I know, I must be crazy to dare and offer up my opinion on the MOBA genre and eSports. Its like I want to start arguments in the comments section or something, right? Well, not so much. See, I’m not here to hold one game above any other, and I will state that right away. Instead, I want to show the world how the difference between games can actually enrich the others for everyone.
I’ve never really been one for competitive online games. Something about having young teenagers question my sexual orientation based on my skill level in a game never seemed to sit right with me. So I am perfectly fine donning the label of “casual gamer.” That term, however, has seemed to become a label of disdain in many parts of the gaming community these days, as competitive and professional gaming have started to become viable and lucrative scenes. Apparently, games were no longer worth playing if you weren’t putting crazy amounts of hours into them daily to try and be the number one player in the world. For this reason, competitive gaming, as well as eSports in general, had left a sour taste in my mouth.
When I finally decided to try League of Legends, I wasn’t expecting myself to stick around for too long. I had never played a MOBA before, but I had noticed that they were starting to become all the rage with a lot of people. Last year, several guys at work convinced me to try League, since I wanted something new to play, and had no money to buy a game with. I finally caved in and downloaded League, and to make a long story short, though I liked the game, I grew rather bored of it. There were other game modes than just the classic 3-lane game, but it seemed as if Riot Games didn’t care to maintain them, and I didn’t care to play 60-minute games of poke and run. It was disheartening that it seemed the MOBA genre, and those who made these games, were agreeing that it was not a place for casual play. Get dedicated or get out.
It was around this time I was losing interest in League that I first heard about Heroes Of The Storm. I had been a big fan of Starcraft, the Diablo series, and World of Warcraft, but I felt it seemed like a desperation move on Blizzard’s part; what with League and DOTA 2 both already existing and League slowing taking over the eSports scene. It felt like Blizzard wanted to stay current, so I was not looking forward to a game that made me like Blizzard’s properties less. Heroes, however, offered something a little different that really caught my attention; a much more accessible feel to the genre. Different maps with varying objective-based gameplay and team leveling all mixed into the multiplayer battle aspect of a MOBA game. They had peaked my interest, and I decided it would be worth a giving the MOBA concept a second chance. It would be about 9 months before I would actually get the chance play the game.
As a player, what I found was a game that seemed to value teamwork over individual capability or character build, and was designed to push for interaction and cooperation instead of five players carrying on their own job at the same time. No longer was a certain class type designated to a certain lane, or did farming minions become a mainstay in gaining an advantage. Team fights happened more often, and strategy on the fly was rewarded instead of shunned. Asking for help was met with help instead of demands to “uninstall the game.” Each map could be approached in a different way with a different team composition, and it didn’t immediately mean a team was destined to lose. It was this sort of variety in play style and arena choice that had me actually wanting to watch others play the game, on top of playing it myself. I watched multiple videos on YouTube and streams on Twitch from players like MFPallytime and his Squadron team that highlighted the variations in character builds, map strategy, or team composition as they played. All these possibilities made watching the game exciting because there is was always a chance for a comeback, or an unexpected turn around in a game. It was the first game I found myself actively following on the eSports scene.
Competitive gaming has existed as long as video games, but it has only been in the past 15 years or so that it has become such a global and lucrative endeavor. That is in no small part due to online streaming capabilities and outlets like Twitch allowing gamers easier access to live streaming events such as ESL tournaments. While Heroes only officially released this year, and is still in its infancy as a majorly competitive title in the world of professional gaming and cash-prize-tournaments, the acceptance the game has garnered from a lot of its casual gaming community, as well as the increased importance the game places on team play, has really struck a cord with more general audiences that may not have been as interested in eSports before. This was certainly true for me.
Heroes Of The Storm has offered me a way to ease into the MOBA genre after a rocky baptism under fire in the fields of League Of Legends. I am willing to admit that League was a little too much at once for me, but gaining a familiarity with MOBAs and seeking out the differences of them all through eSports and online streams has had me grow a deeper appreciation for them. While many have called Heroes “MOBA Light”, it is just different compared to what others have offered in the past. Different isn’t better, and different isn’t worse. It’s just different, and I recommend that if anyone else has had even a passing interest in these games, but feels a little intimidated to try them out, give Heroes Of The Storm a try and see where it takes you from there.
Featured Image – Forbes