Honestly, a lot of the things that YouTube thinkpieces are citing as The Problem With E-Sports™ are just… like, the nature of professional sports. As participants pour more and more effort into optimising their play for smaller and smaller incremental gains, the meta inevitably converges on two teams with essentially identical compositions running essentially identical strategies to grind each other down in long, relatively predictable battles of attrition punctuated by occasional blink-and-you’ll-miss-it reversals. This is overwhelmingly what an institutionally mature professional sport looks like – why should e-sports be any different?
… Why shouldn’t they be any different? Why is trying to fix problems a bad thing?
Consider that stuff like sports and chess has game design that is extremely static, almost crusty. But for video games, we have patches and sequels and stuff.
Why, in trying to become more like ‘serious’ sports, should E-sports also replicate their flaws? Why should they intentionally eschew their single advantage over physical sports? Why shouldn’t they try to be less predictable, require more genuine strategy, and therefore be more fun for spectators?
I’m not saying we shouldn’t try to fix problems. I’m saying we’re not recognising the problem. Where games that position themselves as e-sports end up is not a consequence of any particular set of game rules: it’s an emergent outcome of professional sports as a social institution. Games that participate in that institution are going to get ground down until they’re professional-sport-shaped whether we like it or not. No amount of pissing around with the on-the-field rules of individual games is going to change that. The problem is not game design – it’s that it isn’t possible to break from the orthodoxy of professional sports while simultaneously chasing after recognition and approval as a professional sport.