For eSports To Be Taken Seriously, It Needs To Grow Up
eSports, the competitive play of videogames, has come a long way in its relatively short 15-year history. But, could the unsportsmanlike actions of the few be damaging the sport from going truly mainstream, especially here on home turf?
Before reading any further, it’s important to note that I’m not painting all of eSports with the same ‘unsportsmanlike, no respect’ brush here, far from it — for the most part, competitive gaming is a diligent and disciplined practice.
This good-mannered approach, so often seen in the likes of StarCraft or Dota 2 tournaments, mostly keeps the grudge match grounded where it should be — in the game.
However, a recently shared video captured by Eurogamer’s Ian Higton shows top-level Call of Duty players indulging in unashamed use of abusive language and free-flying insults, highlighting another more repellent side to ‘professional’ gaming.
Higton’s video focuses on two teams taking part in the recently held European leg (ESL) of the 2013 Call of Duty Championship. The competition sees teams of professional gamers go against each other for the chance to win lump sums of cash for their digital efforts — this year’s tournament concludes in L.A early next month where a slice of one million dollars is up for grabs.
Now, I’m not easily offended or insulted (being a member of Xbox Live for some seven years will see to that), but the careless use of profanity, ferocious body language and the high levels of aggression shown in this video had me in a state of disbelief and bewilderment. Not because of what’s being said (although inexcusable), but because of the arena in which its being said. Here is a group of so called ‘professionals’ taking part in a seriously organised event, playing for serious amounts of money, yet treating it like a slanging match.
These boys, a team from France and another from the United Kingdom, clearly have no problem going beyond the comfort of their Xbox Live headset to do their trash talking (NSFW):
Following the video being posted online, it garnered much attention, including an official response from event host, the Electronic Sports League (ESL). They told Eurogamer that the “highly competitive” event evokes “a huge amount of passion and excitement among the participants”, comparing the “competitive spirit and banter” to that seen in sports such as rugby and football.
Now, not all sports are perfect, with plenty facing their own problems with respect, but the ESL response is one trying to draw correlation without any reflection. Just because ‘banter’ (read: swearing) is tolerated in one space, doesn’t mean that’s a carte blanche for your own.
I can’t imagine sporting icons such as Pele, Beckham, Ennis, or Bolt being so insulting and abusive on their field of play, let alone getting away with it. The players highlighted in the Eurogamer video are, whether they realise it or not, representing their nations.
Yes it may just be seen as some ‘guys playing videogames’, but those involved should earnestly care more for the position they find themselves in, and try and find a professional attitude to match. If eSports wants to be taken seriously, such conduct needs curbing.