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Message: A beginner’s guide to enjoying eSports – Reader’s Feature
A reader offers an introduction to watch eSports through League Of Legends, Dota 2, and Counter-Strike: GO.
I’m about to talk about three games I’ve never played. Not even once. I’ve seen them played. I’ve seen them played in theatres, in conference halls, on streaming websites like Twitch and YouTube, and in some extreme examples in stadiums. It’s the part of gaming that can be the hardest to fathom, and that’s the psyche of a person who watches eSports. As if to reinforce the unacceptableness of it Microsoft Word angrily underlines the word eSports as I type it. As if to say, ‘That’s not a word, silly boy, don’t be so ridiculous’.
But it clearly is, as evidenced by its growing popularity, I think it’s worth trying to understand it if only as a phenomenon of our hobby in its own right. To give people a bit of background knowledge, and to try remove some of the barriers to entry for people curious to find out what it’s all about, this is intended as a beginners’ guide, a cheat sheet if you will. I will leave judgment on eSports’ worth as entertainment or its validity as a sport for you to decide.
There are a number of game genres which lead the way for eSports, we have MOBAs (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) such as LoL (League Of Legends) Dota 2 (Defence Of The Ancients), Heroes Of The Storm, and SMITE. We have first person shooters such as Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Overwatch, Halo, and Call Of Duty. And finally card games, both physical like Magic The Gathering and digital such as Hearthstone.
These games have a few things in common: they usually either require great skill, twitch sensitivity, or immense brainpower to execute perfectly every game. Note, I’m not saying that they should be great games to play, just that they require great skill to play. That is the primary draw for the top level eSports titles.
Most of the games are based on PC, or the tournaments are largely ran on PC. This is probably for a broad range of factors. PCs are more customisable for the user, the game may have its biggest audience on PC, PCs may be more stable and suitable for tournament play, or it may just be because Twitch has led the way in making eSports accessible to people and has been available for longer on the PC platform.
The most passionate fans make up the bulk of an eSports games audience, and even as a newcomer you are expected to enter with knowledge of the jargon and terms used. In my experience this is the biggest exclusionary factor of all eSports, their love of acronyms, in-jokes, obscure memes, and the lack of any explanation.
The three biggest players in eSports would be Dota 2, League Of Legends, and Counter-Strike, so two MOBAs and a shooter. It is fair to say that MOBAs dominate the scene, so what are these games?
Most MOBA games follow a similar template, so I am going to give a very general overview so you get the idea. To keep it simple I will limit my description to the characteristics of the two genre giants: LoL and Dota 2. The setup is of two teams of five players who face each other across an arena where the objective is to capture a key piece of the opposing team’s base. In between the teams the arena usually consists of broad paths known as lanes, parts with winding paths known as jungle, and some form of defensive fortifications usually known as towers for each team – up to the halfway point of the map.
The players themselves take roles as heroes to defend their base by taking up one of the lanes and battling their counterparts, hoping to push them back towards their own base and destroying the defences as they go. They are also supported by computer-controlled allies who will mindlessly attack any opposition they meet. These are referred to as either creeps or minions. The spare human members usually roam the winding paths in the jungle and support their teammates in their task attempting to ambush or ‘gank’ opposing team members.
Players level up as the game progresses and can purchase items using gold earned in the game to build up their avatar. All progress is reset at the start of each game. The skill lies in the deep knowledge of the game, players’ positional awareness, and the ability to predict what their opponent will do. The very best players can seem clairvoyant and creative as they build their player up in surprising and unusual ways.
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