Some informations about this article:
– Author: I published several articles and one book about e-sport (in French) during my university years.
– This article is about the early years of French e-sport history with some thoughts about e-sport word and worlds of e-sport.
– WarLegend published the French version of this article « L’e-sport : un mot, des univers »
– It’s my own translation, so sorry for the – many – imperfections. To improve it, don’t hesitate to join me at firstname.lastname@example.org
– I could improve the article with feedback(s), so, date could change with a new version.
– More on my website: http://emmijaphi.pagesperso-orange.fr/
Sport into videogames is an idea, e-sport a reality. E-sport is not just a word, it is a social movement that transforms videogames into sports. A transformation which makes videogames more physicals? Not at all: sport is not synonymous of a physical activity. For example, the Olympics have long organized art competitions which were not stop for lack of interest but because the participants were professionals that did not meet the Olympic spirit turned toward amateurism. In fact, sport is a particular social movement in the field of leisure, which promotes the production of champions and records, if possible internationally . The sport movement has evolved considerably throughout its history and knows different trends. Youth helping, e-sport has evolved a lot and its history continues with a lot of energy. This energy arises from the fact that there is not only one way to route e-sports because individuals and groups of individuals of the movement are not all going in the same direction. The direction varies according to the e-sport worlds, made by a special relationship of three elements: videogames (content, rules, difficulty, interactive device, etc), players (values, social status, level, age, gender, nationality, etc) and institutions (organizations, media, events, IRC at start, etc). These three elements interact but are not originally on the same plane as this is the sportsmanship of the players who has dyed their sporting mind to favorable games and institutions, not the reverse. That is why in the mid-90s, it is a small group of players who developed this sport practice of video games called e-sport, small group a bit like of the late 19th century sport aristocratic pioneers. This small group, precursors, was quickly followed by a larger number of players, some of them became « pros ». And what about best female players from the very beginning? For best French at least, they were reluctant to sport performance and regrouped despite them. It has now been 10 years ago since I first described these e-sport elites in France , which I believe, enlighten the European movement. These elites aggregate around shared values and thus constitute own worlds. Even if they all speak of e-sport, they do not live it in the same manner as they separate on one major point: the status of the performance, its production, which explains their different points-of-views about the movement. Performance in precursors, pros and female players is not the same for a variety of reasons related to their worlds. We must understand the players, their worlds, to understand why the production of performance is not the same from one group to another. Precursors, pros, female players are e- sports(wo)men, each in their own way.
Precursors, pros and best female players: their e-sports worlds
LANs have originally belonged to the computer specialists or people fond of computers. The precursors of e-sports come from this circle and LANs were for them as to play as much as to celebrate an alternative lifestyle: hacking, file sharing, computer tips. These players formed the first e-sport world and have established organizations including Quakenet used by the next generations of players. For precursors, learning was going through a master-disciple relationship in a world where the glory was worth more than money, in anyway rare. In France, the new recruits were integrated into the hierarchy in place, with an undisputed and charismatic leader, Danold. It launched new ideas and shared all his knowledge, without fear of giving information that could be used against him because his prestige was not only due to his victories. The players also cited him as a mentor. Anyway, he was still the best of the bunch, but it’s impossible to know if he was the best the world because at that time it was impossible to make a « global » competition just because of a game difference between Europe and the United-States. As the group was relatively small and that these early practitioners were socially close (rather comfortable), trainings could be done in a friendly and interpersonal register. It was an e-sport world, where there were true figures whereas, according to precursors, figures disappear with the advent of the pro elite.
Other players – very rarely female – with a less good level took a place in this world by investing in related activities (communication, organization) and through a lifestyle quite similar. This was the time when there were fewer 100 players in France gravitating in this elite. In fact, this small elite was largely in contact with European elites through Quakenet, which disturbed its limits and finally extend its number. But this time was coming to an end with the gradual arrival of new Internet-connected, which will quickly to make feel precursors they are « endangered » that explain the name « dynos » to speak of them. The term « dyno » for dinosaur of course, comes from a misspelling remained famous and kept as such to speak of these precursors. However, they are no longer at the top level, because precursors are eclectics, jumping from one game to another as to remain on the same game is seen as stultifying . They began by Quake and were on less well-known games, less e-sports such as Rocket Arena or Tribes. Many have simply dropped, others have found other games but some participated in the Games-Services adventure (Ligarena until 2005) which belongs to the world of pros. Overall, they are often the first ones to criticize the « pros » (their successors) which specialize in excess, forget their studies, delude about money, etc. In short, dynos launched e-sport that continues, according to them, in a bad spirit. The good spirit is tainted by Olympic amateurism which makes them particularly critical of the corporate stranglehold on the e-sport. They would like free games rights that do not belong to anyone and that are managed by a separate e-sport organization. In the pros world, none of this, they are entrepreneurs who fit into the existing framework so that the relationships between players differ. More socially diverse, knowledge is not shared from master to disciple but in a coach-athlete relationship with less affect and further rationalization. There are even players who trade their knowledge for money. Inside teams, there is a coach and informal learning between teammates. Relations between the top pros look like work relationships without friendship in general and European friendships in particular, contrary among precursors. In short, the pros are a little less similar, do not share quite the same world, particularly at the organization, which leads to the appearance of sub-worlds similar in large way but different if we look closely. The first pros in France were represented by three historical clans symbolizing the pros worlds at that time:
– The Goodgame, GG, closed in 2007, was a company mainly rest on Nicolas « Incolas » Cerrato’s shoulders. He is still in e-sport movement as commentator.
