Firstly, thanks for spending the time to visit this page. Now, onwards to my two-cents on e-Sports.
IT'S ABOUT THE HYPE
e-Sports is ultimately a product of hype - specifically one that feeds off the popularity of high-profile games with competitive gameplay. It has always been so when the first "league" or "club" was formed (usually from the more insular "clans") so that matches between seasoned players can be broadcasted over the Internet just to show how awesome a game (or its most ardent players) can be, even though what is shown is highly advanced play and is far from the experience that newcomers to the game would have.
You know that e-Sports managers are thick-skinned when Hype Energy gets to advertise in their medium.
As the viewership caught up, so did the more opportunistic of businessmen. Usually, those businesspersons who work in the games industry itself are the first to realize the opportunity, such as those who once managed the original Atari and Nintendo way back in the 1980s.
Back then, the goal was to enlist the help of fans of their games to fan the hype around their games further. The competitions that were held did not exactly have players directly competing with each other; criteria for competitions mostly involved achievements like speed runs or high scores, such as Nintendo PowerFest '94.
Third-party leagues were formed later, which is perhaps a slightly better improvement as they were formed and managed by people who love the games themselves, and not those who have an obvious interest in promoting their products for commercial gain.
Yet, it did not take long for game-makers to co-opt them and give them technical support, as these leagues appear to be able to attract viewership more easily than the events that are organized by game-makers themselves. This is likely because they are perceived as less tainted by commercial interest. Either way, the game-makers would get what they want: the highlighting of their games.
IS IT SPORTS?
To me, yes - if money is involved.
Now, I am not going to rant about e-sports not being real sports and such other hoo-ha like physical exertion and crap. In fact, I am much more harsh on e-sports than you think, because I am just as harsh on "real" sports.
Replace the baseball with a computer mouse or controller and the message of this picture won't become any different.
To me, as long as money is involved in any manner, the spirit of sports as pioneered by the ancient Greeks is tainted. I consider this to apply to just about any real sport, especially the official sports "leagues" around the world that take a cut from advertising money - or worse, are involved in match-fixing.
That means that e-sports, as represented by the various leagues like NASL and MLG, automatically fall into this kind - nay, brand - of sports. After all, their broadcasting is sponsored and supported by a hell lot of ads, and winners are treated to prize money. Therefore, you may expect me to treat it with as much despise as I do "real" sports leagues.
The only kind of sports that I recognize and hold in high regard is sports that are wholly performed in the name of competition. In the case of e-Sports, that would be competitions held for the sake of fun and nothing else.
This was originally the case for many leagues, but broadcasting is not free. Furthermore, although the most passionate and high-profile of gamers can be expected to keep themselves in the limelight, leagues have to offer prizes to entice them to choose their limelight instead of the rest. Inevitably, monetary concerns infiltrated e-sports.
Perhaps it was an attempt to show that e-sports can be lucrative to participants and that a career of professional gaming can put food on the table, but this only increased the amount of funding needed for e-sports, thus having money becoming an even bigger factor.
Unfortunately, the history of "professional" "real" sports before e-sports has already shown that while money is a necessary "evil" to have sports affairs running, it is still a source of "evil" that encourages very unsporting (pun not intended) practices and decisions.
That said, I will place a warning here, for the sake of people who believe earnestly in e-sports: sooner or later, there would be a serious and shameful scandal involving money in e-sports leagues, when passion for gaming is overcome by greed, if there is not one that has happened already. The signs are already there, such as a participant complaining about prize offers being changed without earlier notification, which not only suggested greed on the part of participants but also less-than-scrupulous practices by organizers.
(In fact, recently, there is a scandal involving two finalist teams that had colluded in a MLG-sponsored League of Legends competition to share the prize money, regardless of who won. I find this even worse than match-fixing.)
THE GAME IS NOT FULLY REPRESENTED
Another perennial problem with e-Sports is that competitions often have rules that prevent the entirety of a game from being featured. The very early competitions that Atari and Nintendo once organized had already shown this, when the onus was on getting high scores and such instead of portraying the game as their designers had envisioned.
The problem has only gotten worse over time, as games become more sophisticated. As an example, many competitions involving shooter games ban specific features of a game from being used, such as a past NASL tournament for Tribes: Ascend that banned certain in-game guns and munitions. There are plenty of reasons for such restrictions of course, but the fact that the competition does not portray the entirety of the game is still there and remains undeniable.
What is shown in the broadcasts is very, very far removed from what newcomers to the game will experience, as mentioned earlier. Even if one is not a newcomer but just a player of the game, he/she would soon realize that the "professional" gameplay that is shown in league-sponsored competitions is nowhere near what is encountered in regular matches.
That there are elitist notions of "pubs" (players who play in usually public circles with little to no restrictions) and "pros" (players who play in private circles that adhere to tournament rules for purposes of practice) only worsened the problem.
Fortunately, some communities can take such differences in a light-hearted - and amusing - manner.
Perhaps the most eyebrow-raising twist to this issue is that the game-makers condone these restrictions. They swallow the league organizers' reasons for the restrictions without much protest, despite these restrictions putting some of their game designs in a bad light - designs that they very likely personally believe in, mind you.
Of course, one can say that they are "supporting the fans' love for the game" and such other florid reasons, but one cannot deny that they would prefer to have e-sports leagues highlighting their games than not.
ENCOURAGING SPECIFIC DESIGNS AT THE EXPENSE OF OTHERS
All of the above problems would not have been much of a bother to players who are not looking for a career in professional gaming. Unfortunately, the increasingly prominent scene of professional gaming and gaming leagues has caused some game-makers to focus more on designs for competitive gameplay, at the expense of any other aspect that their game franchises may have stood for or may have potential for.
The Tribes franchise is one such example. Its backstory had roots in the MetalTech franchise, which despite being a BattleTech knock-off, had more potential than just having murderous warriors zipping around on hoverboots and jetpacks. Unfortunately, its roots have been forgotten, and the franchise is now little than just another facet of the competitive multiplayer gaming scene. This can be disappointing to those who had appreciated that Tribes: Vengeance had tried to make use of its backstory to deliver a worthwhile tale.
In contrast, Tribes: Ascend ditched the roots of the franchise altogether. If they are utilized, then Hi-Rez only uses them as excuses to introduce new content now and then - namely cosmetic content that can only be obtained via micro-transactions.
Another example is the MechWarrior franchise, which has been reduced to a competitive multiplayer experience in the form of MechWarrior Online. BattleTech, which is what MechWarrior is based on, no longer has any significance beyond the original tabletop game. If it is featured in the latest MechWarrior game, then like Tribes: Ascend, it is utilized as little more than an excuse to introduce new gameplay content - namely more Mech parts that have to be unlocked before they can be used.
Yes, there were more than just giant robots in MechWarrior.
Game consumers who prefer immersive single-player experiences would be the ones to lose the most from such a change in the direction of game designs. That some of them would vehemently malign the e-Sports scene because of this would be quite understandable.
After having written all of the above, you may have the impression that I am against e-Sports. You would be somewhat right, but I would say here that e-sports should stay, if only for the sake of promoting gaming until it has become part-and-parcel of "normal" life. I only wish that it could stay without the influence of money and the lust for hype.
It is a tall order of course, but it can be done, as long as everyone that is involved keeps in mind that it is his/her passion about gaming that is most important in e-sports. He/She should not be exploiting e-Sports to make money off advertising or using it as a substitute for jobs with more stable incomes, e.g. salaries.
As for anyone else who would rather not have anything to do with e-sports and wish it to go away, then I would suggest this: don't bite the hype.