How do you spell e-Stadium?

by Gualtiero Dragotti

The majority of legal analysis concerning the raise of e-Sports tends to coagulate around the main stakeholders, i.e. the IP owners, the broadcasters, the sponsors and the e-athletes and teams, focusing on the appropriate way to discipline their relationships, possibly against a regulated background capable of dealing with gambling, e-doping and, more generally, with the requirements and rules set by laws, sport authorities and similar bodies.

There is however a missing piece in this picture: the audience, i.e. the increasing crowd interested to see the e-games, possibly attending live events, with the opportunity to meet their idols and see them play live.

This need is not new: the Colosseum in ancient Rome was built with the very purpose to create a venue for sport events – we adopt here a rather extended notion of sport, which includes some bloody shows – capable of accommodating a large audience and let them participate and be part of the show.

These demands and purposes remain unchanged if we consider e-Sports, where tournaments and competitions attract more and more crowd eager to be able to see the matches live.

Hence the need to adapt or build venues suitable to accomodate this audience and the peculiarity of e-Sports: if you take a football or basketball arena and put in the middle of the field a couple dozens of persons sitting in front of their PCs and screens, the spectators on the bleachers will have a suboptimal experience (to be clearer: they are going to be bored out of their minds).

Hence the need to find measures and solutions to allow the fans to see both the game, usually on high-def big screens, and the players. These two streams (three, if you add the audio/chat channel used by the athletes during the games) must be combined and the combination could well qualify as a work capable of being IP protected.

The design of the arena could, therefore, contribute to the creation of additional IP, enriching the experience of the audience.

This concept supports other peculiarities of e-Sports venues, usually designed in order to allow the spectators to meet or see from short distance the athletes. Actually, the very nature of videogames contributes to reduce the gap between professional players and fans (one may say that almost all fans of a certain game play it home, and frequently online, on their consoles).

Modern e-Stadiums allow an enhanced proximity among athletes and the audience, sometimes extended to the possibility to adopt multiple configurations on the basis of the nature of the events they are hosting from time to time, ranging from full arena experience for major events and matches to multiple playing zones catered to non-professional players, practicing sessions or occasions like private or company events.

Around this multi-purposes core gravitate the usual ancillary services and areas, like locker and changing rooms, VIP areas and lounges , bar and food zones, merchandising and shops, etc. Those areas and services could be designed on the basis of the blueprint of traditional sport stadiums and venues, provided that the need for an enhanced proximity between the audience and the athletes is taken into account.

This enhanced proximity is actually the key to an optimised design of e-sports arenas.

The more the e-Stadiums allow the fans to share an experience with their idols, extended to the feeling to play the same game in the same venue with (almost) the same gear, the more the audience will be tempted to visit the arena, both for major events and matches and in other occasions.

In this connection the designers of e-Stadiums, and the competitions and events organizers, should probably get some inspiration from sports like golf, where again attese is an enhanced proximity, in the meaning summarised above, between professional athletes and their fans, compared to sports like football or basketball, where amateurs generally cannot live an experience similar to the pros and where a large majority of the fans are not actual players.

E-Sports venues designed without addressing these peculiarities and needs risk to hinder the development of e-Sports, whose live dimension is necessary to create traction for the discipline, still in its infancy and not supported by the mythology that only live crowds are able to create.

Gualtiero Dragotti