Whilst traditional sports came to a standstill during the COVID-19 pandemic, except for Football in Belarus, esports, despite a few cancellations, managed to keep gamers from around the world entertained. So, two of our writers, Chris and Dillon, decided to come together to give their thoughts on the current esports scene.
Esports in 2020 and the effect of COVID-19 on local events – Chris
The coronavirus outbreak in late 2019 has left a massive shockwave in the world’s economy, and as we are now in the second half of 2020, its effects are very much still at large. Countless people have lost their job or their source of income, and likewise, a boatload of companies are risking bankruptcy because of the sudden change in logistics and operations that this invisible enemy has brought on us all.
Esports is no different, and while online events have seen a spike in both numbers, viewership and even the amount of people that have started making wagers on competitive matches have increased, the big local tournaments which characterized professional players’ lives have disappeared for the entire first half of 2020. The first example which comes to mind is the total cancellation of the 2020 Tekken World Tour. As the name implies, this is a collection of tournaments taking place in locations all around the world; from Argentina to Singapore, down to Melbourne and up in Texas, passing through Greece.
All competitors of all ages are eligible to take part in these tournaments and gain points, which build a leaderboard comprising the best talent the worldwide Tekken scene can provide. At the end of the year, a much anticipated 20-man invitational event with the top spots of the leaderboard will take place to secure the title of Tekken World Tour Champion. All of this had to be forgotten because of the coronavirus outbreak, just like the famed Insomnia Series. Taking place at the NEC in Birmingham, the iSeries has been a bi-yearly event awaited by the hardcore Counterstrike fans eager to get to see some of the best teams around the globe face each other.
One game which however is fighting back against this virus is League of Legends, Riot’s juggernaut MOBA. The LCS Championship for North America as well as the LEC for Europe is still going strong with their summer season.
Despite having no prescribed way forward, the League of Legends Championship Series was forced to halt play due to coronavirus.@IAmGrza spoke with our @andrew_cohen0 about how LCS overcame obstacles anbd shifted gameplay to an online and remote setting: https://t.co/yLubP3BOPT pic.twitter.com/uzTMVxZnBa— SportTechie (@SportTechie) July 6, 2020
Originally these tournaments were supposed to be held as local events, but given the strong drive of the players and organizers alike to keep the tournament going, spring season started offline and ended online. Since the virus is still, unfortunately, having its way around the world, the summer season will be an all-online affair. This is quite encouraging for a lot of gamers who for obvious reasons have been affected by competing in local or even overseas tournaments. Hopefully, this will not have a lasting effect, as we cannot wait for the competition to resume locally. Until then, better pay your internet bills and get your snacks ready!
Esports is shining brighter than ever before – Dillon
Esports is shining brighter than ever before. Unlike professional sports, esports players have the ability to play their matches online, a medium which has always existed but has become even more prominent during the pandemic of COVID-19. Most if not all tier 1 in-person tournaments have been cancelled, but gamers still get together to play and compete against each other. NBA team Phoenix Suns even transitioned the rest of their season to the virtual world of NBA2k20 earlier this year (NBC). This is one example of modern-day problem solving, while it may not be ideal it is functional.
According to The Washington Post, The Overwatch League (OWL) has rescheduled and continued their entire season via online tournaments. Playoffs begin September 3rd and will continue for two weeks leading up to the Grand Finals (Amenabar). If travel is not possible at that time they will crown two regional winners, a less than ideal situation. Players, coaches and fans are rallying to replicate the same energy that they would feel in person by streaming and watching these tournaments live on Youtube gaming (Webster). It’s not likely to replace the traditional format in terms of experience, but it is not a bad plan b.
RiotGames has started a charity fundraiser to help support the impact of COVID-19. In a recent video on their youtube channel League of Legends, Joe Tung, lead producer at RiotGames said: “To date, RiotGames has donated over $4.5 million to COVID relief efforts globally”. This was posted on June 25th. Since then they have started a 4-week fundraiser in which 100% of the money spent on a specific set of content will be given to the RiotGames social impact fund.
It’s a non-profit account which enables them to allocate the money to local and global non-profit communities. Some of this money will be used to help healthcare and medical workers and organizations acquire resources that they need to continue treating and healing patients. To donate, go to the League of Legends virtual store to purchase skins, chromas, and icons for Kennen M.D., Surgeon Shen, and Nurse Akali. Look for the social impact badge next to the content to see which items your money will go to (League of Legends).
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