Explaining esports to your Grandma

4 September 2019

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Reading Time: 6 minutes

Living in the heart of all things sport in Australia, Melbourne has started to make a name for itself hosting some of the larger events such as Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) and Melbourne Esports Open (MEO). These events are big news for a growing industry but with them comes the need to educate people about the industry and its nuances, to reduce anxiety and fear around the unknown.

A recent shooting in the US has once again sparked up the tabloid media’s ‘video games cause violence’ narrative. Now if you just scoffed reading that, I understand. There is plenty of evidence they don’t, in fact the American Psychology Society has advised media that there is no link between the two – but unfortunately there are people out there that eat what the tabloid media serves up and it’s our job to correct it.

Unfortunately, it feels like a losing battle. The tabloid media is more than happy to cherry-pick the worst stories striking fear in people’s hearts. There is pro But this is our chance to be the better people, an opportunity for us to tell the story of the majority and our deep love of esports. We can be creative in our approach seeking to inspire and spark interest in a growing industry.

Why should we talk about esports?

I wanted to share a story with you. At the first MEO I attended I was helping out at a freeplay area and had two kinds of people come up and ask me about esports. One was a pair who were looking to invest and get into the industry, and the other was your stereotypical soccer mum decked out in full gym gear.

The first group were interesting and easy. The conversation started by them asking about the event and what was happening in the different arenas. I explained the different games, playing styles and tournaments and the popularity and fan base for each game. I also explained how streaming works and how like watching the footy on a Saturday afternoon on your couch, people worldwide could easily tune in and watch the matches from the comfort of their own home. I took time to think about and construct my answers to ensure they were informative and insightful. They were both very interested to learn more as they were considering investing in an esports team. I was actually quite excited for them to indicate interest and encouraged them to check out the scene present at MEO and consider looking up some teams online.

The soccer mum conversation was a difficult one. We’re talking about someone who has watched the recent A Current Affair (nice timing tabloid media) news feature about the child who refused to go to school and instead played games all day. She struck up a conversation and then proceeded to put one leg up on a stool, showing some intimidating body language. The first thing she said was “These video games. Gosh kids these days, how do we control them? Did you see the Current Affair episode on Sunday! Terrible!”

I was taken back a little from her statement. It was obvious that she was already quite clear on her own opinions, but she wanted to have a discussion with the ‘adults’ who were supporting esports. To see what we had to say.

It was important in this situation to remain understanding and approachable. Putting myself in her shoes I talked through her concerns and explored the issues raised, but I also talked about the positives and the differences between today’s kids and our own childhood experiences. When I was a kid, I went bike riding with my friends because it was a social thing to do. Today, her kids now play Fortnite together. I had a curfew to be home by, and explained that you can easily put a curfew for game time for your child.

This discussion allowed me to help her understand gaming culture in the modern world and also abolish some of the myths surrounding it that exist.

It’s so easy to blame something as a cause, but it’s often harder to face the truth around difficult issues. Either way, good communication and being flexible in your approach is going to help when de-mystifying the world of esports to those who aren’t that familiar or those that eat up what the tabloid media is serving.

Some quick tips on explaining esports to people like your Grandma

What’s this esport thing I keep hearing about?

An esport is a video game considered to be competitive. Video games such as Super Mario Brothers don’t quite make the cut, but games like Rocket League do. That’s the one where you play as a remote-controlled car playing soccer against others. It’s pretty neat. It’s a bit like how some sports are included in the Olympic games but others, such as lawn bowls or netball are not.

When Granny insists sitting at a computer playing a game is not sport:

Dearest Granny, esports are much like sports such as rifle shooting, archery and your beloved lawn bowls. Whilst from a distance they can seem like such a simple sport that anyone could pick up they require skill, accuracy and some pizazz. Esports is similar, as each game requires you to hone your skills, reflexes and plan your strategy. Like with any sport there is discipline and training involved. In fact esports athletes can train up to 16 hours a day and some include physical training.

When Granny says ‘Well why don’t you just become an esports player like these people and get a lot of money then?’

The good news is yes, anyone can become an esports player – similar to how anyone can play any sport if you can find the right crowd (just a friendly reminder Quidditch is a thing). But to be a pro is something else entirely. I find this is where Australian Football (AFL) comes in handy.
Granny, becoming a pro esports player who earns tonnes of money is like trying to become a professional AFL player. A lot of time, blood, sweat and tears would need to be spent into becoming a pro and even then, the money is not always enough to sustain a living just like aspiring AFL players. You also need the drive and aspiration to go down a professional path. Not everyone wants to be a pro AFL player, but they still want to play footy on the weekends. That’s what esports is like for me: have a game on the weekend with my friends and then sitting back and watch the pros work their magic on the screen at home.

When Granny watches A Current Affair and then reports back “The news was telling me that video games are bad! Esports is encouraging kids to be violent!”

Burn her TV. I’m just kidding, but this point is always a hard one to tackle. First of all, there is very little evidence that video games cause violence. The only thing that has some scientific backing is video game addiction which is recognised by the World Health Organisation, however it’s quite rare. Regardless, in a conversation like this your conversing partner has just passed you a live grenade so we need to diffuse it. It’s hard I know, but we can get there.

First of all, try hard to not roll your eyes or downright dismiss them. That’s likely to only fuel them more. It’s important to listen and identify what it is that bothers them about it, what is making them scared? Then try steering the conversation to something more positive such as how video games are great for cognition development and have therapeutic cognitive benefits. Use examples like horror films. People don’t seem to be too worried about people going on a killing spree after watching Friday the 13th.

Kids these days stay cooped up on their computers watching this stuff. It’s not healthy.

Yeah Gran, being cooped up and not getting fresh air every now and then isn’t really healthy. We humans need that sweet vitamin D to function. So many people are happy to stay home and watch TV all day as well, and that can’t be healthy. You have to get up and stretch every now and then. It’s good that just like AFL there are some breaks like half time so I can get up, go for a walk and stretch.

I’m never going to understand the interest and appeal you kids have in this ‘esports’ thing

That’s ok Gran. I’m happy to answer any questions when you have them but also every generation has something different from the last. I’m never going to understand the appeal of apricot chicken but it was a thing back in the day.

Hopefully this has given you some ideas on how to tackle those tricky conversations, but if you want to ask for more advice drop us a comment below and we will be happy to give you some advice where we can.

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