Accessibility in Esports

There’s an amazing feeling tied to your first PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds “Chicken Dinner”. Being the last one standing from a group of 100 is a true testament of both skill and luck. Most classic competitive games focus on equal starts and leaving as little as possible to luck, but the rise of the Battle Royale genre has created waves in the industry. Popular games like PUBG and Fortnite rely on a looting system: an addictive, luck-based game mechanic that begins the second you skydive to your destination of choice. Despite the random factor, both games continue to dominate the Top Games chart on Twitch. So why are both competitive and casual players so glued to these titles? One word: accessibility.

Fortnite is the king of accessibility. Its Battle Royale component is completely free on nearly every available platform. You can even play it on the go using your smart phone. What’s more, it features the option to cross-play with other consoles. A PC player could be playing with both an Xbox player and a mobile player on their team. The game is easy to pick up but hard to master. Its randomized loot system ensures that every player has the chance to come out on top. In a video game with absolute equal starts, top-tier players will inevitably be nearly unstoppable against inferior players, but in Fortnite even the best-of-the-best have to stay on their toes. Different weapon spawns and play areas will drastically alter how encounters play out. Not only do weapons differ, but many have built-in “spread”. Depending on the distance of your target, each of your bullets has a chance to miss completely. While frustrating to more hardcore players, this often increases the length of battles and gives each player a chance to survive a surprise attack. Epic, the developers of Fortnite, are always tweaking how weapons handle to best suit the playerbase, but they’re all too aware of the importance of these variables.

When your primary goal is to stay alive, camping is a legitimate strategy. Hunkering down in a closet or bathroom while your opponents duke it out can quickly help you rise through the ranks. In fact, one PUBG player placed 1st in a match when he wasn’t even playing. A user by the name of Mysterion157 hid in a bathtub as the dreaded blue circle closed in on him. To everyone’s surprise, the other players died out, thus leaving him the victor. Is this the ideal way to play? It’s nobody’s right to say. No matter how you get there, the ultimate goal is to get that chicken dinner. In a traditional FPS deathmatch, one team must out-score their opponents. You’re not clenching a victory with 0 kills. The sheer variety of playstyles opens up the game to a swath of different players.

Variety is the spice of Battle Royale. No two matches play the same. The randomized location of the “circle” determines where the battles will take place. One game could end in a field, the other a swamp. Strategy must be more fluid and adaptable to the changing circumstances. This is a slightly different skill than memorizing a static 4v4 map with equal weapon starts and spawns. Players must master the core mechanics to fight other players as well as the enironment itself. Every game you’ll see players killed by the ominous closing wall. A lack of preperation will send you back to the lobby to take on a new group of 100. Even the bet players should never become complacent. Unexpected tactics from a new player have the potential to knock the crown off a king.

A game doesn’t need to hop on the battle royale bandwagon to be accessible. Popular FPS title Overwatch tackles accessibility in the form of game modes. Before hopping into multiplayer, a tutorial level lets you test out your weapons and abilities on bots. As you improve as a player in normal game modes, you can advance to Ranked. In Ranked, every player is out to prove their worth against challengers. This is hardly a new system and is prevalent throughout the industry, but it adds to an already welcoming art style and game design. The characters are varied, inclusive, and unique. Many abilities are extremely powerful and allow relatively easy multikills (compared to a more traditional FPS title). Allowing every player to connect with their avatar and feel good about their playstyle is critical to ravenous fandom and title longevity.

There will always be a place for hardcore arena shooters in esports, but the industry shifts fast. For there to be viewers, there have to be players. Finding the perfect balance between skill-based competition and welcoming accessibility is key to a game’s success as a watchable esports sensation.

PUBG AFK win Source: Kotaku