Last weekend was full of good esports: I got to see bits and pieces of the League of Legends 2017 world championship that is kicking into high gear, got to see couple of matches from the Magic: The Gathering worlds and just as any other week, got to watch HGC where teams struggled to stay in the pro league. Good times.

All this esports, especially when all 3 event were either world championship or ramping up towards a major event got me to think about how this content is served to the viewer at home, especially the one that is exposed to the game as a casual, non hardcore gamer.

Information Overload

League of Legends is the MOBA I casually play to escape from the competitive environment of other games like Heroes of the Storm. League has a huge player base and is currently spearheading esports alongside other big, veteran titles like Counter Strike.

My in game knowledge of League is pretty superficial. As a casual player I play the champions who look cool (I’m looking at you big-shield-lady) and enjoy the rivalries and pace of the esport but other than that, I’m a newcomer. Last weekend the League game I was watching had approximately 225,000 viewers watching it, and when I tuned in this is what it looked like -

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The amount of information to process as a new viewer is overwhelming to a point it’s to understand where to start reading the screen from. Here’s a quick layout of the thoughts while tuning in -

Question How do I figure it out
Who is playing right now? Ok, I see the logos up top
What’s the score in the series? Not entirely sure, maybe it’s a best of 1
What’s the score in the match? 9-7 is the kill count, I wonder why is that highlighted
What champions are currently in play? The images are super small, to this day I have no idea

While I can make the case for the two sidebars representing the champions, the bottom of the screen (other than the mini-map) is overloaded with information I, as a new viewer have no idea on how to interpret and in a broadcast this is served to hundreds of thousands of viewers, I wonder how many of those share the same sentiment as I did.

I’m not even talking about onboarding someone who is new to LoL and get him\her excited about the world championship.

Wouldn’t be exponentially cooler if I could watch a LoL match full screen on my TV or laptop while checking the item list and score on a web page?

More action on screen, information on demand

What I need as a new/casual viewer is a fast way to tap into the narrative and storyline of the match that is currently happening: One way of enabling that is providing the minimal amount of information required as I’m tuning in while allowing maximum real estate for the action.

To compare, here is the Heroes of the Storm HGC interface

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Not 100% optimal but personally I like this one better from a casual viewer perspective as it gets me straight into the action and provide all the necessary information in a “glance-able” way. I would argue that the talent icons below the hero portraits is way to small to notice and even for a veteran viewer it’s often hard to tell between the different ones, I’d keep only the heroic choice and keep the other information on demand.

Speaking of on demand, and it goes to all esports (that I’m aware of) it’s funny how in an age where companies can create an multi-screen, interactive exepreince, they still cram all the information on the main stream view: Both League of Legends and (soon) Heroes of the Storm support an API for in game data that can be used so stream information out of the live game.

Wouldn’t be exponentially cool if I could watch a LoL match full screen on my TV or laptop while checking the item list and score on a web page? Would also be more beneficial to the company broadcasting since within that web page I could get exposed to more information, related items etc.

An e(?)sport that’s really asking for it is Magic: The Gathering

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Getting insight and statistics into decks played and look at the cards being played without being dependant on the stream showing me the latest card played could really go a long way for a viewer who is new to the game and/or doesn’t know much about the current meta-game.

A production state of mind

I think that the last point was kind of crucial and is a good way to close out this post: For better or worse, esports productions are influenced still by sports productions and rightfully so; there are decades of accumulated knowledge that can contribute to esports’ accelerated growth and adoption by a wider audience.

What I’m hoping to see is tapping into the digital nature of video games and using technology to provide a better viewing experience in an engaging way that will clean my screen of 1,393,833 unnecessary icons and let me see the actual match.

Post cover image by League of Legends

#esports - It's amazing to live in a time where esports is transitioning from niche to mainstream. Stick around and watch it happen.

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