What Science Says about the TI Letdown
posted by Chris.Warrior, 150 days ago
The ever vocal, but not always tactful, community has made a few things clear on reddit and forums: this was the "Worst TI Ever." But why was the most expensive, most watched International so badly received? Well, hop on board for the social science express, where we're going to look at TI with some theories used to explain the impact the same way we might with the World Cup or Superbowl.
Note: This is an opinion piece from an European student, so most of my points are from a western audience perspective. Since my knowledge about Chinese scene is insufficent, I felt like not including it into this piece. This is not about, if The International was good or bad, it is only about, why some people may have been disappointed - from a scientific point of view.
Parasocial Interaction in Dota 2
"DK should have won it" - "Why are the finals on a monday?" - "The finals were rigged." - "This wasn't worth the chicken wings I bought for it."
Between all these negatives post, there was another thread that popped up and caught my attention: Let's not forget the best part of TI4 with a picture of the EU Hub Lounge at the GD Studio House, where many different eSports personalities were to cast the International Qualfiiers. We could see them play Mario Party, do karaoke or just enjoy themselves and the people loved it, but why?
Watching the Eu hub is like having friends
In a technical sense, the phenomenon behind the success of the EU Hub is the so called Parasocial interaction, a one-sided interaction in which one party knows a great deal about the other (before the Internet, this was just called stalking). Repeating this over the course of two weeks creates a parasocial relationship (PSR).
Following this theory, many players profited of the EU Hub stream, especially crowd favorites like Johan 'BigDaddy' Sundstein or Weh 'SingSing Sing. This leads to a potential idenfitication with their respective teams. Teams that didn't do so well at The Internatinoal at all. Teams that didn't even make it to the Main Stage. When your favorite team drops out of the tournament, you usually choose another team to cheer for - most people make this choice based on which player they like most. How do they choose favorite players? It's the players that feels like their friends.
So we got an all Chinese Final. No, I am in no way a hater of the Chinese doto, but this was one of the worst finals we could have gotten (from the viewpoint of the live audience) for multiple reasons: Most of the Western Audience has little knowledge about the players from NewBee and Vici Gaming. Fan 'rotk' Bai was one of the few potential interaction partner, since he knows some English and gathered some fans during the All-Star match. Chinese teams don't spend very much time playing outside of China, so non-Chinese fans don't feel any communion with them. However, many Chinese fans have a love of Alliance, Na'Vi, and other Western teams, because the level of exposure there is higher.
In fact, we develop PSR's with many teams and players outside of EU hub: twitch streams, interviews, behind-the-scenes footage at other tournaments. But we (in the West) rarely develop it with Chinese teams (due to language barrier and a lack of availability).
This is probably one reason why Western fans are so much less happy with an all-Chinese finals than Chinese fans were for an all-Western finals.
Source: Dota 2 Twitter
A more diverse finals would have been better for Valve, as well. I'm sure they hoped to see Evil Geniuses make their way to the finals. There's a significant realtionship between how well sport is received in media and how well the own national team is doing. Especially for ESPN, an American team in the finals could have potentially increased the viewernumbers. To go even further: Last year's broadcast on TV6 would probably have had way fewer viewers if The Alliance had not been as succesful.
To interest a nation, engage their fans. The one force most likely to bring grizzled, war-torn veterans to tears over stick-and-hoop is patriotism.
Another popular theory in the reception and impact sciences of mass media is the so called Public Mood theory. According to that theory, people will be affected by their experience of being in a particular community - in our case being a fan of a Dota 2 team. Public mood is exactly what it sounds like: the emotional ups and downs impressed onto fans due to the effects of their society as a whole. In fancy-pants words:
We define public mood as a diffuse affective state, having distinct positive and negative components, that people experience because of their membership in a particular community
Wendy M. Rahn et al., A Framework for the Study of Public Mood, (1996)
There are many different studies that claim to have found a significant correlation between the results of political elections and how succesfull the national football team has been. Transfering this to the Dota 2 community, one could expect that folks right now are judging anything Dota 2 related in a more negative way than usual.
Interesting enough, here are a few results from different studies to that topic:
- The effect was found to be bigger the more important the matches were
With that much money on the line in the biggest tournament of the year, it is not suprisiing how people react now
- It affects more the image of people, not of groups
One might have been surprised by all the hate a certain Katie received, but looking at these results it might have been predictable
However, the public mood is a fairly short-term effect (regardless wheter positive or negative, it rubs off after pwning some n00bs in a pub). For the most part, the hype will be back for next year's The International!
"Real sports" are studied with these kind of frameworks all the time (that's why the frameworks were studied and invented in the first place). I think it's time we start taking a look at eSports with the same scrutiny. I got the idea for writing this piece after hearing three sad Dota fans stating why their favorite team lost: "We didn't apply enough pressure". Identifying in such a strong matter that you are talking in the first person plural is one of the most typical phenomenons in real sport. This may be why CBC News claims that The International 2014, was "a competitive event so huge it's beginning to blur the lines between online gaming and traditional sport."
How did You like this year's International?