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How Esports has Changed During Lockdown

esports scotland tournament spectators crowd

Scottish Esports League: Season 2 Finals at Resonate Total Gaming 2019

As we approach the anniversary of the UK’s first lockdown (trying saying that without wanting to fire yourself into the sun) it seems like a good time to reflect on the effects and changes we’ve seen on the esports scene – the good, the bad, and the really bad.

Like everyone else on the planet right now, we've been doing everything we can to keep ourselves and our community busy, having fun, and most importantly safe. And most-most importantly - we’ve been playing games on games on games.

How has Esports Changed in General?

The esports world at large has at once seen lots of change and very little – esports competitions are still running, albeit virtually, and esports gamers are finding ways to adapt to the new way of gaming. During the deepest, darkest days of lockdown when sport, theatre, and basically every other form of live entertainment was on shutdown, esports was thriving.

Because online gaming has been around for years now, the switch to fully remote tournaments was a relatively smooth process. This is because, when you take away all the bells and whistles, all you need to play esports is a computer and a decent internet connection!

Speaking of internet connections, we wouldn’t want to imply that esports hasn’t had its challenges to overcome over the last year. One of the biggest issues found was the international aspect of esports; once upon a time, if you wanted to have esports gamers compete from all around the world, they would gather in one place. But now that everything is remote, esports competition organisers have to contend with the bane of gamers everywhere: dodgy wifi.

A split second of lag can mean the difference between victory and failure, and the further apart players are, the higher the probability of lag. This means that esports tournaments taking place with teams all around the world has been a problem. However, The Overwatch League has proposed a method to produce a minimum latency between teams from all over the world, ensuring everyone is playing on a levelled field, and could set a new standard for maintaining competitive integrity remotely.

All of this combined has seen Twitch views skyrocket, a decent indication of how well esports has been doing under lockdown. However, the esports industry has had some trouble, like everyone else. Overall esports revenue has declined over the past year, thanks to things like cancelled events and the need to hold the remainder remotely.

But worry not! The esports industry’s burst of popularity is sure to carry on after lockdown, leading to a real gaming renaissance once we’re able to game in person again.

How has Esports Affected Other Sports?

As you may have noticed, most sports have been on hold for the past year, with a few slowly opening up in recent weeks. This left many people hungry for the excitement of live spectator events, which caused some sports to turn to esports for advice.

formula 1 esports tournament trophy

Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix on November 29, 2020.

Formula 1, for example, dipped its toes into the esports arena back when it was unsafe to compete in-person. This saw huge F1 stars like Charles Leclerc, Sabastian Vettel, and Jenson Button doing some virtual laps in officially organised F1 esports tournaments. These world-famous names have definitely brought a lot of new esports fans along with them, which is a fantastic boon for the gaming community.

As well as this, the NBA quickly established a new virtual arm of the Phoenix Suns to represent the NBA in online tournaments of NBA 2K. This decision was made very quickly after the regular season was cancelled last year, and the league has gone from strength to strength, raking in millions of views.

These are just two of the many, many sports out there who have embraced the esports life. The fact that all of these official sporting entities are embracing online gaming has gone a long way in legitimising esports and has definitely drawn in a lot of new fans who otherwise wouldn’t have given it a try. On the other hand, staging virtual games has given sports companies increased exposure, so it’s really a symbiotic relationship. Here’s hoping that moving forward, the world of esports and non-virtual sports will remain entwined and supportive of each other!

How has Esports Scotland Changed?

We’re not going to lie, there has been a steep learning curve for us here at Esports Scotland. All of our meetings have moved online, as have our esports tournaments. It’s been a tricky transition, particularly because esports is a sociable beast by nature, but we’ve all been marching on as well as we can.

Our biggest change came in the summer of 2020. We'd hoped to hold the finals of SEL3 in a huge LAN event in Edinburgh or Glasgow; this obviously wasn't possible, so we were forced to get creative! And thus, Esports Scotland's BigFest Online came into being.

ESS bigfest online poster

We managed to come together virtually at a time where we all really needed some company, and even managed to raise some money for charity, so it's fair to say that BigFest Online was a huge success.

Another silver lining to come out of all of this is the fact that we were able to run our first UK-wide League tournament and welcome new players from all over the country. And our regularly scheduled Community Cups have seen people joining in who otherwise would have to travel from far and wide to participate. We love seeing our community grow, so this has only been a positive for us. We are now in the process of organising the next Scottish Esports League – watch this space for more details!

Other than that, we’ve been having the same problems everyone else has – it’s been a difficult year for us all. But the endgame is in sight, and it won’t be long before we’re all back gaming together in person.

In the meantime, if you’re having trouble spending a lot of time in front of a computer, we’ve whipped together some tips for healthy gaming that you should check out!

What’s Going to Happen in the Future?

We can only speculate – we hope things return to as close to normal as they can as soon as they can. But that’s not to say we want to forget all we’ve learned during lockdown. We’ve opened an international door that can’t be closed – and we wouldn’t want it to be.

Esports companies, including us here at Esports Scotland, have the capacity to bring people together from all over the world, in a way that no other sport ever has before. We can easily have esports gamers competing with other games thousands of miles away, and sharing in a passion and love for gaming in a way that has never before been possible.

So while we can’t wait to geek out together face to face, we’re also mindful of the positives that have come out of this past year, and are incredibly excited about the potential of the sport – esports is and always have been, the sport of the future.


About the Author

Calum Rosie is a writer and editor, and the Writing Coordinator for Esports Scotland. He is world-renowned for his elite gaming skills, charm, handsomeness, is responsible for editing these bios and is not above lying in them.


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