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Gamers vs. Society (or What do people think about esports?)

by Aliona Valcheuskaya on 09/21/17 12:57:00 pm

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

We are all here familiar with the fact that the esports industry is rapidly growing and attracting more attention from the society. Still, the industry is quite immature and opens a plenty of space for discussion. For me, as a person interested in social science and marketing, it was interesting to investigate the social side of esport and video games, in particular the way people perceive it.

Have you ever asked yourself, why some people even dream to become a professional gamer, and others perceive it as a waste of time? Why do people treat esports and gamers so differently, and whose view is a true one? An answer to the question might be helpful not only to those, who work directly with the industry, but also for gamers itself. It might even happen that a strongly negative attitude of a parent might make the world to lose a one great future member of Team Liquid.

The following article is aimed to give you an answer to the mentioned question. I was wondering to such extent that decided to make a small research, which conclusions I am grateful to present. Before starting, I only would like to mention, that due to some limitations, the following information will be only fully applicable to Eastern Europe. Hence, to start with, let’s together divide the population to some similar groups, depending on their attachment to the industry, having professional gamers and those directly connected to the industry, casual gamers, and so called Generation X (born from the late 1970s to early 1980s).

When defining a real portrait of a professional game, it is true that they are different from casual gamers; for them “to play a game” is not only means to have fun, it means to stick to the established rules, and beat the competitor in the most efficient manner. During the research, I was lucky to make an interview with a teacher of Counter Strike in the recently opened esport school in Minsk, Belarus. He presented me a current position of esports in Eastern Europe from his side, and said some fascinating facts about the school, its students, and the attitude of their parents to kids' hobby. Below are my favourite citations from the interview.

About industry:

"I claim that being an esport professional is a real job, with no exceptions, the only difference is the retirement age that is quite low - between 30 and 35 y.o.".
"To become an esport professional is as hard as to become a good sportsman, it needs time and persistence". 

About school and students:

"Students enjoy playing together, sharing their experience, and combining an ability to improve their skills with fun time spent with friends".

About parents:

"Sometimes I have to explain to parents that playing games thoughtfully has a positive influence on a child and what opportunities it can bring in future". 
“Older people tend to think that gaming is a waste of time, and only lazy people could spend hours playing. They just do not know that it could bring profits and could be as interesting to observe as a regular sport. The media only needs to show the true picture, and everyone, who did not know about esports before, will be amazed by the size and opportunities of esports”.

The reality of esports is that professional gamers are extremely passionate about competitive play and focused on constant improvement of their skills. Being a professional gamer is not only fascinating and profitable, but also energy consuming and stressful. The industry in real life is tough and being an esport professional is not a hobby, but it is a decent job. However, some people do not fully understand that, which is the main reason, why there are so many opinions about video games and esports. So now, let’s move to those different opinions and deeply understand the reasoning for them to be such.

When talking about casual gamers, which are the main consumers of esports activities, such as championships, media content, merchandise, etc., they have the perception of esports, which is close to reality. They understand that professional play is different from what they see every day while playing themselves. Even though, the study was focused on the population of Eastern Europe, the popularity of esports there and the positive perception in the minds of casual gamers is present to the high extent.

One of the most interesting parts of the process for me was to analyze the perception of Generation X. The study revealed that esport is perceived differently from casual gaming among those, who know basics. The problem with Gen-X, as many of them do not know them. I had an interview with my friend from Kiev, who is a typical representative of Gen-X: a working man, with two children, sometimes playing Call of Duty to relax after work. He did not know about esports before talking to me, and he was astonished during the interview, when I showed him some videos from The International, and mentioned their prize pools. Below are my favorite citations from the interview.

About him and his family:

“I am not a gamer at all, I even play this game [Call of Duty] on a casual level, but I just want to forget about what is going around and go kill someone [laughing]”.
“My son is 14 and I think he knows everything about games, he plays every evening. I think he plays too much. My wife even sometimes forbids him to use the computer for some days. I think she overreacts”.

 About once playing Dota 2 with his son:

“I was shocked by the language they are using, this was the first time I tried to play Dota with my son, and, obviously, I did not know anything. However, the amount of anger I felt every time I died from my team was enormous. I usually feel less pressure at work than I felt during this game [laughing]”.

About his feelings after we watched together the championship and I told him some facts about the industry:

“I have heard something about the possibility to win some money in a game”.
“I did not expect that the industry is so big, and there could be so many people, who buy tickets to see, how other gamers are playing”.
“I think it is great that there are so many opportunities for young gamers, and they could make profits on something they like”.
“I might even be happy if my son would play his favourite game professionally. Teams there are so organized and managed, but I am only afraid that so much time playing and preparing for a game might cause some problems with health”.

Even though, Generation X sometimes might have negative perception of video games, this does not mean that their perception to esports is also negative. The problem with Generation X is their lack of knowledge about esports. Hence, there is a possibility to explain through media channels that an esport professional is different from a casual gamer.

The development of esports has helped to establish a strong community of gamers with a common interest and provided those gamers with professionals, who they admire and with the help of whom they can improve skills. The industry has nurtured a phenomenal dream in the minds of young generation – to become a professional player. Moreover, older generation could realize the potential of the industry if they were presented with the real picture and explained that esports is not the same as what their children do at home staring at the screens. Still, I was extremely happy to obtain such results, and to bring more light on the social side of gaming and esports.

I hope you have enjoyed the reading, and I will be happy to see your comments to the presented information. Which problems do you personally feel or observe regarding interaction of society with professional gaming?

If you have any further questions or would like to get a full research paper, please contact me via email: alionavaa@gmail.com


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