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Scaling the E-Sports Skill Cliff

by Ethan Tussey

by Neal Hinnant for IN MEDIA RES

When I first began playing League of Legends with a few friends I had no clue what I was getting into. The game, like many e-sports titles, eschews the gradual “skill curve” of most games in favor of a “skill cliff” that hurls mountains of information at novice players in a short amount of time. I was entering into a highly competitive space faced with the task of learning the strategies of (now) 114 playable champions, dozens of items, and a dizzying number of combinations of the two. Fortunately, I had help; there are plenty of websites and forum threads dedicated to helping players learn the game. This isn't a new development, of course; players have been exchanging tips and tricks ever since the rise of the medium, and the advent of digital media further expanded the scope of the practice. However, what is notable about the culture of guide writing in e-sports is the identity of the authors. Many of the most popular guides are written by professional or semi-professional League of Legends players. These guides aren't limited to text either; a large portion of the professional League of Legends community live streams their own practice sessions, giving other players tips on improving their play and offering insight into their own thinking process. The post's video, a promotional spot for Team Curse's Voyboy, highlights this; he places a strong emphasis on his efforts to teach his viewers the ropes and interact with them during play. At first glance this seems counterintuitive: the New England Patriots don't publish their playbook online. However, the professional players reap their own benefits from the process. Most of the principal spaces for this discourse are somehow affiliated with professional League of Legends teams; and, two of the most popular guide sites, are tied to TSM Snapdragon and Team Curse, respectively. This is especially true for live streaming, which creates a space for conversation tied to an individual player. The result is increased exposure and fan loyalty in an often volatile competitive field. By teaching novice players how to play top lane effectively, Voyboy is expanding his name recognition within the e-sports fan base. The resulting relationship forms a key element of the moral economy of e-sports culture. Professional players toss down a rope to help others up the skill cliff, and they're rewarded with appreciation and (hopefully) support.

I'm Curse Voyboy, Come Check Out My Stream!

I'm Curse Voyboy, Come Check Out My Stream!

from I'm Curse Voyboy, Come Check Out My Stream! (2013)
Creator: LoLVoyboy
Distributor: YouTube
Posted by Ethan Tussey