Opinion

Quick Hit: Esports and national teams

Michael 'axtremes' Harmse

August 7, 2018 11:10 am

In our new series Quick Hit, axtremes drops his opinion with lightning speed while his hat overlords aren’t looking.

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Events like WESG earlier this year inevitably generate discussion around the validity of national teams within the esports ecosystem. Or at the very least teams of a single nationality and tournaments that require them for entry. In the context of South African esports, one only has to think of Mind Sports South Africa and the usual torrent of vitriol they get pounded with on social media at the announcement of any national team. For good reason of course, as very little of their team selection has any grounding in the reality of who is actually a good player or not. That’s perhaps a discussion for another day, though. 

Without borders

Online gaming and by extension esports doesn’t have much respect for national boundary lines denoting the separation between sovereign states. Extreme distances will of course introduce high latency and whatever the game, it will eventually become unplayable. Geography does have a part to play. However the lines arbitrarily drawn on maps by the monarchs and politicians of past and current world powers has no bearing on the world’s current esports landscape at the pro level. Superstar international rosters communicating in a common language like English are becoming a very real part of professional esports. In CS:GO you only have to look at the successes of teams like FaZe Clan and Mousesports to realize that it will continue to become a more normal part of esports team composition in the future.

Is there still a place for national teams?

I’m not so sure that there is. Unfortunately by their very nature, forcing together an underprepared team of good individuals that don’t usually play together, regardless of whether they are some of the world’s finest, will always result in a lower level of play. They might be some of the planet’s best players, but they would always perform better in their own team within their own system, tactics and environment. International teams are invariably mix teams and the quality of the matches suffers as a result. I don’t think it’s a good thing to artificially lower the level of competitiveness in an international tournament.

 

Fans want to see the best teams and the best players competing. That goes a long way towards understanding why despite the gargantuan prizes pools viewers tend to shun watching tournaments like WESG. Fans and pundits alike don’t care as much about these national team or one nationality per team tournaments. There’s no storyline or rivalry that can be referenced heading into these matches. Matches without stakes and ongoing narratives attached to them have little inherent entertainment value. Money alone is not enough of a drawcard to create excitement that isn’t there. Esports doesn’t respect international borders and neither do viewers.