Competitive gaming has been around a long time on the PC with professional Starcraft leagues or tournaments for games like Quake and Counter-Strike. The Xbox 360 has made competitive gaming much more popular in recent years with the pro-gaming console league Major League Gaming, or MLG for short, and has begun to be classified as a sport by many gamers. Even sports news coverage, such as ESPN, have bought into this new fad called E-Sports (electronic sports) and now covers MLG games on their website and even sometimes mentions it on Sportscenter. You can even buy a gaming chair with a theme of your favorite team. That’s how big its become.
Getting Familiar with eSports Leagues
There are a lot of gaming leagues out there. There’s the MLG, CAL, CPL, GGL, Gamebattles (actually a branch of MLG), Starleagues, and many others, some more legitimate or popular than others. Sure there are different sports leagues, but I don’t think anybody is going to say that in America there is a football league more legitimate or popular than the NFL or a hockey league more legitimate and popular than the NHL. Why doesn’t gaming have one legitimate league? Why is it so fragmented? If it was a true sport, it should have a unity of organization. Instead, leagues are just privately owned and run which leads to so many different ones. Are players in MLG better than a player in CPL? Who knows, they are different leagues with different games. I can confidently say players in the NHL are better than players in a European League.
This brings me to another point, the organization of E-Sports is nothing like a sport. There is no regular season, there are only events and ladders. Even the leagues that pretend to have seasons are only running ladders for a specific time-frame and call it a season. Ladders don’t work like seasons because you can join or leave a ladder at any time. If you go 0-5 on Gamebattles, delete your team and remake it and you erase your bad start. Teams don’t have the same number of games played. You can challenge other teams at your whim so you never have to play a team that you know could beat you unless you reach the Playoffs. Real sports aren’t like this. There aren’t just a handful of tournament-style events throughout the season.
Making it More Like Traditional Sports
Overall, E-Sports leagues seem to be trying to make gaming appear to be a sport without actually making it into one. Like the addition of coaches in MLG games like Gears of War and Halo. That seems like a completely ludicrous addition to professional gaming and one that doesn’t even make it more like a sport. Why does a gamer need a coach?
To make gaming into a sport, they should make organizational changes. Let’s continue to use MLG as an example. A Halo 3 team in MLG should have to be sponsored by a corporation or person. A sponsor doesn’t just pay for trips to Meadowlands and give you cool gaming rigs. That person should own the team and they make the roster changes. If Ogre 1 and Ogre 2 don’t like Walshy anymore, too bad. They don’t have a say, the sponsor does. Teams shouldn’t be just a group of friends that got together one day and have played together ever since. They should be solid foundations that will exist years from now, with our without it’s current player roster.
Each team would have the same number of games played. After the season is over, playoffs would be seeded and played in the tournament-style events like Meadowlands. That should be how playoffs are done. Right now it seems they have no relevance at all other than winning you money and giving you points.
There should also be a scouting combine. You can’t simply up and join an MLG competition one day. You will have to enter into a separate league and compete there until you are invited by a team owner to join an MLG team. That would give legitimacy to the league and also probably weed out a lot of want to-be’s and posers because they aren’t going to want to compete and travel a lot.