Cable television aficionados may have come across a strange accumulation of interface icons and commentary if you happen to tune into TBS on any Friday night during the summer months. Some may assume it was some sort of sports competition as the speaker system around them filled their living room with complex commentary similar to what you can find during Sunday Night Football. Instead audience members may find themselves viewing top notch Counter-Strike professionals battling for a prize pool worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
What in the World am I Watching?
The ELeague on TBS provides a unique perspective into the eSports industry and the programming provides direct access to the players that participate within the industry, particularly focusing on the Counter-Strike Teams. ELeague makes it effortless for anyone with an interest in eSports to view some of the greatest Counter-Strike players of our time compete against one another. The graphical interface used by the ELeague allows for spectators unfamiliar with Counter-Strike to be gradually introduced to the mechanics and strategies integral to Counter-Strike. Commentators include real time analysis of the tactics utilized by the teams, allowing for spectators to begin recognizing the patterns that each squad uses to win rounds and what affect the strategy may have on the in-game economies of each team.
Another important tool to recognize within the overlay is the ability for the audience to view enemies or allies of the current player they are viewing, through walls. Encounters in Counter-Strike can often be instantaneous with very little time for audience members to understand what action ensued. Remember, the spectator’s view includes the ability to see through walls while the players cannot. This allows time for the commentators to provide insight into what may ensue while viewers can easily understand the positioning of each player. The trajectory of grenades, flash-bangs, and smoke grenades are provided in a clear, precise fashion to assist in the understanding of their utilization during a fight.
Counter-Strike’s pacing allows for TBS to mimic traditional sports, providing them with a proven system. If TBS and the ELeague wish to expand to other games they must consider the implications of the game-play variation when approaching a new game to focus on. When I originally heard about the ELeague on TBS, I had a few concerns pertaining to the transition of eSports to cable television.
- Advertisements: On occasion my love for video games is questioned, poised with the question of, “why don’t you just watch TV?” Sometimes when I am feeling feisty, I consider responding with, “well, I don’t desire to spend 20 minutes of my hour of entertainment on commercials. Consuming television each day forces you to witness hours upon hours of advertisements which increases when sports games are being televised. How will gamers react when forced to view advertisements while watching their favorite game? A game that contain no advertisements when played. Advertisements can be a delicate subject for eSports fans as they often are not subjected to the vast number of commercials as regular television viewers are. Twitch.tv has a moderately low number of commercials that interrupt the gameplay. Since a majority of eSports happen on Twitch, this means that a large percentage of eSport consumers are acclimated to a lower number of advertisements. Sitting down to watch the first ELeague match, I was pleased to see that commercials were not injected directly into the gameplay but were instead implemented during the dead time included in tournament play. After viewing my first match I thought that the pacing was effectively managed, making the ELeague a pleasurable experience to spectate.
- Teams: The quality of teams competing in the league will drive excitement for the audience. A substantial prize pool and live spectators will increase the quality of life for the entire league. The ELeague did an exceptional job of incorporating diverse teams that are popular all over the world.
- Prize Pool: The ELeague touts a $1.2 million-dollar prize pool that will surely motivate players to become emotionally invested in the desire to become the greatest player and team in the league. The $1.2 million-dollar investment with ensure top team’s interest in the ELeague, driving up demand.
Prior to the match there are short stories detailing the individuals and the teams participating in the eLeague. These videos delve into life as an eSports star, showcasing their prior experience and the days leading up to the eLeague. The exposure these players are receiving is important because it is informing the world about players or an industry, they are currently unaware of. This provides an insight into a world unknown to everyday cable viewers which will be key in expanding eSport viewership, increasing awareness around the world of the ever-growing industry.
The ELeague does a tremendous job producing short informational videos detailing to players and the teams participating in the ELeague. Each of these videos delve into the life as an eSports star, showcasing their prior experience and the days leading up to the tournament. The exposure found in each of the videos is positive to the league as it develops a story and background around the league. The informative videos provide insight into a world that may be unknown to those viewing the ELeague, connecting the professional players with the gamers in the audience.
A solid in-depth explanation of the game’s mechanics would assist the audience member’s in understanding the match. Clarifying a variety of terms at the beginning of the broadcast would be helpful to those who are not familiar with the game. (Eco or economy, fragging, Awper, etc) Additional time discussing the reasoning behind particular plays during the down times of the match may provide the commentators with material to utilize while also being informative to the audience. The interaction of each concept is integral to a successful CS match. The same applies to a foundation required in understanding the match. Such insights could aid in expanding the demographic of eSport spectators, giving the essential information in understanding a game they do not play.
Another possible way to immerse the audience member into the action would be a second screen option. This could provide an option for the viewer to communicate with others watching the same event, similar to Twitch but the software would not be solely a chat feature. Possible features could include informational videos that would delve into various parts of Counter-Strike and the eSports industry. The short films could discuss strategies used by teams, the past history of particular teams, and the featured matchup happening each week. The second screen option could also provide a space for a live map of all the players which could include overviews of the players if you clicked on them. The second device could provide similar descriptions that are included in other sports, discussing their position on the team and their personal statistics.