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The real scars of Korean gaming (bbc.com)
124 points by schrofer on June 6, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 101 comments

Sometimes you pay a price to be able to do the things you love. However, the plight isn't necessarily with Lee Young Ho (aka "FlaSh"), who was winning $50,000 tournaments multiple times a year while on a 200-300k per year salary (I stopped following after the end of professional Brood War, not sure what it's like now).

The plight lies with those who aren't among the top 1% in their already elite field who are subject to the same amount of physical and mental stress and grueling 12 hour practices while making welfare wages. Maybe that's changed with more capital flowing into eSports these days, but I doubt it.

I spent four years of my life dedicated to StarCraft. I made GM several seasons on NA ladder. I made GM on Korean ladder for one season. I played many top tier players, and I beat them. Repeatedly.

Then I decided to invest in flying myself down to Dreamhack. All the people I played online and beat about 50% of the time and made connections with, I lost to every single time.

There's many like me, top tier players but who can't win a cent. The disparity in skill from bottom of the Grandmaster ladder to top 100, from 100 to top 50, then top 10, and finally top 5, is massive.

Stopped gaming altogether around that time.

I did the same with Counter-Strike what seems like a lifetime ago. I feel the world was a lot different back then. My team was the first team to have a sponsorship by Steelseries (they were a tiny company back then), and the numbers were super small. If I told any of the current top players how much we made back then with our sponsorships (which included Samsung and Intel as well), they would laugh.

These days, you have CS:GO players making 5 figures a month, supplementing that with another 5 figures by streaming, and genuinely living like rockstars. It gets better if you look at LoL, because their numbers are fairly larger too (about 2:1 still, even if CSGO is growing significantly).

The amount of work that has to go into getting yourself into a top team is insane these days. Lan houses have for the most part gone away, and finding people with the mentality required to create such a team is hard. Those who do it are certainly well compensated, because there's a ton of money in streaming and brands want to be involved. But there's a chasm between being extremely good and being on the teams you hear about. For the first, life certainly isn't as glamorous.

I've had a similar experience, except it was with the Tekken series fighting games. At one point I was ranked in the top 20 in NA. I had a few chances over the years to play the top 5 in NA, and #3 from Korea.

The difference in skill level as you go from #20 down to #1 can be huge. I would have 50% chance against one of the other top 20, but that would go to maybe 5% against someone in the top 5, 1% against #1, and 0% against the Korean #3. I think I beat him one round ever.

I'm not sure I'd want to be #1. There is a point of diminishing returns when the game is no longer fun but work.

Neat. How does the skill gap change the higher you go? That is, #5 vs #1, is the chance close to equal, or is there that much of a power gap? (There's probably a mathematical description of what I'm asking; I just don't know the name, if someone cares to enlighten me.)

Any speculation on the cause? Is playing at #20 just not so time-dominating, but top 5 is a real full-time career? What factors are at work?

In the Tekken scene (this was 14 years ago), the main differences were competitive - the #1-5 all played each other regularly. They were in a league of their own, as were the Koreans. Time dedicated is also a big factor.

You have ~1/4 second (10-15 frames depending on throw) to analyze and react to perform a throw escape, which is pushing the limits of human reaction time. If the buttons are 1,2,3,4, throw escapes were typically 1,2, or 1+2 (rarely 3&4). If you hit the correct button for the throw, you escaped it.

At first, nobody ever escapes throws. It happens too fast. With practice, you can successfully attempt an escape, but it's only a guess at 1,2, or 1+2. You go from 0% success to 33% success.

But you can tell what the escape is by the animation. A 1 escape shows the characters left arm more forward than the right, a 2 and the right arm is more forward, 1+2 and both arms move in unison. If you are really fast and analyze which escapes to do, you can escape throws 100% of the time. This requires more than practice - it requires continuous training, even conditioning to increase your metabolic rate (which changes your perception of time).

This is the difference between the #1-5 guys and everybody else. They could always escape throws, without guessing.

That's really interesting, could you do an AMA?

Where? Here? Reddit? Haha, probably pointless as nobody has ever really heard of me. There's dozens of players like me, dozens! Ask whatever you want.

I'm curious how you saw the metagame evolve -- did top players invest in a character or team only to find that they were weaker to an evolved metagame?

Player by player basis. Each one plays differently. It was moreso seeing a bracket, who signed up, then pulling up replays of how they played and reading about them. I made a lot of notes on specific players styles, their timings, unit composition etc. Different strategy for each player + map.

What surprised me was when I went to the tournament, a lot of players had different play styles than what I've studied, which ultimately ruined me.

