Competitive gaming is hurting the culture of video games

The International Olympic Committee is partnering with Intel to integrate the Intel World Opener as a part of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. While the event isn’t technically part of the Olympics, it will happen a few days before the Olympics start. Two games will be hosted: Rocket League and Street Fighter V.

This is a pivotal moment in the world of eSports. Intel integration was first seen back in the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games when Intel partnered with the committee to host Starcraft II a few days prior. Rocket League and Street Fighter V are more popular titles than Starcraft II, with just as competitive a fanbases; however, next year’s competition is going to draw more eyes than the 2018 World Opener. Who knows, maybe these openers are leading up to eSports joining the Olympic games officially. 

I hope it never does. Gaming is already dying as it is.

Don’t get me wrong, I am excited to see the best players from around the world join up with other players from their nationality and go at it head-to-head with other nations. Competition is great, and just like in sports, eSports grants some fantastic moments. No, the Olympic competition and atmosphere aren’t giving me anxiety about these games. It’s money and gaming culture. 

The world opener is dedicating $250,000 in prize money to each eSport. This isn’t a shocking amount of cash compared to other eSports events. The 2018 Rocket League Championship Series had a prize pool of $1 million. What I think is a problem is the build-up of such large cash prizes.

Money taints so many things. Professional sports is a prime example of this. Baseball, football and other games played professionally have been businesses for decades and, for some, almost a century. How many times has a player or a manager made a decision based on salaries? Look no further than when the Boston Red Sox traded Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees for $125,000 because the Red Sox’s manager wanted to support his own musical production.

To me, the decline of gaming began when tournaments moved to stadiums. I think there’s a threshold between a specific culture and mainstream culture. Gaming has had its own culture and self-sustaining industry for a while. Heck, mainstream culture has always condemned gaming for it’s possible negative effects on players since it’s conception and still does to some degree. However, two trends have built over time. Firstly, money being spent on gaming, and, secondly, mainstream culture catching on to it. Once businessmen in the mainstream caught on to the potential income gaming could produce, that threshold was crossed. 

Gaming now has corporations controlling a significant part of its industry. The prime example of this is EA and loot boxes. Their influence and control over staple gaming titles have mirrored the gaming community and is spreading. Smaller companies see the money they are making and want larger funds as well. Can I blame them? I suppose not — growth and income aren’t bad. I just wish, in this instance, it wasn’t affecting the culture.

I am not a fan of Street Fighter, but I am of Rocket League. I’ve been playing “car soccer” for about three years now. The game has changed a lot since I started, let alone since it first came out. Aside from the increase in skill level, the culture of the game has also changed. If there is one word to describe the culture’s attitude, I think most players would say, “toxic.” Raising ranks is more detrimental than ever. Blaming teammates and being sore winners are commonplace. To me, the game has become a cesspool similar to YouTube comments. More is at stake because more money and bragging rights are to be gained.

I’m excited to see a high-level play of Rocket League and Street Fighter V so close to the Olympic Games; however, I don’t want to see other amazing games overrun by corporate greed and overly-competitive players. Video games are called games for a reason: to have fun and temporarily escape from the struggles of life. I don’t want to see video games become a struggle as well.