Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Another Article of Substance: How to Introduce People to Esports

This article was partially inspired by an argument I had with another writer about the social acceptability of esports. He felt that it would never become a mainstream activity that people generally approved of. Or maybe that's not what he thought, it was very confusing. Either way, I was, and am, adamant that esports is on the rise, and will continue to gain popularity, even if the games change over time. The article was publish in today's issue, #33

This conversation revealed some defensiveness on the part of esport enthusiasts. Many of us have been burned in the past when trying to talk esports ("What? Why would anyone watch that? Sound stupid!"), but as videogames grow in popularity, it stands to reason that esports will as well, regardless of the"acceptability."

Additionally, there was some discussion about how it can be weird to tell people who don't know about esports that you write (or draw) about esports. Naturally, I decided that I should go ahead and write up a guide to help people talk about esports to the uninitiated. It really doesn't need to be much a big deal.

Drama of the Week: Esports for Dummies: Explaining Esports to the Uninitiated 
By: Mike Harrell 

Esports. We love it. Whether we’ve been following competitive gaming broadcasts back in the BW days before the west even knew about it, or just got into it this week, we observe a rich culture of spectating, commentary, and artistic contributions. We can also see that it is growing very quickly and stigmas surrounding it are beginning to crumble. 

That’s how things are on the inside. But how does it look on the outside? A reeking mass of sweaty neckbeards? Maybe people used to think that, but perceptions are changing. 

This article aims to be a guide on how to introduce other people to esports as a concept. This article is not about how to get your Dad, Grandma, Significant Other, or Cat to suddenly become a frothing esports fanatic. This is about presenting an emerging new pastime and the surrounding industry to people who are unfamiliar with it. We will do this by gauging their interest level of watching a competitive event with their perception of video games, and using that information to build a conceptual path to esports. 

Step 1: Set Reasonable Goals for the Interaction 

Seriously, we should all calm down a bit when we talk to people. Don’t be defensive. Don’t assume people will say it’s dumb. The vast majority of people simply don’t know that there are video games with the depth and format to merit an esport. And frankly, there is no single activity that everyone in the world understands the appeal for, or necessarily enjoys it if they do. Not everyone likes watching football even if they know all about it and have close relationships with people who do. The same goes for all forms of entertainment. Again, this is about increasing understanding, not conversion.  

Step 2: Preparing Your Pitch 

Here is a basic explanation of esports that you can use for anyone, “There are games like [use a game you like as an example] that have a lot of depth of strategy and competition has flourished around it. There are even some large scale competitions that get broadcasted online with commentary and it can be a lot of fun to watch!”  

If they seem interested, you can follow up with a “If you want to check it out, I can send you some good clips from YouTube, or invite you over to watch with me the next time there’s an event. ” The purpose of the invite isn’t necessarily to get people at your house to watch esports, but to be open and inviting. People will be more likely to give esports a fair shake if they have someone to go to for questions. 

The most important part of the explanation, however, is how you adapt and add to it to suit your audience. Let’s discuss that in more detail. 

Step 3: Gauge Interest as a Spectator 

The following list of activities is meant to be a loose scale to help you determine how similar your audience’s interest as a spectator are to esports. The further down the list they go, the more likely they are to understand the appeal of esports.  

Rock bottom: Does not watch tv for entertainment. 
Low: Will watch a game show (Price is Right, Jeopardy)  
Will watch others play a heated card/board game 
Casual: Will watch competitive sports on tv at a party/with a group 
Will watch competitive sports on tv alone 
High: Will watch others in the same room play a videogame with interest 
Highest: Will watch a youtube video of exceptional gameplay   

Step 4: Gauge Interest in Video Games Generally 

The following list of activities is meant to be a scale to help you determine not just your audience’s interest in video games, but also the likelihood that they are aware of the types of games that have become an esport. The further down the list you can go, the more likely that your audience will be able to appreciate esports. 

Rock bottom: Will not play any video game
Low: Will play digitized games on their phone  (Sudoku, Words With Friends)
  Will play casual games on their phone (Angry Birds, Boom Beach) 
Casual: Will play on a PC or Console at a party/in a group. 
Will play anything at all on a PC or Console alone. 
High: Will seek out and buy a game of their own accord on PC or Console 
Highest: Already plays a game with a strong esports scene. 

Step 5: Make Your Pitch 

Now that you’ve taken a few minutes to consider your audience’s interests, let’s put it together.  Here follows a list of several configurations as well as a suggestion on how you could begin a productive conversation. 

Rock bottom interest on either list: Don’t get your hopes up here. Stick with your basic pitch and hope for the best. 

Low Interest in both areas: Another hard sell, but not hopeless. Esports is probably not going to be their thing, but that doesn't mean they can’t be cool about it. Again, stick with your basic pitch and hope for the best. 

Casual Interest in both areas: This one’s hard because these are probably the people you WANT to get esports. Try to determine what appeals to them as a spectator or a gamer and emphasize those things in your portrayal of esports. Try not to come on too strong.  

Uneven interest: This is the most likely situation. Like the casual viewer/gamer, pick the activity that they seem to have a greater general interest in, and expand on that in relation to esports. If they love brackets or stats in sports, tell them about some esports upsets and facts. If they’re a big gamer, tell them how esports showcases the best gamers in the world.  

High interest in both areas: It’s easy at this point, it’s just a matter of figuring out which game they would be interested in seeing played at a high level and telling them about it. 

Highest interest on either list: Dude. They’re already there! Invite them over for WCS and don’t be surprised if they become more hardcore than you!  

Caveat: Some People Aren’t Ready 

Unfortunately, you may know someone, someone important to you, who’s just too set in their own opinion that they may willfully refuse to listen to you about the appeal of esports. If this happens, I’m genuinely sorry. It’s hard when someone is dismissive of your passion. Maybe it will give a little comfort to know that kind of feeling is not the growing trend. Esports is becoming more popular and “acceptable” every day all over the world. Maybe your friend/family member will come around in time, or maybe not. Either way, you tried. The rest is up to them.

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