With summer approaching, many find themselves at home playing video games for leisure. While their parents may be frustrated, framing games as a waste of time, what they don’t know is that there’s an entire professional scene behind video games that any individual could pursue. Electronic Sports (eSports) are a growing kind of competition in which professional players compete in organized multiplayer video games. Some may argue that playing video games is not physically demanding; however, eSports are undoubtedly sports, due to the tremendous skill and strategy required, just like any other athletic endeavor. In all cases, success in eSports demands a strong mental focus, a quick reaction time, training, and extreme dedication, sometimes beyond what traditional sports require. It can be appropriate to expect that eSports may become a big part of our own lives, as well as those of future generations. Here is an introduction of newcomers to the eSports scene, as well as some updates on recent events in eSports.
CS:GO (Counter-Strike: Global Offensive)
Competitive CS:GO is a game played in a five-versus-five format between two teams called “Terrorists” and “Counter Terrorists.” In this mode, Terrorists must plant and defend a bomb, while Counter Terrorists are to prevent the bomb from being planted. If the bomb is planted, the goal of the Counter Terrorists is to defuse it. Its professional circuit is centered around tournaments sponsored by Valve, an American video game developer and digital distribution company. These tournaments, called the Majors, are complemented by other tournaments that take place throughout the season for a variety of teams to participate in.
The spring season of 2017 was one of the most unstable CS:GO seasons to date. In it, many teams with no roster changes were plunged into sudden great depressions of losing streaks, despite stellar performances just months ago. For fans, this season has been immensely entertaining as nobody can easily predict winners as in years of the past. However, since upsets are inherently hard to predict, it’s still wise to predict that Astralis and FaZe Clan teams will win once again.
Originally a modification (mod) for the game Warcraft III, DotA, or “Defense of the Ancients,” rose in popularity after its first International (Ti) tournament, which featured a winning prize of a million dollars. Afterwards, Valve hired the original creators of this successful mod to create a modern sequel, and DotA 2 was born in 2013. DotA 2 is a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) game that is centered around 5-versus-5 combat between player-controlled “heroes,” with the objective of destroying the opponent’s “ancient,” or base. Every player is in a different position and collects gold and experience throughout the game by destroying enemy towers and killing enemy heroes, making the player progressively stronger.
With a wide-spread and active competitive scene, DotA 2 premiere tournaments have featured some of the highest prize pools in eSports. Featuring an average player-contributed prize pool of $22 million, The Ti tournament is the largest tournament produced by Valve, held annually. This coming season, the biggest DotA tournament ever will be held: the seventh edition of Ti, at the Key Arena in Seattle. Likely to exceed $25 million in prize pool money, my prediction for invitation and top contenders would have to be teams OG (EU), Invictus Gaming (CN), Newbee (CN), Evil Geniuses (USA), and Virtus Pro (CIS). Along with Ti, Valve also sponsors two tournaments of smaller scale throughout the year, known as the “Majors”, that lead into Ti, and these too are gaining prominence in the world of eSports.
LoL (League of Legends)
Well known for its Korean domination, League of Legends, or “LoL,” is a MOBA game that centers around the objective of destroying the opposing team’s “nexus” in a 5-versus-5 battle with “champions” controlled by the player. Like many other MOBA games, LoL is characterized by its discrete style of gameplay, where champions start off weak but increase in strength and power through the accumulation of items and experience. Over the course of the game, they do so through killing enemy heroes and by farming lane and jungle minions. With a fairly established competitive scene, teams are composed of players representing nations, in contrast with the mixture of nationalities in other eSport teams.
As one of the most prominent and matured competitive gaming scenes, LoL has been one of the only eSports with wide international player representatives. With the Mid-Season Invitational (MSI) well into progress, the professional LoL scene looks forward to one of the most colossal showdowns between its teams before the summer’s World Championship. After a competitive play-in stage, the event has reached its second stage at the time of writing, in which eight teams will face off against each other in pairs of two. While supporters of strong North American and Asian teams will cheer for and bet with their favorite teams, fans of South Korea’s SKT T1 have already predicted their victory in this tournament, and their success is highly probable. Korean teams have enjoyed sheer domination at worldwide championships since their inauguration in 2011, and it’s unlikely that this trend will change this season.