E-Sports, perspectives and limits of gaming
With the pandemic going on, sport is almost exclusively virtual. Prospects and limits of E-Sports in the world to come
E-Sports has been a well-known term for years and on closer inspection it is at least since the early nineties, that is when sports simulations have physiologically taken the place of the first arcade video games, which gamers from all over the world virtually engage in their favorite disciplines . Since before the pandemic, high-level virtual tournaments and very high jackpots have joined the world of real sports as a phenomenon of passive and not only active entertainment, that is, transforming into events that the public enjoys watching when not engaged in playing them firsthand. And this unites them to real sports. Even in Italy several events, such as Fifa international tournaments, were broadcast by Sky Sport. And when the real world stopped and the sports consequently, the only platforms on which it was possible to continue to see the exploits of our sports heroes were the virtual ones, the only ones that can afford to never stop.
The market goes where the public stops and there was a lot of public and market in E-Sports, especially football and motor simulations, even before the pandemic. It is not difficult to imagine that there will be more and more, because the sport may not return for a long time, it may return and then stop again and if it returns, at least initially, it will not be what we knew. No audience, minimal contacts. For this reason, an appetizer of what we might find ourselves living in the coming months was seen in April, with a huge amount of disciplines that organized tournaments in which real sports athletes were involved in virtual sports. The Premier League had their players play a tournament, each of whom led the team they belong to in knockout matches. The NBA has done something similar with Nba2K. Sky is broadcasting the virtual F1 races in which riders like Leclerc, Albon and Russell race, and those of the MotoGp where almost all the real drivers are on the grid, from Marc Marquez to Valentino Rossi. Virtual Giro d’Italia run at home on the reels and Zwift, virtual Masters 1000 of tennis with Tennis World Tour that will send real tennis players to the Madrid scene, but also lesser-known disciplines in the world of simulators such as regattas or rowing. The potential should not be underlined and it is probable that the weight of sponsorships will increase in the near future because the public increases and organizational difficulties do not exist. If until February the tournaments were held live in large arenas with professional gamers, online also solves the logistical problem. In a world in which for the next few months you could be forced to swing between reopenings and lockdowns, virtual sport will never stop.
Can a virtual sport exist without the real one? Of course not from the point of view of consequentiality, because with the joypad in hand we try to replicate and simulate what real sportsmen do on the field. An entertaining talk could start, but it is not relevant and does not take us far. How it can be considered more, less, or just as fun to see professional gamers competing in a Fifa tournament compared to professional players competing in a stadium, is purely subjective matter. The story changes when we see those professional sportsmen busy doing the same things with a joypad as they do on the field or on the track. E-Sports are not all the same. As much as artificial intelligence can grow and improve, simulated team sports remain a substitute still very distant from real ones for the simple reason that you control one player at a time and the other ten are controlled by the computer. Multiplayer has gone a long way in recent years but by its very nature it works better in other contexts such as war games than in sports. It is possible to play games in which the 22 players are each controlled by a real gamer, but anyone who has experienced the experience of playing multiplayer with more than four people knows what we are talking about. No central defender really starts to play the central defender on the screen, that is, to remain firm in his role perhaps for whole minutes without participating in the offensive action. And it is a concept that is even more valid for driving simulators. As much as they can get close to the sensations of being behind the wheel of a real single-seater, the absence of the physical risk associated with high speed will never make them close to F1 or true MotoGP. A couple of weeks ago we saw a virtual MotoGp race on the Spilberg circuit in Austria in which all the real MotoGp riders went long at the first corner, ramming, cutting through the grass and other behaviors that in a real race they would never see why they would expose them to extreme danger. For this reason, E-Sports, rather than sports simulators, should be considered as a form of entertainment similar to real sports by concept, but different in substance and in the way of generating entertainment. They cannot replace sport even when the sport is stopped. They can remember it, but they can’t take its place. And in the world of the next few months, probably, the more you miss the first one and the more you will understand how far the second ones are.