Why do esports players play inside the booth

I’ve been reading this esports book by Hyung-Geun Cho who used to be a professional Starcraft athlete back in the days but now working as a designer at Hyundai Motors R&D. Yes, it was a pleasant surprise that we used to work for the same employer, perhaps even at the same R&D site. Anyways, several insights that I’d like to take away from reading his book and one of them is on esports athlete playing in the so called “booth”.

Perhaps some games have different rules, but for Starcraft league it was necessary for the athletes to play a sound-proof booth, similar to the ones that some musicians have a “practice room” in their little apartment, like my buddy Dylan Park.

Now why? OK, first the reason why I liked reading this book is that because the other used to be a professional player, he has the pro player point of view and narratives that I would have never known as I’d never had the chance to reach that level of expertise nor I ever that interest. So it turns out that in the very beginning of the league, when rules and regulations were still a bit grey and up in the air, there was no such thing as booth and athletes used to share the same space as the audience, just like a normal sports scene would be like. The players may have their headset on during the game but the sound-proof is weak as you know. Live esports event can get pretty noisy, part because there are caster and commentators constantly speaking and the audience watching the game live, sometime screaming and rooting for their supporting team.

Now when the audience watches an important scene, i.e., a critical tactic that could lead to a huge advantage towards the player’s win (e.g., a group of stop lurckers waiting for the marines and medicks to pass by), happening in front of their eyes, they get agitated and so does the casters and commentators. Simply put, they start to scream and yell. Now head-set being imperfect, sometimes the athlete could hear the crowd reaction, and some clever ones sensed what could lie ahead of their path (‘why are they screaming? hmm…something is very fishy…), so ended up changing their actions or play more safe right after that incident during game. The outcome of the game could have been different if it were not for the noisy reaction that ended up being some unintentional cue that could lead to an unfair game. (They used to call this “Ear map” by the way which makes complete sense).

Since then new rule has been established, and now people play in a sound-proof booth as part of the regulation.

Trial and error, yeah?

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