It’s no secret that eSports is becoming more mainstream these days. When 20 million people tune in to watch a video game championship, it’s hard to call it just a fad or niche. Still, as eSports begins to increase its circle of influence, it’s understandable that there will be some growing pains as people who aren’t core gamers become aware of the concept.
That seems to be what happened on ESPN 2 last night. Per a partnership with Blizzard, the network broadcast live footage of college students playing Heroes of the Storm for a chance to win free tuition money. The broadcast was met with some puzzled and hilarious reactions on social media from people who didn’t quite understand what was going on.
To its credit, ESPN gave the game the full treatment, letting shoutcasters Artosis and Day9 call the game in much the same manner one might hear a play by play and color commentator detailing the action on a football field. The network has come a long way in its viewpoint on video games since ESPN’s president said eSports is not a sport last year.
Even so, the Heroes of the Dorm competition, as it was appropriately labeled, was met by a variety of tweets on Twitter from sports fans with emotions ranging from confusion and sarcasm to humor and amusement.
Here’s a sampling:
Are they really televising video games on ESPN 2? Jeez what has the world come to.— Brock Hayden (@BrockHayden) April 27, 2015
Really hope whatever is on ESPN2 isnt some start of a trend. Ill really be dissapointed if my kids get hype for this instead of sports on TV— Jeff Murray (@J_Murray14) April 27, 2015
Why is there a bunch of nerds playing video games on ESPN 2?— Mike Zawacki (@MikeZawack21) April 27, 2015
The best response of the night belonged to ESPN reporter Michelle Beadle, who at first seemed perplexed by what she found on her television screen, but then couldn’t get herself to look away.
No joke, these announcers are killing it. I don't have a damn clue what I'm watching, but they won't let me leave.— Michelle Beadle (@MichelleDBeadle) April 27, 2015
All in all, it appeared the event was a rousing success for both Blizzard Entertainment and ESPN. ESPN 2 was trending nationally on Twitter for most of the broadcast.
Heroes of the Storm might not be as big as League of Legends or Dota 2 when it comes to MOBAs, but it arguably served as a great entry point into eSports for people who are not familiar with the concept. The game uses heroes from previous Blizzard games, and there are plenty of people out there who are least aware of the concept of World of Warcraft, which has been around for a decade now.
The game also isn’t quite as violent as some of the other games with eSports followings, which is also a plus. Having a soccer mom turn on her television to witness some of Mortal Kombat X‘s brutal fatalities on national television would have probably caused trouble.
It will still be sometime until eSports is widely accepted, but last night was another watershed moment towards expanding the audience.
Heroes of the Storm is currently in beta and will release on PC on June 2.