We make an enormous amount of decisions on a day to day basis. Have you ever wanted to relinquish all that control and just let somebody else take the reins for a little while? Who better to do that, by the way, than a professional gamer? Let your twitch reflexes be amplified. Their hands will guide your sick flick shots. Give in, and it can all be like that terrible Gerard Butler movie.
What, exactly, does virtual reality add to the world of esports?
It’s not exactly the same, but if this seems appealing to you and you have a VR headset lying around, you can tune into either CS:GO or League of Legends this weekend to experience the competition live-streamed in virtual reality. Rather than having to choose between stepping into the skin of your favorite player in first person mode, or floating above the battlefield of either game as a disembodied specter, this broadcast will combine the two.
Though the new live-stream is designed for VR, it’s actually accessible via web and mobile, meaning you don’t have to own a headset if this is, for some reason, how you want to watch IEM Oakland. But what, exactly, does virtual reality add to the world of esports? According to Stuart Ewen, Product Manager at ESL, “Having a real-time in depth look at everything that happens in a CS:GO match is something unique to a VR broadcast. Now, viewers not only have a bird’s eye view of all the action and a first person feed, but also all of the statistics to put together a high level view of how a round or match unfolds.” But giving over control to the viewers seems like it might encourage more confusion than clarity, despite the bevy of statistics on display.
After watching the International in VR, Philippa Warr said that the experience was novel, but that “it was pretty difficult to get a sense of where things were happening on the map if the casters weren’t specifically calling locations.” Esports aren’t traditionally games that value immersion, that core and oft-repeated capability of virtual reality. This is doubly true for esports as spectated events. In a world where fights can be decided in a matter of seconds, it’s much more important for viewers to see the action than to feel some sense of physical manifestation. Maybe this combination of perspectives will be a better version of exports in VR, but I suspect this technology needs more than just refinement—it needs a clearer reason to exist.