E Sports gain popularity

Ethan Baggett, Reporter

Competitive gaming has been around for a while now, with its earliest being in 1972 when Stanford students fought in an Asteroids tournament to win a Rolling Stone magazine. However, now competitive gaming has changed and players compete in huge Esports tournaments housing thousands of audience members and with prize pools being as large as $30 million. Competitive gaming shows no signs of stopping any time soon and at this point, it has nowhere to go but up.

“My interest in competitive gaming was that it could possibly help me get better at games I enjoy playing and I could also beat other people who were better than me,” senior Micaden Bryant said.

Although competitive gaming’s earliest start was back in 1972, it really started becoming what it is today in 1991 with the fighting game Street Fighter II. Instead of fighting for high scores, Street Fighter II popularized the “face-to-face” aspect of competitive gaming with players fighting one on one against each other.

“Guilty Gear is a really competitive game I’ve played recently and I have had some fun, but my learning curve is very steep so sometimes I’d rather watch than play,” senior Dominic Dilworth said.

Esports has been widely discussed whether it’s actually a sport or not, but no matter what it is, it’s been seen that it can be a new way of life now for many and has been a great source of entertainment for many people.

“Similar to sports, I think competitive gaming is enjoyable as a viewer, because it’s nice to see intense matches and comebacks,” Dilworth said. “It’s also cool to be fans of the people playing.”

With esports constantly growing, so did the games alongside them. Competitive games started being different in terms of how many people can play. Instead of just one on ones, games started having team-based gameplay, such as Halo or Dota.

“The game that is most interesting to me as a viewer is probably Smash Bros.,” Dilworth said. “I have a deep love for Smash and I like seeing people having a nice competitive environment.”

Smash Brothers has been another big fighting game that has become really popular over the years, with the biggest one being Super Smash Bros. Melee. Although it released in 2001, the game’s fast-paced style and very precise technical gameplay has made it still really popular in esports and at this point, there are no signs of it dying anytime soon.

“The games I wanted to play competitively were Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and maybe Gears of War 5,” Bryant said.

Unlike the previously mentioned Smash Bros. or Street Fighter, Call of Duty and Gears of War are team-based shooters. Gears of War and Call of Duty focus on players communicating and working together to eliminate the opposing team in elaborate stages due to the 3D perspective the games take.

“I think being competitive can ruin games for people who just want to have a casual experience,” Bryant said. “They just want to get on and have fun.”

Whenever a multiplayer game becomes popular, it usually results in a wide number of its player base being really competitive, such as Fortnite. Although this sounds good on paper, there are many people who just want to play the game to have fun and when the game receives more competitive players it can dissuade the people who just want a casual experience away from the game.

“I would want a game to be more casual than competitive, so all types of gamers can have fun,” said Bryant.

A big problem for developers when making a multiplayer game is trying to balance it being competitive and casual. After Super Smash Bros. Melee, a game regarded as one of the most competitive out there, the creator, Masahiro Sakurai, wanted to make the new game coming out on Wii, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, an experience all players could enjoy by making the game more party-like, which resulted in there being almost no competitive scene for the game. 

“Competitive modes are good for games, because those are for the players that want to be the best and aren’t looking for a casual experience,” Bryant said.

Competitive modes are usually one of the best options for balancing competition and a casual experience. Games like League of Legends and Tekken have ranked modes that players can choose for a more competitive experience and a lot of people have responded positively to this feature.

“If I had to choose a game to compete in as a career, I would choose Guilty Gear even though I do get steamrolled sometimes,” Dilworth said. “I’m enjoying it and it’s really nice seeing that I’ve gotten better at the game.”

A lot of competitive games can be really difficult to ease into, especially when they have multiple different inputs or mechanics in the game, such as Guilty Gear and Tekken. However, one way developers have managed to help players ease into the game and get better is through ranking systems.

“For games that I’ve played that have ranking systems, I’ve actually liked it,” Bryant said. “I like the fact that once you get to a higher rank, you feel accomplished. Sure it can take a lot of time and effort, but a lot of people feel great once they get to the highest rank you can possibly go to.”

 Ranking systems are a really good way of gauging how good you are and they are super satisfying to try and rise to the top. Games like Tekken 7, use a point-based system when it comes to ranking. The better your performance in a match, the more points you get. If you get put into a match against a person with a higher rank and you manage to beat them, you gain a lot more points than you would against a lower-ranked person. 

“Some major positives for competitive gaming is that it can breathe life into a game for decades and people have made careers out of it,” Dilworth said. “It’s very entertaining to watch some video games that wouldn’t have the allure they do without the competitive scene.” 

Super Smash Bros. Melee isn’t the only game that has stayed alive thanks to its competitive scene. League of Legends is a giant game that is still updated and played by a multitude of people despite it releasing in 2009. However, although competitive gaming can do a lot of positives for gaming entirely, it can also create some negatives.

“I think one of the biggest factors that can ruin a competitive game is skill-based match-making because no one enjoys it,” Bryant said.

Skill-based matchmaking is basically just a substitution for a ranking system or ranked mode that uses a multiplayer matchmaking system that puts players against others of the same skill, which might sound good on paper, but in the end there are a lot of problems that people have with it. Having players of the same skill constantly meet in a match will always result in each team trying as hard as possible every single match, which ends up making the game less fun for a lot of people because it gets rid of the “casual” aspect of the game, which at the end of the day is what a majority of people want from a game – to have fun and be relaxed.

  “I feel like the biggest drawback to competitive gaming is to become really good at it you would have to sit down and treat the game more like a job rather than entertainment,” Dilworth said.

  Games were created to be fun experiences for people, but esports and competition are more of a standard in multiplayer games. Learning a game can be a big struggle depending on how technical it is, and it may not even be worth it for you at the end of the day if you aren’t even having fun with the core gameplay once you’ve learned everything, so for a lot of people competitive gaming just isn’t for them.

“It depends on a person, but competitive games will usually attract people I think,” Dilworth said. “Even if they don’t play the game they could still watch streams or videos of the game.”

Just like any sport, you may not like playing it at all, but it can still be very entertaining to watch. Having someone to root for or seeing a huge play by someone is a real fun experience for many.

“I haven’t been there since Covid hit, but I went to the Esports stadium a few times and I think it’s really cool,” Bryant said. “There are rows of PC’s lined up and ready to go. I think it’s a really good addition to Arlington.”

Although competitive gaming is still widely popular, it has been hit hard by Covid and people have now had to resort to online gaming, which can create multiple problems, such as being able to cheat easily and lag. However, this hasn’t stopped the competitive scene for gaming at all and players are finding a lot of ways to improve gaming over online and there is no sign for competitive gaming to end anytime soon.

“In competitive gaming, I’d say most tournaments have a good prize pool that would make the effort worth it, but only if you love the game,” Dilworth said.