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Take Me Out To The eGame: Should eSports Teams be City Based?

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When people say they have pride for their city, they could mean they like the architecture, or culture, or even just the ambiance. More often than not however, the burning pride for a city shines through its sports teams. From the New York Yankees, to Manchester United, and the Montreal Canadians, sports and pride seem intrinsically intertwined. While this at times goes overboard, would tying eSports teams to cities grow the venture, or taint the blossoming endeavour?

The key infrastructure that ties a team to a city is a stadium. With dedicated eSports arenas already established in many locations —like Gfinity in the UK— and new ones being built in the United States and United Kingdom, the groundwork seems to be being laid for a shift towards city based teams.

The city based team system offers many advantages, namely an install base of local viewers that are more dedicated to a single team. This setup also taps into established city rivalries, increasing the stakes at play, and adding to the drama commonly associated with sports. Both of these are good news for those wishing to attract fans. Spectators also generate revenue, drawing more talent to the field and making eSports more self-sustaining.

At Northern Arena, a recent large scale eSports event held in Montreal, Canada, Goomba Stomp had the chance to speak with Counter Strike: Global Offensive commentator Conner “Scrawny” Girvan. Scrawny has called matches from North America to Turkey, and he believes that eSports are better off with diverse, geographically detached teams. “You have the power of the Internet, we’re bringing players together from all across the world,” said Scrawny. He believes that city based teams in traditional sports are a result of the limitations of travel when leagues were established. He also noted the difficulty with regularly moving physical players across large distances.

Part of the reason Scrawny dislikes the idea of city based teams might be his experience with nationalism-based tournaments. Earlier this year he called the E-frag World Championships 2016 in Turkey. The event was made up exclusively of nation-based teams. He believes that such an event can bring out the negative aspects of nationalism, and cause more harm than unity. “How could you get caught up on things that are as pedantic as nationalities and borders when you have something that surpasses that so greatly,” said Scrawny, “You can play games all the time from across the world. eSports is bigger than city based teams.”

The future of eSports seems unclear for the time being. The system is a somewhat chaotic jumble of leagues and tournaments that will likely organize one way or another. It’s unknown if the future belongs to the San Francisco Screen Cheats or a multinational team that plays global matches, but both offer unique opportunities for a next chapter of virtual competition.

Justinas Staskevicius is a freelance writer based in Montreal, Canada. His stories about antifascists, eSports and benefit concerts have graced publications including Goomba Stomp, GigSoup and CULT MTL

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