Why sports architects need to tune into E-Sports – Part 2

In Part One of this series we spoke with the talent behind one of the newest but most popular E-Sport events to come to Australia, SMITE developed by Hi-REZ studios, to find out what it is like running an event here in Australia.

In Part Two we consider how existing stadia and arenas can adapt to suit the unique needs of e-sporting tournaments.

E-Sports

E-Sports tournament at Margaret Court Arena

Live E-Sports events, especially those held in large stadiums, offer new challenges for event managers and stadium owners. Successful E-Sports developers usually run online, season-long, competitions that culminate in a live championship. These competitions give architects a chance to observe how these events are evolving and the kind of challenges E-Sports organizers face year to year.

If a game is successful as an E-Sport, the annual championship matches grow in size, scaling themselves up from in house studio events to large stadium matches. After examining different E-Sports events we can start to categorize them in terms of scale and complexity, and it’s the large events which are held in stadiums or arenas that interest architects most.

By asking the people involved in running these huge E-Sports championships – that is the event managers, developers, producers, players and casters – we have found that many of the complexities of using generic stadiums to host major E- Sports events can be resolved through careful overlay design and planning.

 The first challenge is the ‘Field of Play’. Stadiums are designed so spectators can watch a football match, or similar, not 10 athletes sitting at computers. With E-Sports, there can be a huge distance between the athletes and spectators sitting in the stands, making it difficult for fans to feel like they are a part of the action. The ‘game’ itself is usually projected on huge screens above the stage. But these, too, can get in the way of the spectators’ view of the athletes.

E-Sports Design

A recent example of this was seen during the Intel Extreme Masters held in Katowice, Poland. The seating tiers at Spodek Arena dramatically slope back and away from the field of play, a design method used to reduce claustrophobia for spectators and provide better stadium atmosphere. But during E-Sports events, unless you are sitting in the front row, you really have no chance of seeing anything happening on stage.

E-Sport Design

Coliseum vs standard seating bowl

While purpose-built stadia can consider a design that adopts a ‘coliseum’ bowl design, which stacks the seating tiers above one another to bring the spectators closer to the field of play, there isn’t much you can do to an existing building, unless the seating tier is moveable. E-sports organisers need to look at the layout of the seating tier when considering where to host their tournaments if not in a purpose built stadium or arena.

E-Sport Athlete comfort is also something that most current stadiums aren’t specifically equipped to deal with. During a championship, over a dozen teams can be required to play during a single day. In typical stadiums there are usually only enough locker rooms to properly facilitate four or five teams at the same time. As well as the sheer number of athletes, E-Sports teams also need a lot of equipment in order to warm up before hitting the stage, which takes up a lot of space.

One solution to this problem would be to relocate the player locker rooms to the VIP suites on the upper tiers during E-Sports and the athletes could practice while also being able to spectate the live matches. Where appropriate, some stadia locker rooms could also be tailored to suit the type of equipment required by E-Sports athletes. For example, the flexibility in the design of Margaret Court Arena meant that during the League of Legends: International Wildcard Championship, organisers were able to use additional overlay furniture, to adjust the change rooms to suit the athletes’ needs.

E-sports design

Player locker rooms during e-sports tournament at Margaret Court Arena

A producer for Hi-REZ games, Adam Mierzejewski, told Populous, during PAX Australia, the biggest challenge to manage when setting up an exhibition match was sound design. Trying to communicate with your team mates during a game while surrounded by 45,000 screaming fans is, not surprisingly, very difficult.

Most match regulations say that, during a match, teams should be unable to communicate with each other and should be isolated from excessive crowd noise. The current solution has been to either isolate the teams in soundproof booths or have athletes wear multiple sets of noise cancelling headphones throughout the competition. While these solutions do reduce crowd noise and block cross team communication, they also mean it is much more difficult for spectators to see the athletes.

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In arena and theatre design, architects and sound engineers go to great lengths to make sure that the sound travelling from the stage is directed efficiently towards the audience. Using on stage transparent baffling systems means it could be possible to maintain spectators’ view of the athletes while also reducing crowd noise and cross team communication.

These problems represent just a few of the challenges that come with holding E-Sports tournaments in generic stadia and arenas. Until the popularity of these events allow purpose built arenas to be feasible, we need to continue looking for creative overlay solutions to ensure the success of these events.

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