Where to start? I suppose we can begin with a comment that was made on the Pulse today.
”LoL is like Walmart and SC2 is like Whole Foods. We’re a bit stuffy...”
Now one could make an argument that this comment refers to the popularity of the two in terms of sheer viewership. The “we’re a bit stuffy” part at the end along with the context of the comment reveals the intent of the statement for what it really is though; a commentary on the quality of the games in question, not their popularity. Walmart is known for being a place to consume cheap, low quality goods while Whole Foods stores have more expensive, higher quality fare. Essentially this is saying that LoL is cheap in quality while SC2 is not. This is simply a thinly veiled insult whether that was the intent or not. A very similar comment was made awhile back that included text to the tune of “LoL is like American Idol and SC2 is like Breaking Bad.” Again, possibly (probably/politically) spun as talking about popularity, but these types of comments at their core are a commentary on quality.
“Wow Doa must be pretty butt-hurt or something about someone knocking LoL” you might think to yourself. This isn’t the case. I’m personally not bothered by it at all. What I’m bothered by is the implications of comments like this in terms of the influence that they have on esports fans individually and as a community. Making comments likes this aren't just an insult to the game. It’s an insult to the game’s players, fans, and commentators. It says that the interest and effort they put into their game isn't worthwhile. In esports we should always try our best to respect each other’s games and statements like this coming from prominent personalities in the industry do the opposite of that. It helps to cultivate a divisive, self destructive culture that we certainly don’t need in esports and frankly can’t afford in an industry so young.
During the NASL segment Frodan was actually “booed” for having casted LoL in the past. While I’m sure this was done in jest, professionals in the industry really need to be careful about the examples they set for the community. It’s not OK to boo someone for liking a game you don’t like. It’s worse do it publicly on a popular talk show. I’m calling on all the professionals in esports to make an effort to really understand their place and understand the examples that they set through their actions. I’m not saying everyone needs to be G-rated and starched and pressed, but there are certain things that simply aren’t up for debate or even conversation on these shows if we want this industry to grow in a healthy manner. Criticising people for the games they are involved in is definitely one of those things. If you’re lucky enough to be listened to by a lot of people you need to remember what Bob Denver (who played Gilligan on GIlligan’s Island) said once:
“It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.”
In the end bashing a game someone likes and then mentally high-fiving yourself or a friend about it just comes off as this:
A funny thing I’ve noticed about esports fans is that for some reason it seems to be very difficult for them to acknowledge that it’s OK to like one game and not like a different one while at the same time accepting that people like the game that you don’t. It’s fine to have preferences, but that doesn’t entitle you to impose those preferences on other people. Doing this as a prominent person in one game community or the other is an abuse of power in my mind. It's certainly possible to talk about the virtues of your favorite game without condemning another. Fans should be able to make up their own minds about what they like without any sort of artificial guilt placed on them by figures they may look up to.
Mechanically there is more to do in Starcraft 2 than in LoL. This is a fact and not an opinion. Keep in mind thought that this simply means that your hands are doing more things, not your brain. There is also the common human fallacy that says more = better and less = worse. People like to apply that a lot when they talk about Starcraft and LoL. They’d like to think that doing more mechanically means you’re more talented as a videogame player. Anyone who applied that logic to other sports would be laughed at. You won’t see any LoL players switching to SC2 because they don’t feel “hardcore” enough just like you won’t see Football players switching to Hockey because Hockey players perform on ice with skates and manipulate their game object with a bent stick instead of just their body. Sounds silly, doesn’t it?
I don’t want to get into specifics with SC2 and LoL that much because of the above reasons, but I do briefly talk about the mental aspect of LoL. I think everyone on TL is pretty familiar with the multitude of things that go through a pro player’s mind during a game of SC2, but perhaps not as much from the perspective of a LoL pro player. I’d argue that they’re fairly equal, all things considered. Before you rate my blog a 1 and close the tab, let’s take a moment to examine what a Top Lane player is thinking about during the early stages of a typical pro LoL game. It would go something like the following. Don’t worry if you don’t understand all of the terminology. We’re concerned about volume here.
1) I must last-hit to gain gold
2) How do I farm and harass regarding my opponent’s abilities
3) How do I farm and harass regarding my opponent’s starting items
4) Where is my Jungler?
5) Where on the map is the enemy Jungler likely to be due to the farming and ganking path I expect him to follow?
6) Should I push my lane, freeze it, or farm under my turret?
7) Can I leave my lane to go gank another one?
8) When will a good time be to leave my lane to recall and buy items without putting pressure on my lane and thusly, my teammates because of it?
9) What items should I buy considering the state of the other players in the game and the state of my lane?
10) In what order do I level my skills based on the enemy team composition and the items they buy?
Keep in mind these things are being thought about at the same time and that the list will be very different for each of the 5 positions on the team. This list is also probably pretty incomplete (I’m no pro) and changes as the game goes on. My point in listing all that is that very few people really understand the challenge that games like LoL, Dota, HoN, etc have at the professional level. Add to that list that you’ll be doing all that while coordinating as a cohesive unit with four other people against another cohesive unit that will be playing at your level. Playing solo or with a friend or two even at a very high level is literally a different game than the game the pros play. The MOBA genre is just as challenging at the pro level as the RTS genre. The same goes for any fighting game, FPS, you name it. One's just as good as the other and decisions on what to watch are based on personal preference rather than which is the "better game".
In the end mechanics aren’t actually that important. Pro-gaming is a beautiful thing in any game and any genre. Putting mechanical difficulty first is like saying that the instrument someone plays is more important than the music that they make with it. You can’t tell me Wilhelm Kempff is a better musician than BB King because one plays the piano and the other plays the guitar. You could, however tell me that you like BB King more because you like listening to the guitar more than the piano. That difference is one that I wish everyone in esports understood and appreciated. I’m aware that some never will and we’ll have to endure their comments on reddit, casts, and shows (maybe even in this thread!) for all of eternity, but my hope is that as time goes on more and more people will get it. If you’ve gone this far at least I hope you’re bored enough to go and actually play or watch a game you like! We’re wasting our time having to deal with this issue.
I’ll appear on the next episode of The Pulse to discuss it a bit more, but after that I’m done. There’s nothing more to be said and I’ve got casts to prepare for, a HotS clan to run, business-type stuff to do, and games to enjoy myself. You've got a lot of better stuff to do to.
p.s. to Rotterdam, you will come to me for hearing about changes in the PvZ metagame in HotS, but that's a whole different conversation.