We continue our Quarantine series, dedicated to understanding how quarantine is impacting different facets of the tech and gaming industry... and hopefully making it interesting!
Our conversation begins centered around the players. The quarantine has their training center closed, so players are practicing remotely. None of the players are working in person right now. For instance, even though the APEX team all live near each other, they are still focused on safety first.
According to Kyle, the players themselves are all still working very hard and the quarantine has not impacted their performance as a team or unit.
That brings up the interesting question of if the players are working hard, are the esports leagues supporting them properly? Who is doing the best job? Kyle is quick to praise the industry as a whole, saying pretty much everyone has responded well. However, he does give a special shout out to CS:GO, BLAST, and ESL, stating,
"They have created amazing content online and even keeps production value high by coordinating with teams to capture content and supply the broadcast with remote feeds."
I suspect this has to do with a more streamlined chain of command. Less bureaucracy in the ESL or CS:GO league than the NFL, NBA, etc. That and the virtual nature of the games allows the esports world to adapt much faster to changes.
We take a quick pivot to the team ownership. With all non-esports basically still shut down at the time of writing this, I make the supposition that the management must be pushing esports pretty hard right now. Kyle agrees, stating that management has always been supportive of what they do, but has taken notice of the opportunity and they've been seeing a lot of new faces as a result. He says,
"It's great seeing comments on our videos or social media saying 'where has this been all my life?!'"
And that gets me thinking. Esports must be pretty hard to get into if you're used to watching football. At my local bar esports come up once in a while and the regulars always ask me why you'd watch a game instead of play it. To which I always reply, "How is that different than watching a football game instead of playing football?" This usually resolves the issue entirely, but sometimes that is enough to get someone really interested and start asking about the nuances. As an example, a CS:GO tournament was on ESPN and I had a man asking all kinds of questions about it. The rules, the guns, the map layouts, the players, it made me realize how daunting even a fairly simple game can be for a new player. So of course, I ask Kyle about this.
"Different games have different levels of complexity - pun intended! A game like Rocket League or even CS:GO is very easy to pick up. Generally it takes just a few minutes of watching before you understand it at a basic level. "
And I agree, while the guy at the bar didn't quite get all the routes or weapon picks or what a quickscope was, he did get the general flow of the match and even got excited when he'd see someone take on a 2v1 and win with a series of quick head shots. Kyle concludes that it's really just time, like watching any sport, that lets you pick up on nuances. Still, it's pretty clear to both of us that some games are easier to understand and act as a better gateway. Dota 2 comes up specifically as a fantastic game to watch and enjoy, but probably the most nuanced and difficult to learn as your first esports game.
Our chat drifts to more broad topics of how they're holding up during the pandemic overall and if they've seen anything positive come out of it. Kyle doesn't want to be overly positive at the expense of others who are currently suffering, but does say he's very proud that Complexity has managed to keep their staff working throughout the pandemic. This strikes me as particularly important and positive, not just for the players, but for the esports industry as a whole. Esports are often seen as something of a fad, unstable and risky.
Here though we have a perfect example of esports being more stable and able to adapt faster than their ball-throwing cousins.
It isn't a knock against your favorite non-esport, it's just the nature of a virtual sport that allows it to be more resilient in situations like these.
So there we have it. More people are watching esports now as a result of quarantine and a pandemic than ever before. Teams are practicing off-site and leagues have been quick to adapt to an even more "online" format than before. All in all, I see the quarantine as a positive catalyst for esports around the world. While neither Kyle nor I would prefer a pandemic, it may be seen as a pivotal moment in sports history.
Special thanks to Kyle and the entire Complexity team. Check them out at https://complexity.gg/.
See part 1 where we interview teacher and full time streamer Skacle: https://antlionaudio.com/blogs/news/quarantine-education-and-streaming