I'm the guy you're describing. Behind on the meta game. I went for the long game every single time, as safe as possible, so I lost to a lot of early cheese that I didn't even know was possible. Some Korean gave me a 3 stalker push at like the 5:30 or earlier(can't remember). I just sat there wondering to my self "fucking... how?" That moment really stuck with me. You play thousands of games in the top leagues and people still surprise you.

How much of top-level play do you think is a "guessing" game ala RPS? If you scout properly & manage properly, can you make it to the mid-game safely everytime, or is it luck of the RPS?

> The plight lies with those who aren't among the top 1% in their already elite field who are subject to the same amount of physical and mental stress and grueling 12 hour practices while making welfare wages

That's also no different from other pro sports.

Question: why are the top of the top players earning so much more than the top (excluding advertisements and sponsorship incomes) ?

The classic Rosen paper The Economics of Superstars provides a solid explanation.


It's plenty of different from other pro sports. The "pro" part largely means getting paid more than it takes to sustain the activity. With some exceptions like pro boxing which isn't exactly a poster boy for ethical practices.

It's not as different as you think. Base salary in minor league baseball, for instance, is ~US$1500 per month, and they only get paid during the season.

That obviously changes with service time -- and any service in the majors bumps it up disproportionately -- but guys who toil for 5 or 10 years in the minors without making it to the big club aren't getting rich.

Yeah, you see this in a lot of sports actually. I feel the biggest differentiator is whether there's a players union or not. The Minors appear to not have their own (I did not know this). Maybe this has to do with how much money the league generates, but I can't say because I don't know the details.

Boxing was already mentioned, but there's also MMA which is in the news right now for this very reason. If you're interested, look up the recent deal between the UFC and Reebok and how nearly all the fighters got screwed by this. Only the top players are getting taken care of, while plenty of others can't even get proper healthcare despite the fact we're talking about a combat sport here. It's unbelievable.

I imagine forming a union must be harder in individual sports rather than team sports. And with e-sports, most players' careers seem to be very short, which can't be helping matters if they ever wanted to form a union. Not much leverage for a variety of reasons.

You're exactly right about the lack of a players union being the reason for disproportionately low salaries in minor league baseball. The reason they don't have one is because the minor league clubs have no incentive to allow one, and the major league clubs that feed from the minor league systems have no incentive to help either. When there are so many guys willing to play for basically nothing but a shot at the bigs, meaningful change is unrealistic, although there are some ex-minor league players attempting to change that. It's likely very similar for other sports.

Plausible. Yet, Hollywood is almost exactly the same scene (so many willing to play for nothing but a shot). Yet they are organized.

I believe that is a historical anomaly caused by the way the studio system treated stars and minor-league wanna-bes similarly for many years. When they did organize, they were unable to establish a clear line, major-league/minor-league, differentiation.

football in italy has unions, but the same pattern applies.

This is kind of an exception though when it comes to popular team sports and far as I know E-sport is still far from even those relatively bad pay and terms.

Not really. NBA D-League and minor league hockey salaries aren't exactly anything to write home about either.

And then there's football, where the "minor leagues" are 3 years unpaid in college, where you not only have to batter your body without getting paid, you also have to keep up academic performance at the same time (wouldn't it make more sense to make some money playing football trying to get to the NFL, and then if you don't make it, having that money to get an education if desired on your own schedule, without having to do both at once?).

I often wonder if this, or the similar Hollywood model, is where Silicon Valley will eventually end up. The model is already quite similar, the money at the bottom just hasn't been squeezed out the same way yet. But there is pressure on first time founders who raise funding to pay themselves the minimum at first "to keep them focused," and the same applies to early employee equity stakes. We even have the tech-scene focused gossip/hero-worship of the Hollywood or pro sports scenes down pat!

College football is amateur i.e. not professional.

You can go down any sport and find divisions that aren't paid very well, likewise you can find obscure sports that consider themselves professional but aren't very well paid either. I find none of this particularly relevant to the discussion. There are huge differences between how e-sport works and how professional sports organisations work and I guess the people who don't believe that will just have to remain ignorant.

SV is already there to some degree. With angel type funding you will spend most of you salary on living expenses which won't return very good quality of life.

The "amateur" state of college football is a joke. It's the only option. It's a de-facto minor leagues for the NFL. The NFL benefits from being able to scout these players through it without having to draft or pay them earlier. The college athletic departments benefit from having found a revenue stream far larger than any other minor league, yet still not having to pay the players who generate that revenue. Heck, even the athletes in other sports get more real benefit than the college football players, since that's a lot of what's funding their scholarships. The football players are in a weird position of playing in front of 50-90,000 adoring fans every week just like they would in the NFL, but seeing nothing more than a scholarship and some stipends.

