After having clocked around 100 hours in Rocket League, I’ve spent around 50 hours in trying to score a virtual goal with a very colorful toy car (which is much smaller in size than the ball), and have put 20-30 hours in ‘trading’ of ‘virtual items’, and I think that I’ve learned a lot with these experiences, including being in the ‘eSports’ community.
First, let’s talk about this term ‘eSports’. It used to sound very oxymoronic to me, as a person who has been practicing Karate for around 13 years now. How could anything that just involves a person sitting in a chair and pressing buttons be considered a ‘sport’ was beyond me.
It’s not that I have anything against gaming in general, I’ve been playing video games for a very long time now, starting with an NES (which arrived in India at a much later point in time), I’ve enjoyed PC gaming a lot, and have also enjoyed building PCs and knowing more about tech. The games I’ve played though, have mostly been single player First Person Shooters or RPGs like Oblivion, Mass Effect, Skyrim, Bioshock etc., and I have to say that these experiences are very different from what playing an eSport game is like.
Rocket League can be VERY tough to master, and when I say that I am considering the other things I’ve taught myself, like programming, music theory, guitar, piano, and software like FL Studio (which is one of the toughest things to master, IMO). It really needs an incredible level of raw mechanical skill, a similar level of mental ability, and situational awareness. It’s tough to overstate how difficult doing things like this is. The ones who play it know what I am talking about, so I won’t bore the non Rocket League playing readers, who just need to know that it’s incredibly tough.
So the ‘eSports’ like Rocket League, and Counter Strike really require a different level of mental and mechanical ability, and taking it to a competitive level, I can see why people would want to call it a sport. It’s because it is about testing your skill against another, and if chess can be considered a sport, I’d say that eSport video games are nearer to my understanding of a ‘sport’ by a long shot.
BUT THEN, IS IT WORTH IT?
So Rocket League is tough to master, but so is playing the 3rd movement of Moonlight Sonata on a piano, or doing those fast riffs on an electric guitar, or fighting in the ring of a national level karate championship. And that makes me wonder if the time one might spend in being good at eSports is worth it. I wonder if the skill one develops in these games are going to be of use anywhere else. Research has shown that playing fast paced competitive First Person Shooters actually does improve your reaction time, which can be an advantage in many places, and isn’t actually surprising to know.
But I don’t think that the kind of skill required in games like Rocket League and DOTA 2 (the most popular eSport) could be of much use anywhere else. Surely, they would also increase your reaction time to some extent, but anything that makes your mind work intensively would increase your mental ability in general. I wonder if being good at these ‘games’ would make you significantly better at any other areas in life.
Of course, if ‘not getting better at other areas of life’ isn’t your objective with how you spend your time, it won’t matter. But if you do value something like that, other ‘traditional’ sports provide many health and mind related benefits. Being good in music has been linked to having better lingual proficiency, as both sides of the brain work into being able to play an instrument. And there are countless other things that I can say about countless other things that provide multiple benefits.
But when it comes to eSports, the benefits aren’t very clear.
MAYBE IT’S JUST ENTERTAINMENT
When it comes to doing what you enjoy, who says that it needs to ‘provide a significant improvement in a particular/multiple area(s)’? Maybe it’s just for the pure joy of scoring a virtual goal with your toy car in Rocket League, or getting a flick headshot in Counter Strike to give you a great sense of achievement. If you think about it, even your skill in chess cannot be applied to other areas in your life. Same it is with other games like carrom (90s kids will get it) and countless other ‘games’ that only provide a sense of beating your opponent in doing something specific.
Even I spent hours trying to get a virtual items that don’t actually exist, and don’t even provide a measurable advantage in the gameplay, adding only to the aesthetics through cosmetic customizations. So I guess the only thing that matters is what you value, and what you enjoy.
THE E-SPORT PHENOMENON
If you enjoy eSports, you can seriously enjoy a LOT. It’s a big community, eSports players experience the ‘stardom’ that even the great players in some less popular ‘sports’ don’t get. Millions of people watch them on streaming websites like Twitch, and even on sports channels like ESPN. The feeling of getting good and beating more skilled players is actually pretty good. And of course, eSport players can also earn a LOT of money, through different championships, streaming, and donations. It’s very similar to other sports in that sense, and that part has been very interesting for me to observe.
If you have ‘real life’ friends, you can REALLY enjoy a lot with them, playing in a team and dominating other people with your newly acquired ‘madSkillz’. You can also make new friends, as you keep interacting from people from all over the world. It feels quite educating to talk to a person from a country you’ve never heard of, and then research and know more about it. In a sense, it is quite uniting, developing mutual understanding between people who’d be very alien to each other. It’s beautiful.
On some level, I’ve felt like reconnecting with my childhood, during which I used to collect those Hot Wheels cars which were as colorful and small as the cars in Rocket League. That’s probably the reason that Rocket League has actually partnered with Hot Wheels to include some of their cars in the game. Rocket League is a very ‘fun’ and ‘happy’ game; it’s one of those things that will cheer you up no matter how bad you’re feeling.
Testing your skill with another actual person (rather than A.I.) makes things a lot more ‘real’ and serious. These video games are pretty competitive, so unless you are fine with being and staying a ‘casual’, be prepared to invest a significant chunk of your time in improving your skill in it.
The people starting with an eSport are going to get VERY intimidated and overwhelmed by the more skilled players, who are going to ‘destroy’ them in ways they never imagined was possible. You ARE going to think that the person killing you instantly with a headshot out of nowhere was cheating, and you’re going to see the impossible become true when someone ‘air dribbles’ the extraordinarily big football (or should I call it ‘hoodball’) into your goal in Rocket League.
But these are the things that make these games so enjoyable, when you see yourself climbing up the rank and doing those unimaginable things, when your reflexes take over and you do something amazing without your mind realizing it, leaving you awestruck by your own abilities.
I am also quite optimistic about the future of eSports with the spread of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality. I really think that as these technologies get better, and are adapted more widely, they are really going to add that element of ‘sports’ in ‘eSports’, and we are going to see some really interesting things that come out of the combination of the two.
So yeah, eSports are actually pretty awesome. While I personally can’t justify spending 5,000 hours in something like it, unless you have the skill to go pro, it’s great to see that technological evolution has brought something like it. In a sense, it can even be considered to be the most impressive of things humans have come up with.
While any person who has a busy life would need to restrain themselves from spending more than a couple of hours per day in trying to defuse a bomb that does no damage upon explosion (CS:GO), eSports can be immensely enjoyable, entertaining, rewarding, and can make you socialize with a big community.
So if you have a PC that can handle it, or if you’re a console user thinking about trying these ‘competitive’ video games, you should definitely give them a shot, as you might find them to be more engaging and fun that you’d have thought.