The Basics of eSports 1: Communication

Part 2: Knowing your playing field here.

Unfortunately for the introverts out there, communication is an absolute must in team oriented competitive games(which are often the biggest eSports due to the dynamism provided from having multiple players working in conjunction). While there are certainly games that don’t require having a partner/teammates such as real time strategy(RTS) games like Starcraft, fighting games like Street Fighter/SSB Melee, or even speed-running, most big eSports titles will involve communication in some way. Most professional teams in eSports are starting to adopt coaches to make communication as efficient as it can be. South Korea has a leg up on the rest of the world in this regard. Their background in eSports from the Starcraft era, along with their infrastructure and cultural appeal for eSports, has come to fruition in the modern day.

So what is communication?

Communication, in the context of a team based event, is the exchange of useful information in order to achieve a common goal.

A goal in eSports consists of a location, a number of players, and a sequence of actions. Most commonly, these goals will consist of how many people you have, what abilities your teammates have available, and what you’re trying to accomplish towards the objective of winning the game.

Useful Information is knowledge, verbal or written (if voice chat(VC) isn’t enabled) that aids in the successful execution of a goal.

A successful execution consists of players tasked with specific actions to carry them out according to the sequence described in the plan.

Communication should follow the following flowchart from, “The Cycle of Communication”:

Communication

So how does this apply to eSports?

Teams need to have defined callouts in order to avoid confusion. In the heat of the moment, the shot caller, or oftentimes shot callers in more complex games, need to be able to convey information as effectively and efficiently as possible, or the whole team dynamic crumbles. Oftentimes, if a team knows their opponent only has one shot caller, they’ll focus them down in order to reduce their communicative effectiveness, which prompts teams to put their primary shot caller on safer roles like mobile healers, and secondary shot callers on tanks(high hp characters).

The primary shotcaller is oftentimes a macro shot caller, encompassing the overview rather than the specifics. This is communicating what strategies you’re going to be using, what characters you want to make it work, and how you think the enemy team will handle it. This could be “They’re holding high ground, change approach to lower right tunnel”, or “they’re running a poke comp, let’s try to hard engage them before we lose too much hp”.

The secondary shotcaller is often a micro shot caller, focusing more on the in-fight details, and spur of the moment decisions. This could be “x character is low at y location, z person go after them”, or “Switch targets to x character, then go around back”.

Communication doesn’t happen overnight. It takes just as much work as getting good at the game in the first place to be able to effectively communicate, which is why more established teams have taken on coaches to help regulate and manage practice schedules and activities. Six people following a single bad plan is more effective than six people following six different, good plans. Understanding these concepts is the key to communication in eSports.

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