You haven't explained the huge differences. The vast majority of post-high-school players in any sport are doing it despite it being either a poor financial decision or simply part of a system that's inherently rigged against those players. The 1% get fame and fortune, the 99% wash out with nothing to show for it but years of little income. E-sport aspirants get even less to show for it? It doesn't seem very meaningful to quibble over the difference between "very little" and "practically nothing."

Since I'm going to give up my HN activities after this I'll humor you with a response.

While the line between amateur and professional sports have been blurred there are still very real differences. Amateur athletes aren't well compensated, but they are protected from the world of contracts, agents, transfers etc.

People give golf or tennis as examples of professional sports where you can struggle as a professional, which is laughable for anyone who knows sports history. These are sports that because of their status has kept a lot of the original characteristics of amateurism in sports (which from the beginning is a status i.e. upper class thing). Countries which have adopted to a modern amateur approach (with government support, non-profit organisations etc) to those sports have also been punching above their weight.

So what is huge difference between e-sports and other professional sports? For one they don't actually own their sport. I'm not a huge intellectual property fan, but in the case of professional sports it's hugely important. It's the basis for most if not all professional sports organisations. Most of e-sports does not make any salary, if they do or even if the don't they are signed to a team which takes part winnings in tournaments. So you have a situation where it's hard to make a living like in amateur sports, but you don't have the support network or limits of the same. At the same time you have to deal with the contracts and incentives from professional sport, but you don't get the benefits of intellectual property deals and major leagues and therefor salaries.

To some degree this is changing, especially in Korea, but it's still more of a business than a sport. Sports at it's core is competition to find out who is the best. You do that by having fairly similar conditions over a longer time. That's what amateur and professional sport organisations do or, at least, should do.

That said I'm not even sure the discussion should be about if e-sports is a professional or amateur sport, but if it's organized enough to be either or for that matter even considered a sport at all. Is chess a sport? How about poker? Or day trading? Fashion modeling?

I find myself having a severe lack of motivation while writing this, but hopefully it made some sense.

Thats not true in the slightest. I know a pro strongman who doesn't make enough in prize money to cover his training, let alone flying to contests, and I used to work in pro tennis where the bottom tier (still pro players) are borrowing money and living off relatives and national sports grants.

I've realized that this is pretty useless to discuss on HN, with downvotes and anecdotal evidence.

Pro golfers in the minor league circuits are often in the red.

Lest anyone thinks that this is not big business, the largest prize pool in gaming is the Dota International (held once a year).

It's currently sitting at > $12m (split between 5 players on a team, their manager, and who knows who else). It will probably rise to over $15m by the time the tournament is on.

Of interest is that the prize pool comes from the "normal" players playing the game - you buy in game items, and 25% of the revenue from that goes to the prize pool for the tournament. The items themselves are completely optional and cosmetic only. And, of course, valve takes the other 75%.

> And, of course, valve takes the other 75%.

Not disagreeing, but they probably use a large portion of that money to actually pay for the organization, venue, designs of the compendium, the staffs, and everything else involved with the International. All that can't be cheap so I'm not sure which portion of that 75% is valve's profit. Does anybody have any ideas?

I don't think it's really meaningful to look at it like that. The tournament isn't funded specifically by sales of the items which contribute to the prize pool; it's just a general marketing expense to increase the number of players. Even if everyone decided to boycott compendiums for some reason, the whole thing could be a net profit if they spent the same amount of money in the dota store on other things (actually, it'd be more profitable...).

The winning team doesn't take the entire 12 million, thats the prizepool for the entire tournament. However its still a lot of money. If you qualified for the LAN finals you're getting a piece of that. If you look at http://www.esportsearnings.com/players, the top 5 players were the 5 players on team Newbee, the International 4 champions from last year. They each made over 1 million dollars from that one tournament.

>"who are subject to the same amount of physical and mental stress and grueling 12 hour practices while making welfare wages. "

They aren't subject to anything. They choose.

While true, it's not adults getting into pro-gaming, it's usually teenagers. Kids who would rather play Starcraft than study, and, despite being very good, lack the foresight of knowing what kind of hole they're digging themselves into.

I can show you a lot of teenagers doing the same but playing football(soccer), less hours at least, and even pushed by their parents with the hope that some of them will be the next Messi, Xavi or Ronaldo.

Exactly, and because it's part of the "normal culture", then no-one bats an eye (I exaggerate a bit there).

If we were to look at football and basketball sports' effect on children, and how pervasive and time-consuming it is to normal teens/young-adults the same way we do when it comes to "e-sports", then we'd be positively disgusted (a bit of extrapolation there).

