VR eSports: a look into the future of competitive gaming

Virtual Reality (VR) eSports is a combination of competitive multiplayer gaming using the physical movements of VR technology. VR eSports has started to emerge as a new market due to the rise of the eSports industry and the affordability of consumer-level VR technologies. ESport games are very competitive, with players motivated by different aspects of video games. Many of these games have a very complex mechanism, with teamwork bringing players together to defeat the opponent team, just like a sport like football tries to achieve. Players are constantly challenged by these aspects, trying to upskill their gameplay. The growing popularity of eSports has seen viewership numbers hit millions. Different viewers spectate these eSports events for numerous reasons, like watching other players to learn more about the game, improve their skills and learn new tactics. Some researchers debate that watching eSports is much more engaging than traditional sports (Pizo et al., 2018), with engagement even higher in VR eSports due to the immersion aspects of VR technology.

VR eSports are different from traditional eSports in several different ways. In VR eSports, players are physically embodying their playable characters, meaning that the VR eSports games require a lot more physical effort from the players’ end, as in-game motions are directly affected by a player’s natural movement. VR eSports combines several aspects, such as eye-hand coordination of eSports and reaction times, with the physical skills of traditional sports, like stamina. There are differences between conventional eSports and VR eSports as well. These include other technologies like headsets, joysticks and motion sensors.

VR league held in the US, organised by ESL Gaming

Spectators of VR eSports are much more engaged in the competition, as they have much more to take in. These spectators are not only looking at the virtual world but can also watch a player’s physical movements. VR creates higher levels of immersion between the viewers and the broadcast, helping the user understand game dynamics better, heightening emotional responses and giving viewers a feeling that they are actually in the game (Kim et al., 2014). A study by Türkay et al. (2021) concluded that viewers had an overall positive attitude towards VR technologies since VR has some unique features that traditional eSports cannot replicate. Another significant finding from this study was how the physical aspects of VR affect player strategies, as players read their competitors’ body language, helping them create innovative new designs they wouldn’t have considered in a traditional eSports competition. These VR games can also help transform the current media broadcasting systems by integrating VR cams into their broadcasts. Imagine a live F1 race; you put the TV on and can view different driver cams through your VR headset. These customizations would make the broadcast more authentic and engaging and give you, the viewer, a chance to experience what it is like to race in a Formula One car, feeling every corner of the track.

What do you think about VR gaming? Do you see VR as the next evolution of sports broadcasts and eSports? Comment and let us know what you think.

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