You Amateur! - Amateur Play and The FGC by Shin
We all love the huge stages, the massive lights and big crowds chanting for their favorite players. It’s an irreplaceable staple in both sports and eSports. We can’t do without the stardom that comes from being on the high-end of the competitive spectrum, not now, not when we’ve seen what it can be, no matter how much people enchanted by nostalgia cry for a return to grassroots. But with all this in mind, it’s still imperative that we remember how much that amateur play does for us as competitors, viewers and analysts. Without the push from the amateur scene, there isn’t much of a hope for competitive play, or at the very least, it’s doomed to exist in a bubble forever, or at least until the bubble pops. To put it simply, amateur play is what keeps eSports alive. Amateur play IS eSports.
You just finished watching a high level game. We’ll say that you were watching League of Legends, and the World Championships are going on. You were enamored by how Uzi played Vayne. You often do your best to replicate his skill in your solo queue games with varying (read: little) success, but you’ll never get there if you don’t try, right? With that mindset you boot up the League of Legends client and excitedly hop into solo queue. Even Uzi started somewhere! Ten minutes into the game your excitement and optimism is rapidly fading, but you’re trying to hold on to hope. One of your teammates dies for the third time in four minutes and as the announcer notifies you of this fact your enthusiasm starts to drain away from you even further. Another five minutes in and the overfed champion that was killing your teammate makes their way to you, and before you know it, you’re looking at greyscale, waiting to respawn. While you wait, you realize something.
This isn’t League of Legends.
At the very least, it’s not the same game that Uzi plays. It’s some unoptimized frankenstein of the game with the same engine and the same characters, but as far as you’re concerned it may as well be some kind of cheap knock-off. You’re not given the same situations, or the same tools, and you’re certainly not given teammates that are as motivated as you. This goes on for awhile, before the enemy team destroys your Nexus, or you destroy theirs, either way it doesn’t matter. Your motivation has been axed. This is a scenario that occurs all too often in games without an amateur scene. You wind up realizing you’re playing in a compromised environment, and lose your motivation. However, this doesn’t have to be the case, in almost any game.
In this day and age, we can have situations that involve others. Situations that involve people that aren’t big names, or absurdly powerful players. A strong example exists in the Fighting Game Community, a worldwide network of people who, you guessed it, play fighting games. Fighting games are best enjoyed offline, where lag, delay and wi-fi aren’t concerns. However, due to how popular this genre is (Having exploded into relevance in the 90’s and even outliving the failure of western arcades) it tends to bring in people from all different walks of life, with all different levels of skill to play. In this world, anyone can find games to play and people to play with, in an optimal environment without being a big name. This drives interest in the genre and in the games as a whole, it keeps people wanting to improve for various individual reasons, but at the very least, because they know that they’re at least playing the same game as high level players.
Some communities (Such as the FGC) wind up taking the community aspect to new heights. Evidence of this is in their large tournaments. Almost every fighting game tournament ever created, entry is open. This means that unlike something like the LCS, or Overwatch League, anyone can play on the big stage, from big names like Tokido, to your best friend at your 9-5! This means that amateurs can get that big stage practice, big stage exposure and the chance to have a good time at these large tournaments as well. As a result of this amateur exposure, with such a low barrier of entry, the community has done nothing but grow, with Evolution (The largest fighting game tournament in the world) breaking several records this year. These are simply people, mind you, coming to play, not all of them are sponsored (Most of them aren’t) or amazing at any particular game, but simply having the option to compete has brought about a swelling in the number of people interested in the genre and the community.
It’s clear that amateur play, the play of the average joe is the lifeblood of the FGC, and in time, it could prove to be the lifeblood of eSports as a whole.