I think there is a difference in that sports like football and basketball are more limited by the body's abilities to perform. A natural mechanism for moderation. You don't have gaming binges where someone plays football for 18 hours straight without sleeping. But this happens all the time with gaming.

Furthermore, most traditional sports also improve one's physiological health. This is not the case for e-sports where one is simply sitting in a chair all day. I can understand why a parent would be more concerned about their kid that doesn't leave his computer than their kid that plays three sports a year.

But in both e-sports and traditional sports you have the risk of sacrificing too much for the sake of the game. I have known many athletes in both camps that have done this.

Is it true that competitive sports are actually physically healthy? I'm probably just over valuing notable cases, but even things like ballet tear up feet pretty badly. And tennis is known for injuries, isn't it? American football is rough, though I suppose normal football is basically the same as targeted running/sprinting.

It really is a trade off. Like I play football competitively and I know that I'm wearing out my joints, but my muscle mass and bone density is way higher than that of the average female. Muscle mass and bone density have a huge effect on your health later in life. Meanwhile, physically inactive people my age (20s) are losing muscle mass, decreasing their metabolism, increasing their body fat percentage, and so on.

Yeah, I probably could just do weightlifting and cardio on their own (and will sometime have to transition to this) but to be honest football is my primary motivation for doing these things in the first place. A lot of competitive athletes make a successful transition from competitive play to less injurious activities after their careers and are none the worse for it. (Minus NFL concussion cases...)

There are also intangible benefits to playing competitive sports. Being part of a team, working hard to achieve a goal, being challenged, pushing your limits, pursuing something you're passionate about, succeeding at an elite level... Sports can give you unique experiences you'll treasure for your lifetime and also shape you as a person.

It really is an optimization between the all the trade offs. Every year I have to weigh what the sport gives me and what the sport takes away and decide whether it's my last season.

At the very top you'll probably have to search very hard to find a sport that is actually good for your health. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8XnQyI3Mgbc is a great documentary on what it takes to win gold in the Olympics. These athletes knowingly - and willingly - trade their health for a shot at their goals.

Soccer players hit the ball with their head. Hard. I'd be unsurprised if that resulted in measurable damage after a few years.

In fact, it seems it does. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/does-heading-a-soc...

I thought I read somewhere that most physical sports aren't really that healthy when played at the intensity level needed to be a national-level star. Everything in moderation, and all that.

I agree, in my opinion there are more productive and 'healthy' uses of ones time. But, my opinion doesn't mean anything. Forcing/coercing kids into doing what you think is best for them is not productive either.

Making choices for children, who are otherwise too immature, is the whole point of parenting. Of course, you can "coerce" them, or you can "guide" them, but then we are talking about different means for the same end goal. And then we can talk about parents that are too busy or uninterested to give a fuck and it's precisely in such families that you see children being allowed to play computer games for hours on end.

I don't really get the line on "forcing/coercing" children. If your child would end up a drug addict, would you just let her be? Why is it any different with computer gaming addiction?

Computer gaming is an easy target, but this has been going on for decades with pro sports and music, and probably millennia with art. Teenagers have always gotten hooked on things their parents deem useless or unhealthy.

My comment was not from the perspective of a parent.

Would it be so different with a good friend? If there if someone you are attached to, and if this someone is heading full steam toward a cliff or a dead end, you'll tell them, no? Or do whatever you can to help them. Or maybe you believe that anything about other people is not your concern in any respect?

Parenting is not an exception, it is not a different world where values change. It is just the same world, with people caring or not for others, with some responsibility and affection. It's just a bit more acute and produce good counter examples to those believing one should not care about others.

My third kid was born yesterday. I'm still getting drunk with friends once a week, I do my hobbies in the evening (programming, pictures, music), I spend very good moments with the kids, I let them grow and make sure they have plenty of different thing for their curiosity, gosh I even played gta with my 5yo boy, but I certainly would never encourage any of them to try to become a professional sport player, or e-sport. Or model. Or musician. The odds of having an happy life in these domains is infinitesimal.

Happy? Maybe the wrong word choice. Certainly folks can be happy doing these things. Maybe happier than any other job. They probably cannot be wealthy doing those things.

I find it to be a very good choice of words.

The equation for happiness is simple. First of all you need your basic necessities covered, things like food, shelter, clothing, access to health care, plus interactions with other human beings and the possibility of having sex from time to time. Then your expectations have to be smaller than your achievements. When this doesn't happen, it's a recipe for depression.

