On a trip to the World Youth Mindsports Fair in Seoul, South Korea, one of the greatest chess grandmasters of all time weighed in on this new-fangled thing we call eSports.
It was fitting that Seoul provoked eSports pontifications from Garry Kasparov. Even there—a city known as the Mecca of eSports—Kasparov sees a day when Chess and Go surpass current eSports stalwarts League of Legends and StarCraft.
Chess & baduk (go) are far less popular here than "e-sports", the multiplayer computer game competitions Koreans love & dominate. For now!— Garry Kasparov (@Kasparov63) December 26, 2013
In fact, he sees a time limit on League’s popularity. If that sounds crazy, consider that StarCraft: Brood War once attracted hundreds of thousands of people to fill arenas. Now, the game has faded.
Tough for chess to overtake League of Legends, the most popular game here, but I don't think they'll play that in 100 years. Chess, yes!— Garry Kasparov (@Kasparov63) December 26, 2013
People get bored with a computer game as soon as a new one comes out with slightly better graphics. Chess has captivated us for centuries.— Garry Kasparov (@Kasparov63) December 26, 2013
Did better “slightly better graphics” kill Brood War? There’s an argument to be made that StarCraft 2, which admittedly has way more polygons on screen, killed Brood War. If that’s the case, a multimillion dollar marketing machine from Blizzard killed the original king of eSports and graphics were only a small part of that death.
Barring an unlikely popular sequel to chess, that’s something the game of kings never has to worry about.
What will kill League of Legends?
As lazy as we like to pretend we are, our brains crave challenge & development all our lives. Chess feeds this need perfectly for all ages.— Garry Kasparov (@Kasparov63) December 26, 2013
You can't change your hardware, that's your DNA. But you can definitely upgrade your mental software by questioning & learning every day.— Garry Kasparov (@Kasparov63) December 26, 2013
Any eSports die-hard getting offended really ought to try chess. It’s a beautiful game. Even if your eSport of choice has beauty too, it’s hard to deny the awesome power of a game that’s attracted competitors for a millenium.
But Kasparov isn’t being disrespectful toward eSports or even other board games.
Actually, I do know quite a bit about videogames thanks to my son, who is a big expert at Warcraft among many others.— Garry Kasparov (@Kasparov63) December 26, 2013
I have also talked & worked with many game makers over the years. Narrative & graphics are great, but they also age, often quickly.— Garry Kasparov (@Kasparov63) December 26, 2013
I am in no way dismissive of e-sports or videogames. Many offer rich environments & strategic decision-making, not just cool pictures.— Garry Kasparov (@Kasparov63) December 26, 2013
Point was that the strategic purity of chess (or go, etc) is timeless for a reason. No storyline to tire of, no expansion packs to buy!— Garry Kasparov (@Kasparov63) December 26, 2013
Kasparov doesn't have anything gainst games per se. He’s credited as a designer on Kasparov Chessmate. In fact, he’s looking into a new one now.
A group of business school students I spoke to at Oxford-Martin are interested in collaborating on an online decision-making game with me.— Garry Kasparov (@Kasparov63) December 26, 2013
Not expecting that decision-making game to require good graphics. Or if it does, I can get some CGI hair out of the project!— Garry Kasparov (@Kasparov63) December 26, 2013
If you need more proof that Kasparov isn’t ignorant of the world of eSports, remember that he recognized and met Manuel “Grubby” Schenkhuizen years ago in an airport when Schenkhuizen was the greatest Warcraft 3 player in the world. The two talked games as the cameras rolled. Kasparov’s recognition of Grubby was likely aided by the fact that Kasparov’s son is a Warcraft “expert" (according to Kasparov himself), among many other video games.
After the tweets, Kasparov engaged in a friendly back and forth with his followers.
@Kasparov63 Pro gamers don't see "graphics" anymore, only data. The problem with aging graphics come from the audience who want eye candy.— inco inco (@incolas) December 26, 2013
As eSports matures, it will be interesting to see what happens as great minds from games like chess weigh in on the new competitive frontier. In the meantime, Kasparov will keep learning.
I will know much more about eSports after today's visit to the World Youth Mindsports Fair here in Seoul! They are the best, I'm told.— Garry Kasparov (@Kasparov63) December 26, 2013
Yes, Koreans are the best. That’s eSports lesson #1, Garry.
Photo via AceKindred/Flickr