As we stumble toward the end of 2019, painfully aware another decade is about to be in the books, we reach that time of the year when esports awards are handed out, and not the kind that everyone loves. Throughout the course of the previous months we crowned champions in Dota, CS:GO, League of Legends, Overwatch and beyond, all of whom earned their titles through competition, but now it’s time for awards voted on by the P-words: your peers or the public.
This means that social media becomes a sea of bile and division due to everyone having a different perception of who should have won, or just being annoyed that they did not, but it may well be that this is an inevitability. In some ways, the idea of an esports awards makes almost no sense, and the equivalent in traditional sport is nowhere near as significant, which is probably a matter of scale.
To make things a little less confusing, let’s lay out the bare bones of how the world’s most popular sport does things. Football, as it’s known in Europe and most of the non-American world, is a global phenomenon that captures the imagination of men, women, children and others across the world, and as with every sport there are a series of individual gongs handed out each season, despite it being definitively a team game.
As you can imagine, it’s not an easy task to pick out the greatest player in any year, with the combination of individual records and team success making it even more difficult to arrive at a consensus as to who the ‘best’ really is. That’s before you get to comparing a defender with an attacker, for example, in a game where no player is able to win single-handedly, and every match contains more complexity than most viewers can appreciate.
As you’ll no doubt all know, that is true for the vast majority of esports, especially at the top level where team games have come to dominate the viewing landscape and players must play specific roles. Be it CS or Dota, League or Overwatch, each person has a job to do that is normally very different from the man next to them, and when it comes to handing out prizes it’s very tough to compare like for like in any single scene.
Now, take that initial problem, and multiply it out almost an infinite number of times by including every relevant esports title in a single awards show. Sure, there are general ‘sports’ awards shows in the mainstream too, like the Laureus World Sports Awards, but they garner little public attention due to the fact most fans are lovers of a single sport, and comparing a marathon runner with a F1 driver or rugby star makes little sense.
As is so often the case, the solution to this issue is probably just time. Right now, esports is in a place where an awards event specifically for one game probably doesn’t make that much economic sense, so we are stuck with these group award shows that seem to please nobody. This will likely cease to be the case as games continue to grow, and one day hopefully there will be enough of an audience to justify single-game prizes each year, which also solves another issue.
Today, you have generalised panels of ‘experts’ – who are really just the biggest names from the biggest games and often have limited knowledge outside their own scene due to the demands of keeping up with even a single area or esport. Once we get to a dedicated Dota show, as an example, there would only be Dota people involved in the voting and nomination process, which would logically improve the quality of data used in deciding the eventual winners as well as the social media experience of the average esports fan.
Sadly, there may be some games that never reach the size required to have a significant awards show of their own and only make the main stage of the big shows for extracurricular significance, à la Sonicfox, but many of those scenes are founded on strong grassroots that have survived years in the wilderness. For the rest, it’s probably only a matter of time until they get their own dance to go to, and stop having to mix, mingle and pretend their care about other games. It’s tough to imagine how that wouldn’t improve the quality of the overall experience.