It's easy to see how sports can lead to unhappiness, but to make matters worse, when comparing soccer or basketball or volley to e-sports, at least from those sports you get a healthy body out of it ;-)

I maintain happy. In the article they said these gamers actually do bit like to play anymore. Same with music, in most cases professional musician hate playing music, but of course none of them will ever admit this.

I know many professional musicians. None of them have this attitude. They are on cloud 9 when they are playing. This is sour grapes I think.

Yeah, doesn't this describe the pursuit of at least half the people on HN?

It is still incredible to watch the Starcraft Brood War games played by FlaSh:


I often forget just how good BW was to watch. I used to stay up all night watching ProLeague on some Korean stream, way before Twitch was a thing.

SC2 killed it though, but it was just never anywhere near as entertaining to watch.

I still hold that grief. If not for SC2, we could still be watching another Flash vs Jaedong today. So SC2 basically killed a source of entertainment for me.

I like watching SC2, it is a lot different than BW though.

SC:BW was so hard. That's all I have to say.

For context, Flash, with the large scar on his arm had an elo rating in brood war that may have made him the best player of any game -ever-. I think I've seen it noted somewhere that his highest elo was higher than even famous chess grandmasters.

This implies that after over a decade of hardcore professional broodwar around the world, he was more dominant at his peak than anyone else has ever been in a game with elo ratings.

> I think I've seen it noted somewhere that his highest elo was higher than even famous chess grandmasters.

Elo ratings are not comparable across games (or across different player pools in the same game). All an Elo rating (or a rating in a similar system) measures is how you perform compared to others in that same rating pool. Each group that runs an Elo rating pool has parameters they choose when setting up and when maintaining the pool that affect the average and the spread of ratings.

Wow! But it doesn't seem like that's the case, several Chess players peaked well beyond that. Magnus Carlsen at 2882, for instance. [1] But that doesn't mean that you're not right, he could possibly be the best player ever.

[1]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_top_chess_players...

Doesn't seem like it. Magnus Carlsen has 2882.

I wonder why real-time-strategy (RTS) is dead outside of the StarCraft 2 e-sport niche. RTS used to be the best selling game category around 2000.

Mostly because designing for e-Sports has a massive effect on options and creativity of an RTS - keeping the game balanced and fair for competitive play comes with a massive tradeoffs in creativity, faction diversity and player options (especially if the developer does not have large amounts of time for balance testing).

And since for some reason everyone wants a piece of that pie the RTSes have become a bit... bland. No more crazy unbalanced C&C superweapons, no more unfeasable "useless" underground units, no more extreme unbalanced side diversity of Relics DoW1, no more composable units of Earth 2150. The games got boring for everyone but the most core RTS group (which is probably already playing SC2) in SP. They got extremely unpleasant to play in MP if you're a beginner (SC2 is anything but fun on basic levels with it's economic timing pressure while playing).

As a consequence, the majority of SP players have rejected those games (and in a lot of cases moved to more accessible MOBAs) and the extremely pro community just isn't big enough to splinter into several games communities.

I absolutely agree that striving for greater "balance" has ruined, or at least made less fun, a lot of games. Knowing that the maps in, say Halo, are optimized by hotspot and killspot to spread out play, or knowing that map and player data is used to redesign levels in, say, Left 4 Dead, is kinda depressing.

With such finely-tuned games (and the Youtube strategy sharing mentioned in a sibling), it becomes frankly rather tedious to compete.

It's especially annoying in games that heavily favor micro management for units...it favors people who can quickly execute a dumb strategy over ones who can slowly execute a smart one. It favors people who can remember exact build timelines. Because all else is equal (because the sharp edges have been ground off during "balancing"), the winners are just the folks who can interface fastest.

And when you're game depends on basically "Here, who can deal with our clunky interface the fastest", it feels like bullshit artificial difficulty.

In Total Annihilation, for example, we always found that unit counts were large enough and AI decent enough that fights became about mid-long term planning and basically warring economies, not who could successfully dance a flock of zergs most effectively through a static defense.

Thanks for the insight.

I play from time to time 10-15 year old RTS games like Age of Mythology and C&C Generals against bots in SP on random maps. For me it's a lot more rewarding playing a real RTS than going from bottom left to top right in e.g. League of Legends.

RTS is great as it is about planning economy (buildings, resources) and planning war strategies. RTS aren't that hard to grabs', a new player can learn it in 10-15min, but a game can last up to about two hours or more - and one cannot watch TV while playing or something else aside with a real RTS.

For some reason it seems a newer wave of players favor repetitive gameplay with instant rewards that may have familiarity with gambling mechanics (getting hooked) over freedom and choice.

