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TSG Asks: What qualifies a game as an eSport?

ESports is gaining traction in both the gaming community and wider sports community, so much so that there are now analytics platforms dedicated to competitive gaming analysis. With games like League of Legends airing on ESPN and Heroes of the Storm tournaments selling out stadiums, it is clear that competitive gaming is a train that can’t be stopped. Still there is some debate about whether which games should be consider as an eSport when technically you can make any game into a competitive game if you set the right parameters. So our question for the week is:


Overwatch and see what our staff had to say.


The most obvious and important quality is a sense of competition between the players. It doesn’t matter whether it’s in an FPS, RTS, MOBA, or any other sort of game. Much like in real sports, the excitement of watching eSports stems from the skill and athleticism (or, in this case, dexterity/mental acuity) of the competitors.  Although I do not watch them regularly, I watch eSports to see how the players can manipulate the game’s systems and take advantage of certain strategies to outlast and outsmart their opponents. Although not a sport in the sense that it lacks major physical exertion, eSports tests the players’ minds, gets them to think swiftly and strategically, and act respectfully to other competitors. In that sense, as long as there is some sense of competition between the players, whether in a multiplayer match, a high score run, or a speed run, the game can count as an eSport.

id_adamI’m fairly new to the concept of eSports, so I may be missing some of the nuances of it, but I would say that the designation really is kind of self-fulfilling — any organized competitive gameplay counts to me as eSports. Sure, there hasn’t always been the fancy arenas and the TV coverage, but just speaking from what I know, there have been competitions revolving around video games since they were first invented. A lot of games have competition built into their model, so I don’t think that’s enough of a qualifier. I think so long as you could find an organized, competitive tournament revolving around any video game, it’s an eSport, and for the industry, I believe that incorporating pretty much any game you reasonably can into eSports will contribute to its growth.

id_yasirI agree with Adam, in that really anything that is designed around a competition, like most video games are, can become an eSport. The competition is what drives the drama and fun for viewers to become invested, like in real sports. But for a title to really become a “great” eSport for me, there are a few details that are required. For one, the game needs to have a sense of randomness inherent in the game. Not randomness in terms of random mechanics or anything like that, because the best eSports need to be won on the merits of skill not RNG, but randomness meaning that every time a game is played, there is the chance that it will be wildly different than the previous time the player played it. Essentially, no two games of Smash will ever be the same, because the players will constantly adapt and change their play styles based on what they’ve just seen.

Secondly, I need to have access to the game in order to understand what the heck is going on. Its even better if I am a fan of the series, so that I can understand how the competition is unfolding and why some players are better than others. Understanding the mechanics of an eSport is key to my personal enjoyment when watching.

Lastly, the community around an eSport is essential. The passion, the excitement, the thrills– these are all directly related to how the game is felt by the fans. Without the community behind the game, the eSport cannot last. The community jokes, the minute highlights on social media, the chants and characters within the scene– all these add flavor to an eSport, and if there is no added spice to a game, it quickly becomes bland and boring. Community is key. It’s why it is always better to see an event in person, rather than alone in your apartment, because you get swept into the excitement and revelry of everyone around you.

mug_devinDevin’s Quick Guide For Grade A eSports:

1. Create game mechanics that are easy to learn and follow as a spectator, but provide depth in strategy and execution… like Rocket League.

2. Gameplay should be skill-scaleable – you should be having fun within your first 10 minutes, and after you first 100 hours. Bonus points if gameplay is expressive enough to allow for development of unique behaviors, allowing spectators to easily distinguish individual players… like Rocket League.

3. Variety of aesthetic customization is always welcome, and allows for further distinction between individual players… Rocket League does this well.

4. An overall visual presentation that is both appealing and legible, both to players and especially to spectators. UI should be intentional and hierarchical in providing information. Dedicated interfaces and presentation options for spectators is extremely beneficial… Have you seen Rocket League’s spectator mode? It’s phenomenal.

5. Have a fun side! Provide less-than-professional modes of play for a friendlier introduction to the game’s mechanics, as well as a place for experienced players to more freely experiment without the pressure of competition… hey did you hear Rocket League is adding a crazy basketball mode this month?

6. A healthy meta-game… Rocket Leagues D-pad based quick chat system is my new favorite language!

7. Be Rocket League.


1. It must have some way that people can compete against each other DIRECTLY, HEAD TO HEAD, in REAL TIME. For example, I watched a couple of speedrun races during the marathon this last month at the arena. While it was fun to watch 2 people speedrun Metroid Fusion side-by-side, it does not have the same tension that you get when you watch people compete against each other in a match of Rocket League or Halo.

2. The community has to want it. There are accepted eSports titles today that I think are less polished and inferior to other similar games (I’m looking at you CS:GO), but the community for that individual game wants there to be a competitive scene…so there is.

3. Also…being Rocket League is a huge plus

 So there you have it. What do you think? Let us know in the comments below!

Written by Marcus Garrett

Marcus created Top Shelf Gaming to celebrate the awesome things about the video game industry while challenging the areas of the video game community that could be improved. He loves playing guitar and eating tacos, but never at the same time.

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