Lifetap Volume 01, Issue #041 – Surviving the SMITE World Championship
Cognitive Prime may have walked away from SWC with a cool $1.3 million, but Sardu picked up something else entirely: newfound respect for eSports and the potential of pro gaming events. We’ll look deeper into this freakish phenomenon and more in the latest issue of Lifetap, rounding things out with returning special musical guest Nine Inch Nails. This is one non-stop thrill ride you won’t want to miss!
Being in the thick of any major industry event, it can be hard to find those moments of clarity that allow you to look at things from a purely objective perspective. Throughout the weekend-long SMITE World Championship, it was certainly easy to get caught up in the buzz and excitement for the teams competing for an insane amount of money for such a young game, not to mention the sheer spectacle of the thing. Now that I’ve safely made the journey back to my secret underground laboratory, it seems like a good time to take a crack at assessing what the heck I just paid witness to as a relative outsider / newcomer to the whole e-sports uprising.
Prior to the SWC, I considered e-sports to be either a mythical beast like Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster, or one of the most clever marketing concepts this side of Old Spice Land. (That’s a real place, right?) I wouldn’t necessarily say e-sports can be summarized by either of those two extremes, but the truth has always seemed to live somewhere in between, at least from the outside looking in.
People have been playing video games professionally since before most of the competitors at SWC were even born, but it has always been an area somewhere off on the periphery of my gamer brain. Kind of like how I realize Hello Kitty Online is a real thing, yet my brain refuses to spend more than a nanosecond at a time acknowledging that fact.
As prize pools continue growing to crazy amounts like the over $2.6 million awarded at SWC, cultural barriers finally have a chance of breaking down provided this trending escalation of prize pools continues. While I doubt we’ll ever see major school districts spooling up official e-sports teams anytime soon, I suppose you shouldn’t discount the possibility entirely. Stranger things have happened, after all.
Where things stand currently, e-sports is beginning to be noticed on a greater pop culture level than ever before, but the entire concept still has a long way to go before we see humanoids paying attention on the level of the NFL or other pro sporting events. E-sports sits in that bizarre void zone occupied by things like pro skating. We’re culturally aware that it exists, but I doubt most of us could name a single pro skater outside of obvious brand names like Tony Hawk. And this is coming from someone who spent a solid chunk of their youth as a skater punk, mind you.
At the same time, some bona fide rock stars are beginning to emerge, at least within their respective gaming communities. The mere mention of the name BaRRaCCuDDa this weekend would result in a massive surge of applause from the audience, and it quickly became clear that he is one of the most respected hunters amongst SMITE players.
If you pan out just a bit, however, his Twich channel is a bit shy of 19k followers and 800k channel views. While those numbers are nothing to sneeze at, it still helps provide some perspective on what it means to achieve rock star status within a growing community like the one surrounding SMITE. The game is still in a stage of relative infancy compared to heavy-hitters like League of Legends and DOTA 2, but something tells me the SWC will help propel SMITE into the big leagues of modern e-sports.
Only time will tell, of course, and as one of my peers from over at GameTrailers.com observed on our ride to the airport earlier today, a major metric we’ll all be paying attention to is the conversion rate of new players SWC helps bring to SMITE heading into Season Two.
As a hardcore MMO gamer, I do feel that SMITE helps bridge the giant chasm between traditional MMO arenas and MOBAs. I tend to think of it as an MMOBA much the same way I classify upcoming contenders like Gigantic. While I’ll never find much appeal in the camera, controls, and click-till-your-fingers-bleed combat of standard MOBAs, that simple switch to more MMO-style combat and movement makes a world of difference.
Getting back to the event itself, I think Hi-Rez did an excellent job of engaging fans, and providing a relatively smooth spectacle for an audience that helped fund the entire affair. The venue was the perfect size, and reportedly sold out on the third day for the Grand Finals which was interesting to witness. Hopefully a follow up event will see a more expansive Hall of the Gods with more activities and vendors to prevent boredom from setting in between matches, as much of the on-screen banter from the analysts desk was largely forgettable. Still, you at least have to appreciate that there was a food truck selling chicken & waffles to keep fans energized for the longish spans of time between matches.
Fist and Pen: Check
Having survived the SWC, my attention over the next couple of weeks will be turning to PAX South as we lock in some final appointments and work on some secret plans for Team Hammer’s first major convention of 2015. In the spirit of today’s column (and a nod to my tendency to find inspiration for titles based on random songs that pop into my head) I’ll part with today’s special musical guest: Nine Inch Nails.
Year Zero is one of those albums that took me a while to warm up to, but it did grow on me over time. While The Fragile will always be my favorite from NIN, there are definitely some worthy tracks on Year Zero that attempt to live up to all the hype surrounding the ARG that proceeded its release. On that note, enjoy the official video (uncensored version) for the lead single, Survivalism, lovingly embedded for your viewing enjoyment below.