I would pay premium for a new RTS game that delivers the old gameplay mechanics and has a more realistic theme (like C&C, Age of Empire - and no aliens) with a good highend graphics and physics game engine.

Add to that the level of increased communication and strategy available via internet and especially sites like youtube. Now everyone has the tools and info to tell which strategy is the best, at lower levels you're often better suited to just follow the exact steps someone else used and you'll win, but that's boring. Not doing it implies always losing however.

There's room for creativity only at the very bottom and the very top.

I'm not so sure. There used to be plenty of walk-throughs published in gaming magazines as far back as I can remember. While I don't recall any for RTS' (Dune II wasn't that hard, IMHO) -- I do seem to recall eg: Shadow of the Beast, Another World, Flashback and Chaos Engine having some big guide specials in the 90s.

Sure, it's easier to just go and look stuff up now -- but I don't really think that has much to do with the decline. After all, if someone wants to ruin their fun by following a manual -- why would they spend money on the game in the first place?

EA happened. They bought and destroyed the various classic RTS series. Westwood and Command and Conquer, Bullfrog and Dungeon Keeper. Should I link you to this: https://i.imgur.com/QzSPDMY.png

Opening of the market- gaming was suddenly less important then a consumeable story. Everyone can consume a actionflick- not everyone can become a general and really keep a battlefield coordinated. The genre is also not so ideal to tell a story.

right, the "ladder anxiety" in being a reasonably good solo ladder SC2 player can be tough to get over for a new player with each loss, even though the matchmaking algo is pretty good at keeping you at a 50% winrate over time. The multitasking required for RTS is difficult and can be frustrating. It's also unclear how to improve efficiently, if you're not plugged in with the various forums/reddits/youtube, etc.

All of the other team based MOBA/FPS games seem so much more accessible and immediately rewarding. Aside from the current free-to-play boom, I think big companies like Blizzard see this and pour resources into Overwatch and Heroes of the Storm.

As a person who has played starcraft regularly since BW and SC2 beta and still plays today, if I was a kid looking at the competitive gaming landscape today, i feel like there's little chances I would go for and RTS over everything else that's out there.

Yeah. Everything has to have a story and dialog nowadays. New X-COM was especially painful. I hate when they interrupt or bend good game mechanics with totally unnecessary Hollywood story.

To add even more, I'm going to throw out a hypothesis (and fair warning, this is all speculation on my part.)

I think what others have said is correct, but I also have to wonder how access to broadband and the internet affected the games. Back in the day, most RTS were single player games with a nice multiplayer addition. But you would have problems playing it without going to a friends house/LAN party. There, you were playing against friends and people you were effectively face to face with. It was competitive, but you were there for fun.

Once the games became focused towards multiplayer, with a single player as the side, the games were mostly about competing against other people, people you didn't know, had very little social connection too, and it was all about how fast you could click. I think (at least for me, this was true) made the games much less fun. To have any chance of actually winning, you had to be very good. When you're playing people you don't really know, only to lose the game over and over again online, it doesn't quite become as much fun.

> To have any chance of actually winning, you had to be very good.

This is a relatively solved problem. With SC2, unless you're in the top or bottom 1% of players, your win rate over a sufficiently large number of games will be 50%. You'll have losing streaks (and they can be pretty stressful), but you don't get thrown into game after game where you have no hope of winning.

To add to what the other guys here said (EA and stuff) I would add lack of RTS games on consoles and FPS taking over those platforms

I remember there were plenty of RTS games for the Genesis and SNES, but by the time of the PS2 hardly any strategy games launched on consoles.

PC-only titles are scarce these days because profitability is too low to justify an AAA budget

This is misleading. The most popular competitive games: League of Legends, Dota 2, CSGO, and SC2, are all PC exclusives. The problem with RTS games isn't that they don't work on consoles, it's that they aren't that fun to play for most people. It takes a long to play a single game, and there's no progression.

With the push to make strategy games more like RPGs (heck look at all of the FPS games with "loadouts" and RPG elements), games like League and Dota really work much better, and have more people playing them than any other game ever. For example, more people played league of legends yesterday[1] than have bought the last CoD game since November[2].

Obviously only taking league into account kind of breaks everything, because it's the most popular anything that has ever existed, but I'm not sure how people don't understand that the PC gaming market is much larger than the console gaming market[3].

[1] http://www.forbes.com/sites/insertcoin/2014/01/27/riots-leag...

[2] http://www.vgchartz.com/gamedb/?name=advanced+warfare

[3] http://www.forbes.com/sites/marcochiappetta/2014/07/14/the-c...

