Dotaland note: Worth a read for sure! Background info on esports in China, along with a report on the current state of esports, as triggered by a recent controversial online statement.
Original: http://dota2.sgamer.com/news/201303/149593.html via Chinese newspaper Morning News
Last week, an announcement from the national sporting agency instigated a wave of debate. The announcement suggested that they were looking into establishing a national esports team of 17 members, the purpose being to go participate in the upcoming 4th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games.
“Electronic sports” can be counted as a sport too? This was the topic of dispute, and it spread rapidly throughout the internet.
On the 22nd, one He Chao, the younger brother of national and international diving champion He Chong, posted on his weibo: “Electronic sports counts as a real sport??? Just playing a game is enough to win Olympic gold, if this were the case then all our real training and hard work is for nothing, might as well go and play games all day……” This ripple, by the power of the internet, magnified into waves of controversy, as things quickly exploded into a war of words online.
Yesterday, our reporter interviewed long-standing participants in the esports realm, and gained a deep understanding of the living conditions of an esports player — this is an environment which, on the outside, looks like a casual, entertaining way of life, yet in reality it is a stringent, grinding, often dull profession; it is something that has been misunderstood by society from the get-go.
A 30 minute game requires no less than 7200 keystrokes
Just last night, the He Chao who had provoked the proverbial hornets’ nest in the way he addressed this topic, deleted the offending post and in its place put up a serious and sincere apology to all those in esports. Yet this act did not serve to calm the already disturbed waves of dispute revolving esports, this new and rising sport. The discussion remained divided between two camps, and the debate continued as to whether esports was simply “playing a game” or not.
In actuality, it could be very simple to determine the real truth and solve the dispute. In order to better understand the problem at hand, we must first clearly understand what really encompasses ‘esports’, and what, exactly, the difference is between ‘esports’ and the much-loved and mainstream accepted ‘online gaming’?
Way back in November of 2003, esports had already been included as the 99th entry in a list of sports as determined by the national sporting agency, and on their official website, it is possible to search and find many pages on the topic of esports. There are real facts and figures to support the fact that esports has requirements of brainpower and stamina alike, and these demands are comparable to other competitive sports. For example, WCG 2006 Warcraft 3 Champion, Sky, had an APM over 200 on average, which is to say, he clicks the mouse and hits the keyboard 200 times per minute. According to calculations, over a 30 minute game this amounts to over 7200 keystrokes, with an added 6000 mouse clicks, far outstripping the intensity with which an average computer user might operate. The concept of ‘sport’ is precisely displayed in this form of high intensity, quick tempo activity — and this is without taking into account the high pressure mental environment in such a competition.
It can be said that, over the years, esports competitors have existed in an environment of extreme misunderstanding of what they do. As computer usage has gradually become an integral part of people’s lives, as people have accepted and grown accustomed to mice and keyboards, the misunderstanding grew. Average people view these things as a normal part of life, and so the connection between a mouse and a keyboard and ‘sport’ has never been made, instead they assume that these things are the same things that they use in work, or play, and so there must not be much difference in what esports competitors do and what they are familiar with.
An online survey found that 70% of respondents accepted esports as a sport
Therefore, many of those in esports feel ‘alone’. Current marketing director of SCNTV gaming media company, Cui Fangzhou, is a veteran of the earliest crop of Chinese esports competitors, having once been part of a national team training camp in 2007. Today, even though esports has been an officially recognized sport for nearly a decade, and officially support for four years, yet mainstream attention and understanding of it is still miniscule. Cui Fangzhou says, even though in terms of mainstream penetration and acceptance, casual online gaming has more reach than many traditional sports, the concept of ‘esports’ is still mired in the idea that it is an ‘improper profession’.
Yet, Cui Fangzhou believes that, from an objective point of view, esports shares many similarities with traditional sports. From talent scouting, to intense training, and everything in between, esports shares the same type of hard work and sacrifice required for success in traditional sports.
Cui Fangzhou gave our reporter a very simple exampe to illustrate his point: For example in the game Angry Birds, average players might only play to pass each stage — once a stage is past, it’s past. Perhaps the average player passed it due to sheer luck, or an accident, but a professional player would not have this attitude, and would seek to be able to reliably reproduce the result on demand. Thus it can be said that a competitive gamer would focus on the smallest of details, the slightest of angles or power level in an Angry Birds stage, and even spend hours or days on figuring out the equivalent details in an esports title. The end goal, of course, being that if the player were to meet this same situation again in the future, he or she could guarantee that they would know how to handle it right away.
Such is the difference between playing for fun and playing as a profession. Even so, many people remain in the attitudes of “esports is no more than just a squeeze of a mouse, some taps on a keyboard”, and even more parents, because of an inherent lack of understanding for these things, decide that this is a path with no future for their children. Cui Fangzhou, on the other hand, believes that the current industry and market for esports has reached a relatively mature degree. He reveals to us that just last year in the Dota 2 game, six teams from China competed for a prize of 1 million dollars, with one of the teams succeeding in winning it. Additionally, first team players for most teams maintain a monthly salary of around 10,000 RMB, with living and eating expenses covered.
From Cui Fangzhou’s point of view, there’s a reason each and every competition sport exists. He told us he’d also seen He Chao’s post online, but he brushed it off: the roots of misunderstanding in esports are deep, and not something that can be reversed overnight. As someone who’s been through it all, he said, his hope is that society as a whole will become more accepting of esports over time. As with competitions in ‘normal’ sports, every competition in esports has sacrificed, given sweat and tears, and worked hard — on this, they do not lose out to anyone.
Worth a mention at the end is, perhaps their passion in esports has influenced another batch of bystanders. As of this writing, popular sentiment within the debate itself has shifted in favor of esports, and on a major domestic web portal, a survey showed that over 70% of respondents supported the notion of esports as a true sport. This, it seems, would be a good start for people like Cui Fangzhou.