The Saints & Rams Demonstrate A Problem Esports Will Never Have

An Overwatch League Referee watches from behind the players during a Dallas Fuel match last season. Image via Blizzard

No Bad Officiating Calls In A Video Game

It may be more than a week now since a botched non-call in the conference championship game between the New Orleans Saints and the Los Angeles Rams but people are still talking about it.  Said call was a major contributing factor in the game going into overtime and eventually a win for the Rams.  A win that could have very easily been the Saints had any of the three penalties called on the play been made.  Even yesterday when I sit at the pub and put up with the All-Star game people talk about what should have been.  It all makes me happy esports will never have this problem. 

Esports benefits from a completely impartial judge.  The game itself.  Every video game by necessity operates on a set of rules.  It’s how a game functions that when a button is pressed something specific happens and the best games make that a constant.  In an esports title these rules are even tighter with less of the randomization present than in a non-competitive game.  Traditional sports have rules, of course, but the sport itself is not able to make judgment calls on the plays.  This necessitates human officials to ensure that a game is played fair.  Like any human, these people can make mistakes.   They can make bad judgment calls like the one in New Orleans.  A game cannot be anything but fair.

Now fair is the opportune word here.  Fair does not mean balanced, or right, or anything else but fair.  The game cannot make a bad judgment call because the game does not make judgment calls at all.  When a Brigitte charges forward for the stun in Overwatch the game decides whether or not the stun connects based on the rules of the game, instantly judged, and acts accordingly by stunning the attackers target or not.  There is no chance that the game did not see the play correctly.  It’s possible the defending player thought they were in cover, but if the attack is able to connect it will.  Every time.  No bad judgment or call to be made.    

There will always be cheesy strats.  There will always be exploits of the game.  There will be balance patches that come out and change the game completely but none of these change that at a fundamental level, the game is always going to have rules and play fair by it’s own rules.  

No Fouls Mean Creative Freedom

Barring some rules in various tournaments that may ban certain aspects or exploits of the game (see the famous boost above) its virtually impossible to cheat in a LAN environment.  Where a defensive player can foul his opponent in a number of ways on the gridiron,  Someone playing CS:GO needs to be running outside programs to make an illegal act on the field.  Free of these considerations players are able to push the boundaries of what is possible in the virtual space.  This allows for unique strategies from the most creative minds behind the keyboards.  All while showcasing the very highest level of play that the players, their opponents, and audience all know is legitimate moves within the bounds of the game.  

Maybe this is all obvious to anyone who’s played a multiplayer game, but I think its worth bringing up given the situation thee NFL finds themselves in.  This is a massive strength that esports has over traditional sports.  It’s also one it will always have and something we shouldn’t take for granted.  No matter the plays or the game there isn’t any concern of the officials being bought, or biased in esports.  It might not always be balanced or bug free, but a game is impartial and fair.