> it's that they aren't that fun to play for most people

I question if repetitive games like MOBAs are really more fun, or just have an greedy and addicted game mechanics that has been pioneered with the old Diablo 1 (1996). Is it only me that playing MOBA is to let your off steam, clear your mind like playing a simple ego-shooter or passively watching a TV series on your sofa after you come home from hard work. Or is it really fun to play like traditional non-repetitive games?

Example: I remember Farmville, and for me the fun part was very short and it quickly got a lot of repetitive greedy work and the game tried a lot to get me hooked.

MOBAs have a killer learning curve. You only know you can be better because for about a month straight when you first start you just /lose/ to people who are obviously better.

But you do improve, and you start to feel like a bad ass.

Of course then ELO comes in and ensures you only ever win 50% of the time. It is always made obvious that there is another level of skill above what you currently possess.

I prefer single player games with bots which difficulty level is selectable. Playing against 8 "very hard" bots and winning 80% and having the freedom of a real/classic RTS is a lot more rewarding at least to me. Some people prefer repetitive work that the hone ability to perfection in a factory like a human robot. Some prefer always changing gameplay that requires macro and micro management and economic amd military strategy fun to play. If there is a game selection for both groups, everyone would be happy.

>PC-only titles are scarce these days because profitability is too low to justify an AAA budget

This is one of those things that gets repeated that just BS. Counter Strike, Dota and LoL are all PC exclusive and they're all where professional esports is clustered right now. Valve is making money hand over fist on microtransactions. They take a small cut from each one, and all you have to do is look at the recent activity [1]* on a single item from a single game then extrapolate it out to realize how much money they have rolling in.

* I just went to the steam community market, clicked on the first case I saw an linked to it.

1) http://steamcommunity.com/market/listings/730/Falchion%20Cas...

So, first of all clearly the RTS in the generic sense isn't actually dead (e.g. MOBAs, tactical wargames, tower defense games). Even the classic C&C-style base building RTS isn't quite dead, a few still get released every year. For example last year there was Planetary Annihilation and Grey Goo. It's just that even the nostalgia factor can't make those games succeed any more.

The problem is that the classic RTS isn't actually very fun to play. There's too much cognitive overload, too much micro-management, and perhaps a bit too many genre conventions that need to be crammed into the game making it actually feel like the same game I played 20 years ago. Every time I try one of them these days it's like one hour before I give up realizing I don't actually want to play it. In contrast to that I could obsess for weeks over a non-traditional RTS like Offworld Trading Company.

> e.g. MOBAs, tactical wargames, tower defense games

None are RTS. I prefer the idea of Real Time Tactics for these games, if that makes more sense. Smaller scale individual battles vs large scale building out of armies and large battles.

People like MOBA's because they are too dumb for RTS? Sounds plausible. /s

Maybe it's MOBAs catching up?

MOBA originated as a sub-genre of (A)RTS. There are also other sub-genres like MMO strategy games (e.g. Clash of Clans).

That said, I remember RTS as Triple-A genre with games like Age of Empires, Command & Conquer, Age of Mythology, Empire Earth, Dune, Star Craft, WarCraft, etc. A complete genre has been dead since 2006. RTS doesn't translate very well to consoles with their controller input device, though it would work fine on touch devices and on the evergreen PC/notebook.

As a traditional athlete that has also dabbled in competitive Smash, I think every athlete has to ask themselves: Is it worth it? Not just in the immediate sense of getting back into the game, but in the long run.

I've watched too many teammates continue playing after it was clear their time was up. Always coming back for one more season when it was clear their bodies had had enough. I'm reaching the point myself where I had to figure out how much longer I'm going to play. I'll be done after my tenth season or sixth surgery or first major concussion, whichever comes first.

I'm going to have sports surgery #4 this summer. This dude has gotten one surgery, doesn't seem like a big deal to me. The author is right in the people need to stop freaking out.

One difference I'd like to note is that while e-sports and traditional sports have a lot of similarities, most traditional sports have a physical exercise component that benefits one's health. So I look at the sports I play and yeah, I've had three surgeries already, but at the same time I'm way healthier and in shape when I play them. So it's a tradeoff. I can't say the same about when I play competitive Smash.

The analogy is simple, gaming is a sort of sport. The professionals are fully into it, the fans play the game as well, support their favourite teams and watch tournaments, just like any other sport. When comparing games like dota and chess, the similarity is even more evident. But it will take some time for this analogy to be accepted worldwide.

I have to make a comparison.

