Esports 101: Everything You Need to Know About Competitive Video Gaming
By Jamie Hancock
April 7, 2020
A comprehensive primer courtesy of LeagueApps engineer and esports organizer Ryan Bulaclac.
As major leagues, legendary entrepreneurs, and global brands continue to invest heavily in esports, the question is no longer whether or not video games are “real sports.” Instead, we should be asking ourselves what the future of virtual play looks like—and how we can turn to gaming during these challenging times as a way to keep players and coaches connected to one another.
To help organizers familiarize themselves with the industry, we sat down with Ryan Bulaclac, LeagueApps engineer by day and esports tournament organizer by night. Bulaclac helped co-found D.C. esports, an organization dedicated to running esports events in the D.C. metro area, and manages the production of the company’s streaming content. He has worked for Major League Gaming for more than three years.
Here’s what you need to know.
Esports and “regular” sports aren’t as different as you may think.
The only real difference is that players are meeting up on the internet instead of on the court or field, Bulaclac says. When it comes to organizing tournaments or games, you’re still taking registrations, setting up schedules, and tracking standings and brackets. Winning is still winning. Bragging rights are still bragging rights.
Gaming has gone professional—and it’s not slowing down anytime soon.
League of Legends and Fortnite are two of the biggest esports titles in the world, and with that notoriety comes prize pools in the millions for professional players. Other games like Call of Duty and Overwatch have recently established franchise-based leagues with teams around the country—just like the major traditional sports leagues. Many of the biggest names in sports are involved with gaming; people like Robert Kraft, Ted Leonsis, Mark Cuban, and Joe Lacob are investors in, or owners of, various esports teams.
You can still have fans online.
One of the best parts of playing a sport is being cheered on by fans. This isn’t lost just because you’re playing online! When possible, players should stream their games online, whether it be over traditional gaming services like Twitch and Mixer, or more general platforms like YouTube or Facebook.
The PS4 and XBOX One consoles both have built-in streaming features that simply require the user to have an account and sign into it. For big titles like Fortnite and League of Legends, there are built in spectator modes made for broadcasting. This is where it’s great to have a commentator / shout-caster to call the action for the viewers. All a commentator needs to do is join the game just like a regular spectator, then hook up their microphone to their console or PC.
If you want to get involved, you don’t need to start from scratch.
If there’s a game that can be played competitively, there’s likely already a scene for it. Do your research on the games you want to host and find the most common rulesets for that community; most games have a built in “competitive” ruleset already. These rulesets help to promote skill rather than luck, and separate the people who simply want to play for fun from the people who are looking to compete. Here are a few examples:
In the absence of referees, it’s important to get ahead of disputes.
While you want to trust everyone that’s signing up for your leagues/tournaments, it’s usually tough or even impossible to have a “referee” online to watch each game/match. It’s best to have a system in place to confirm results in case the players disagree. The most effective method is to require players to take a screenshot/photo of the end game score and submit that to the tournament organizer along with the score in order to verify the winner.
Internet connections are the new field conditions.
In order to get the best possible playing conditions, players should hard-wire their consoles/PCs into their routers with an ethernet cord. Wi-Fi is great for surfing the web and chatting with friends, but for online gaming, the latency and reliability of Wi-Fi is poor and can cause bad experiences for both players. Organizers should keep an eye out for players who are constantly being reported for having bad connections, and remove them if it gets unmanageable. While unfortunate, it’s not fair to the other players if it’s one common person that has a consistently bad connection.
If you’re an organizer looking to set up your own esports tournament, check out our “Organizer’s Guide to Esports” here.