– The ArmaTeam (aT), clan which depended on the playroom Armageddon (which filed for bankruptcy in 2006). The clan was closed one year earlier, in 2005.
– Finally, the only survivor, the clan aAa (Against All Authority) which is also a club and one of e-sport website the most read.
Three clans, three ways of seeing and doing e-sports, as many worlds to explore, remember, understand, to see what is possible. This diversity is less a sign of division than an adaptation to the fluid e-sport movement. Behind the differences between the pros, what gathers, is a particular choice for the most practiced games at the time, such as Counter-Strike and Starcraft. They have the entrepreneurial spirit and the iconic player of the time, ElkY, did not hesitate to come in South Korea to confront the best Starcrafters. What also brings them together is their sporting past. Unlike the other two groups, they are not afraid to specialize to a high-level in their practice. The best French female players known specialization a little bit, but not as pros. From diverse backgrounds, they were all practicing Counter-Strike, the most common game in the e- sport world. Despite this, they were at the margin and learned rather by their close relations (friends, brother, team, etc.) and partially rationalized their workouts. For example, they were spending more time playing « like that », during Free For All (FFA) sessions, than in trainings as the pros do. They held other positions in the network game world, managing server or a mixed team, for example. These additional activities allowed them to win the respect of their male counterparts but handicapping to win against the best of them. And these thoughts also apply to the two best French female champions at the time, Atalante and IvY, which joined Schroet Kommando and had success! Thus, their involvement in various areas prevented them from reaching the highest level. It was not because they were more chatterbox than men or less talented that they do not have the same level! It is simply that they were not investing as much as men in an activity that seemed futile, or rather too adventurous. Moreover, sport, for them, it is « lose weight ». They preferred to stay in the field of play and give way to men who accumulate money and networks, that is to say the power. Female players were used as symbolic values for clans that gathered them in « team girls. » They were sometimes driven by event organizers to set up their team, for the media of course, which will tell one of female champion to stop the teams of girls, in order to don’t be anymore a plaything of another one.
A semantic unification for these worlds!
As we have seen, e-sport gathers several e-sport worlds that do not prevent an e-sport movement from happening, hence the generic term « e-sport ». Diversity is not only due to the distinction « hardcore »/ »casual » or from the three worlds described above. In reality, there are many other worlds inside e-sport and some come from outside worlds later aggregated. For example, these different ways of living e-sport can be found, in France, in companies such as Games-Services (which belonged to the world of pros) and Au-Delà du Virtuel (ADDV ). So different that ADDV was an alternative to e-sport, another sport movement in videogames. If you know the deceased Games-Services, ADDV is probably unknown for you. This event company still exists but do right now merchandising events. But some years ago, ADDV organized PES tournaments based on clubs that gather most often players of the same territory, which was very different to Games-Services. A totally different philosophy: « we’re against the network [Internet] » and also « against clans » threw me a former president of ADDV. He told me he gave PES lessons to children through a communal association, he had got unsuccessful contacts with the Ministry of Sports and it was not easy to survive, including because of competition from Games-Services, which began to make PES competitions. He saw Games-Services as a small business struggling, like his, to survive. Matthieu Dallon, President of Games-Services, also confirmed to me that fragility (already). A few years later, Games-Services bowed out, against all odds, despite spectaculars and well established international competitions in the e-sport landscape. But right now, with Oxent, Matthieu Dallon co-manages ESWC and the PES League for France. Football simulation enters definitively into e-sport in France, but on the fringe of the movement. So ADDV was a discreet concurrent with a philosophy that brought out them to speak of « sports video » rather than « e-sport » because they thought it was more understandable and seller. It was a way for them to distinguish themselves while sticking to their values, anti-networks. This alternative denomination reminds us that if e-sport is not just a word, it is a socially constructed word, up internationally. In fact, I deliberately use « e-sport » instead of « eSport » for several reasons. First, « esport » means « sport » in Spanish, so, in search engines and minds, these homonyms bring confusion and the loss of information, as well as multiple spellings (eSport vs e-sport). It would be good to choose a spelling once and for all by seeing what is most prevalent. So I watched for example how the international federation is titled: the International e-sports Federation. And how write it Chinese researchers? E-sport. T.L. Taylor (2012) in her major book? E-sport again. The World Cyber Games and E-Sports World Cup? Always e-sport. Even a French linguist, Balnat (2009), states that « e-sports » rose in the German language like other words in « e-something. » It just remains the question of the « e ». It seems superficial although a small « e » seems better suited for a more naturally integrated text and approaches that are familiar to people outside e-sport movement more accustomed to « e-mail » without the « e » capital. So, what are we waiting to gather games, players, organizations, countries, reflections, in a word? What are we waiting to continue the unity of e-sport worlds? The revolution is also that!
Balnat, V., 2009. À propos des mots brefs empruntés à l’anglais en allemand contemporain. Seen on: http://sites.univ-provence.fr/wclaix/res07-08.htm
Elias, N. & Dunning, E., 1986, Quest for Excitement. Sport and Leisure in the Civilizing Process. Oxford: Blackwell.
Mora, P. 2006. » Derrière l’e-sport : un conflit d’experts de jeux réseaux compétitifs « . In : T. Fortin, P. Mora, L. Trémel, Les jeux vidéo : pratiques, contenus et enjeux sociaux, Paris, L’Harmattan, 25-121.
T.L. Taylor, 2012, Raising the Stakes: The Professionalization of Computer Gaming. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.