One common difference between esports and traditional sports stems from the fact that esports isn’t a physical activity. Given the nature of esports, some would go as far as mentioning how inferior it is to traditional sports. This is certainly not true as there are many aspects in sports that apply in esports and we’ve noted that in our previous article.
But not everything in sports translates to esports as there are some notable differences. Upon learning them, you’ll realize the complexities that esports entails. We did mention in our previous article that both esports and traditional sports offer a high level of tactical analysis, but upon further dissection we realized that esports analysis goes beyond the usual approach.
Here’s what I learned while studying the history of the NBA. The league started in the 50s and the changes that took place occurred years after. It took years for athleticism to be of huge significance courtesy of the arrival of Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor. The 70s saw the emergence of the point-forward from Rick Barry. Allen Iverson arrived in the 2000s and opened the ideas of the scoring point guard, which Steph Curry took to the next level. Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook came in late 2000s and brought the athletic point guard in the mix. The same decade saw Dirk Nowitzki shaping the NBA as a 7-footer who can score in all cylinders which revolutionized the modern game. The Golden State Warriors took that leap of faith by introducing the small ball lineup that other teams implemented.
Then I looked at football and studied the history of formations. Having two defenders and midfielders or even one was prominent in the 1870s as the game was focused on offense. It took a decade for teams to value balance as they started deploying a plethora of midfielders to dictate the tempo of the game. It was only in the 50s where teams saw the importance of a stable defense, which saw the rise of the 4-man defensive formation.
Upon learning the histories of sports, I realized that teams and players are responsible for dictating the meta. Since players and teams are the ones taking the charge, it takes years for the meta to experience a shift. LeBron James, Shaquille O’Neal, Wilt Chamberlain, and Giannis Antetokounmpo took years to develop their freakish physical prowess. The same applies with Steve Kerr, Phil Jackson, Pep Guardiola, and Johan Cruyff in acquiring that revolutionary tactical knowledge or for Lionel Messi and Thomas Muller to learn the skills needed for complex roles. At some points, even the league organizers are forced to adapt to the meta as seen when the NBA made changes to slow down Shaquille O’Neal’s dominance inside the paint.
But this doesn’t apply in esports as the developers are the ones handling the meta. This doesn’t require the development of physical attributes or an in-depth tactical lesson that feels like spending nine years in college. The game’s programming is already there to begin with and a simple new code could shape the meta. The developers could do this weeks after a tournament or every three months.
Given the sudden change teams, need to adapt immediately. You might be tempted to look down on your favorite character’s decreased ability range or damage outburst, but once you play the game you’ll realize how frustrating it gets.
Let’s compare how a traditional sports broadcaster and an esports shoutcaster narrate LeBron James’ posterizing Aron Baynes. Sorry Aron.
TRADITIONAL SPORTS BROADCASTERS
PLAY BY PLAY: LeBron drives inside, THROWS IT DOWN WITH AUTHORITY! OH WHAT A PLAY BY LEBRON JAMES!
COLOR: BOW DOWN TO THE KING ARON BAYNES! SHOW SOME RESPECT AND WELCOME TO YOUR POSTER MOMENT! or That was a perfect pick-and-roll setup between LeBron James and Anthony Davis, just look at how it caused a separation.
PLAY BY PLAY: LeBron attacks the paint with his Nike shoes and leg power! OHHHHH BABY! WHAT A JAM BY THE KING!
COLOR: The $150 Nike shoes was a major catalyst as it allowed LeBron to acquire the leaping ability to dunk on Aron Baynes. It also helped that LeBron’s Adidas jersey had the light fabric that further increases his jump. These two factors gave him the speed needed to move past his defender in the pick-and-roll. Aron Baynes should’ve gotten that arm extension surgery to get a piece of LeBron’s dunk. The timing was great as LeBron did it in the 5th minute of the 4th quarter to encourage his team in mounting a comeback.
Both play-by-play casters do their job in hyping the play, but there are key disparities. Esports shoutcasters are more detailed in describing the play as they are used to having a truckload of terminologies. They don’t use terms that are normally seen in the sports dictionary like pass or shoot. They use terms like chronosphere, AWPer, a down spin + triangle move, kiting, signature skill, etc. It will take some time to get used to these terms. Think of it like professional wrestling where you constantly hear the names of the signature moves.
Even the pacing is different as a highlight play will force the shoutcaster to immediately jump from one action to the other. There are so many things that could happen in a clash and it’s a requirement for a shoutcaster to capture every important elements in a battle.
Can you imagine the god-tier sports commentators like Mike Breen or Martin Tyler perform a play-by-play commentary ala OD Pixel? Chances are their experience will remain in the dust as they’ll struggle to follow OD Pixel’s rapping skills.
And the plethora of factors don’t just apply with the play-by-play as this likewise includes the color commentator. I notice in traditional sports that color commentators would praise the play or offer a summarized tactical analysis of the play. Esports color commentators would discuss in detail what happened. They don’t just praise the player, they look at a lot of factors that contribute to a play. It could be the positioning of the player, the items that he or she has, the timing of the rotations, the levels, the cooldowns, etc.
Given the complexities in esports, there’s a possibility that some factors are overlooked, hence the detailed descriptions of color commentators. You can clearly see Real Madrid conducting their counterattacks, but can you say the same with Na’vi against Invictus Gaming without the commentaries? The latter might require you to press the slow motion button.
Perhaps it’s already time for you to reconsider looking down on esports. Learning through the differences will make you realize that it’s more than just grown men wearing pajamas competing for a trophy. It’s more complex than what you think.