong stuff. They played on the novelty of broadcasting video games rather than gearing themselves towards the “two percent who really, legitimately care,” says Jerry Prochazka of e-Sports pro gaming team vVv Gaming.
The intimate side of the competition must be highlighted. If people don’t care about the best gamer and his struggle—and instead dwell on how much better they can play the game—the personal part of the sport is left behind. To neglect the personal side is to leave the audience of pro-gaming at some minimal percent of gamers.
So, the problem with esports’ prior jaunts into television was that they weren’t focused on the existing small group of players that already cared, but the problem with current productions is that they’re focused on the existing small group of players that already cared.
For Prochazka, the neglect for the personal side of pro gaming is exemplified in the commentating. In more traditional sports such as football or baseball or basketball, you will notice that for large portions of any given game, no one is all that intent on watching the game, yet the sportscasters never stop talking. What do they talk about? The players. Talking incessantly about player history or habits or personal tidbits brings the viewer a sensation of being one of the insider elite. “This is why trivia is important,” Prochazka says, “you need fans to connect to things.”
For local-coverage baseball, maybe…but really I haven’t seen professional productions where the commentary pair prattles on about the detailed history of everyone on the field during an entire match. In commentary for most other sports, the human interest bits are usually blown through during the first quarter of the match, during the exposition of the production, where they belong, setting the stage for the match.
In the thick of a match, that’s useless detritus. The stage should already be set. Arguably, one of the better aspects of most esports is that there’s very little in the way of garbage time within the duration of a match where it’s on the commentator completely to carry the show. It’s important to be well-armed with interesting ‘off the court’ minutia for the infrequent instances that call for it, but that’s hardly going to solve anything. Trying to stuff every last nook and cranny of a show with sophomoric rumors and pointless miscellany is quite the opposite of progress in terms of commentary; I’d honestly rather hang on to the way things currently are than go down that road.
Yea, there’s a lot of garbage commentary being done today. That isn’t fixed by pretending that there’s tomes of backstory and drama of ‘professional wrestling’ caliber behind every match. It’s totally inappropriate and, dare I say, artificial.
In fact, this piece doesn’t even get around to the crucial bit of defining just what about esports is broken. The fact that past and current television productions haven’t lit the world on fire is not a problem with esports. It’s not even really a problem. Where this article really falls short is in its failure to recognize this: television is not the means to which esports will be successful; instead, widely-watched televised coverage of esports will be a symptom of the scene’s success. It’s the end, not the means.