Be esports, or be gone

Esports means many things to many people, with many different ways to write the word. If what you want is to annoy some of the bigger names, then it’s eSports, and one of the more fun games to play on Twitter, and if you’re a DotA 2 player, it’s a career that can provide for the rest of your life. But what about niche games? In some communities, it has been a meme for a while now, specifically ‘we esports now’, and that doesn’t always come with positive connotations.

In the fighting game community (FGC), there has long been a battle between what is lazily called the "grass roots" of the game and esports, which they view as being the modern, cleaner version of competition.

To sum it up, the fact certain words that have the potential to trigger victims, or that most curse words are never heard on stream is due to this move toward the mainstream, and many modern fans would struggle to believe the names of combo videos from more than five or so years ago, for example.

Today we can still see the remnants of that battle and the scars that remain in the minds of the players. Some, like David Chen, have reacted by going the other way and literally trying to get people fired or not hired based on some (in their minds) negative association, not realising that is far less professional than just doing the job.

Equally, there are those hard of thinking folks on the other side, who see any attempt to help minorities in, or just bring more attention to their scene as a potential threat, and treat it as such.

To put it bluntly, this has held the FGC, and other niche scenes, back, and will continue to do so, and that’s a shame. For a lot of people who eventually come to love a MOBA or FPS game, things like Street Fighter, Rocket League or even Smash Bros are great gateways into the more serious games, but having those same areas infested with politics and people who can’t present a good public face is having the opposite effect.

Think first, live longer

Even this weekend, we had a couple of stories come out that really highlighted why these games rarely get close to numbers like the 1.3m viewers that tuned into the ELEAGUE Major, for example.

Both come from Melee, with the first a clip that shows one of the most famous, popular and creative players in Smash history, Joseph ‘Mang0’ Marquez, defending ‘homie stocks’, which for the uninitiated is the act of dropping one life in response to your opponent causing themselves to do the same in error.

His (drunken) defence was that you must be friendless to not appreciate a good homie stock, and for anyone with time to watch the clip, it is very obviously a drunken defence.

There is nothing wrong with drinking, of course, and in a friendly setting there is no real harm in homie stocks either, provided you don’t expect to get too much out of your practice, but it displays both a lack of competitive understanding on his part, and also a lack of thought on the part of the organisers of the event.

The reasons for the former are obvious - competitors should only be about winning, and anything that slows your progress in game cannot be allowed. There is a 1% argument for situations where killing your own character can act as a psychological blow to your opponent, but that is so rare as to be irrelevant. Honour is only worth pursuing if the risks of not doing so outweigh it, as in the s1mple situation recently, where admitting to an advantage not only makes you look good, but also means you won’t later look far, far worse.

The second situation comes from the same game, and involves a tournament organiser called Chroma. A cryptic tweet from his account complaining of being permanently banned from one stream chat over a ‘joke’ quickly spiralled out of control for him when the owner of the channel, Liquid’s Juan ‘Hungrybox’ DeBiedma took offence to it.

What Chroma did not reveal was the butt of the joke being the fact that DiBiedma’s father is deceased, and only made an apology of sorts when that was made clear for the watching public.

Both of these examples are bad, and neither comes close to the worst things that have happened in the scene either. Equally, there are people playing Premier League football that are responsible for the deaths of others due to careless driving, but they have good lawyers, which most esports folk can’t afford, and exist in a game that is already the biggest on earth. Esports, much less the FGC, does not have that luxury, sadly for those who rely upon it, but must fight for every new player.

You can rally against esports, if that is what you hate the most, but if you do then don’t ever expect it to be anything more than a hobby, ever. And when a parent, scared about the brain damage little Timmy might suffer in the NFL, or spooked by the horrific stories coming out of US gymnastics, decides that Smash is also not right for the apple of their eye, don’t be surprised if you were just watching a stream with swearing, prejudice, jokes about dead parents or the like. Sometimes, you get the reward you deserve.