My friend's brother-in-law is an ex kickboxing featherweight champion. The man does not have physical scars, but his brain is majorly damaged. He has some communication troubles, but the only thing his brain preserved is his physical prowess. American football players often play games just weeks after a concussion. Boxers... don't even get me started.

e-sports are IMO the least damaging of the professional sports. As a comparison much fewer e-sports gamers die due to injuries, and much fewer are crippled for life. The sedetary lifestyle is in fact a problem, but not too much more than it is for the average office worker.

Injuries? Every sport has them, some even worse(MMA, boxing, fighting sports in general). From time to time this articles pup up about pc gaming. Its like any other sport, people should get over it.

Did the authors never meet any professional athletes?

If you do any sort of sport (actual physical sport) on a competitive level, even in a local league, you do get hurt. And you work through your injuries and you keep training.

Did you read the article past the headline?

>One of his colleagues later suggested that if I'd been interviewing the world's most-decorated marathon champion, I wouldn't be surprised if they had damaged knees.

>Nor would I suggest a footballer needing surgery was "too far", the phrase I'd used to describe Mr Lee's arm.

>He had a point.

I would suggest a footballer needing surgery is "too far". The purpose of sports is to provide a framework that motivates healthy exercise. Once it gets to the point where it's frequently causing harm rather than benefit to the participants, the purpose has been lost along with any reason society should consider the activity normal or tolerable.

... I'm pretty sure that is not the purpose of sports. The purpose from my perspective is: Advertising, Gambling, and entertainment. Since when has it been at all about exercise? Defensive Linesmen are hardly a "healthy exercise" motivation.

Sports that have little to do with exercise:

- Racing (Horse, car, hound)

- Chess

- MMA (While they are super fit, it isn't "healthy")

- Boxing

- Bowling

- Sumo (nothing healthy there)

... The list could go on, but I think I've made my point.

Okay, to clarify:

The purpose of sport for the companies that make money from it is, well, making money, and that's from advertising, gambling and entertainment, as you say.

But society grants sport a lot of tolerance and even encouragement that it does not grant to other such profit centers. What is the motive for society to do this? Answer: it dates from the time when sport was healthy exercise. Now that the ratchet of ruthless negative-sum competition has turned sport into something that does more harm than good, this social tolerance is highly inappropriate, and it should be revoked.

You are mixing pro sports with people playing casually. Pro sports is about players pushing themselves to the limit for the audience's entertainment. Modern day gladiators. You think of society like some noble, all-knowing and wise entity. It is not, I'm sorry to tell. Modern day gladiator games is all there is to it and the crowd loves it.

Panem et circenses.

That's because reality mixes them. If it was just a case of professional sports ruining a few hundred lives for entertainment like in the decadent years of the Roman Empire, well that would be bad but on the basis of sheer numbers it would be small potatoes compared to things like a million deaths a year from road accidents or the major powers treating Syria and Ukraine like puppies fighting over chew toys, so I probably wouldn't bother to comment. But it's creeping into the general culture. For example: how many Americans have played football at least for a while in school? Now consider that everyone who plays American football suffers irreversible brain damage, and the total harm becomes substantial even on the scale of bad things happening in the world at large.

Boxing, Football/Soccer, Rugby (which was the precursor to American Football), and so on, were all codified and set up as formal sports to fulfill explicitly moral/social/physical purposes. And for a long time, they had rules banning professional participation, in an attempt to avoid the sort of problem's we're discussing, and protect the sport's role within society.

>And for a long time, they had rules banning professional participation, in an attempt to avoid the sort of problem's we're discussing, and protect the sport's role within society.

I have never heard of any rules against professionalism in soccer, or even norms about it. Boxing has always been a sport where the very best were pros. The gentleman's code bit was in the rules against biting, eye gouging or using your legs. Even rugby is at best half true. Rugby split into union and league over professionalism. I believe union in France akways had sh shamateurs as well. I don't know enough about American Football to comment but what I do know about American sports culture does not incline me to believe there was ever a ban on pro play.

Insofar as I'm familiar with a sport you're wrong on all counts except rugby union.

I agree about the purpose of pro sports. Thinking otherwise is like believing in unicorns. I am astonished by how out of touch with reality some people are.

Most of the sports you listed require tremendous exercise though. Especially car racing. Fighting sports... don't know why you list them at all. Even chess requires a broad exercising regimen.

Pro Baseball players (especially pitchers) frequently need surgery.

With Dota 2 sitting at an $11,000,000 prize pool, it's a little shocking that there isn't more structure and regulation in a massive sporting event like this.

Given the development of LoL in Korea and Dota in China (Along with CS:GO and others), an international esports comittee is something desperately needed for increasing player salaries, and driving up viewership.

Regulation which would kill the little fun left?

But what game is going to willing choose to be regulated? It's not like they're going to compete with other tournaments/events of the same game.

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