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An ode to esports

Mastering difficult skills, achieving victory, surviving through challenges and striving and growing as a team are important skills to competing in any sport. Esports, much like more popular examples of sports, capture all of these classic elements of competition and more.

The basic skills are very similar: throwing abilities like pitching balls, devising playbooks both on and off the field and running from one end of a field to the next. Playing fields. Game objectives. Equipment. Everything is there.

It’s as if each of these sports are akin to their own universe. Rules may be lifted from real life – gravity, the natural elements etc. – but each would have rules unique to them alone.

Basic concepts may be shared, like moving a ball across a field, but minimal impactful gameplay changes can entirely alter a player’s approach. From this, tactics and measures of performance are shaped. This challenge is not the only aspect players are drawn to.

Simple premises such as rocket car soccer, becoming a living legend, stepping into the childhood fantasy of pitting one’s favorite characters against one another, and being a part of a multinational peace-keeping core are expanded into entire worlds for players.

Words alone cannot capture the artistry from simple in-game character portraits, the musical score and even the design of user interfaces combining into an immersive experience.

All of that comes with a low barrier of entry. The divide between console and PC gaming has long stood and some games are split by these barriers of compatible technology or online servers. Yet, these cases are growing slimmer and often times communities don’t recognize these as boundaries at all.

Hooking up controllers to PCs is as easy as connecting a mouse or keyboard. Starting with this set up, players who use these controls already have everything they need to play. Regardless of physical ability – strength, dexterity or endurance – players start out on even footing edged only by their capacity to play.

That extends to the aforementioned community. Online, inhibitions are lowered by nature. Matchmaking systems may pair clashing personalities as well as extremely disparate skill levels amongst supposed teammates, making the playing field feel more even. There are no appearances to judge, at minimum a voice, and actions are magnified to encompass one’s character. Hostility is natural in a situation where trust is so heavily weighted on performance.

 

This same environment, though, can lend to positivity. Stronger camaraderie can be found when one has no prejudices of identity and ability. Visceral experiences can be shared amongst newfound friends without the initial judgements we often make in person.

 

In a game, you save someone’s life, commit heroics to snatch victory or fill tough, wearisome nights with joy, even if you don’t feel like a hero in your own life. I’ve found that people can often be more themselves in games than they are capable of in person.

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