By Jack Murray, CANA Intern, George Mason University
CANA esports R6 Showdown Takeaways
CANA hosted its inaugural open-player esports tournament this past April. It was a fast-paced, gripping event, and we gained some fantastic insights into this growing field. The initiating spark to host an esports event grew out of our interest in supporting the esports industry through the use of data analytics.
Personally, I have been involved with video games for almost the entirety of my life, and I saw firsthand how quickly esports was growing. I started as a CANA intern during the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw most traditional sports put on hold or canceled completely. This led to esports being one of the only sports entertainment options available to anyone and everyone. The easy accessibility, low cost, and variety of esports are contributing factors to its exponential growth. The pandemic may have inflated the true numbers, but esports was already on a path for this type of growth, it was just a matter of time and acceptance by the world. Although esports was expanding, it was still a new and young industry with so much untapped potential.
As we looked into how CANA’s analytics could support this industry, we discovered the wide variety of video games that are played at the level of ‘esports’ all have different data to be explored. With the entire industry being a virtual environment, it breeds an abundance of data. There are some data analytics companies that are realizing this as well, but there is so much untapped data remaining. We also reached out and connected with two esports industry leaders, Rebecca Longawa and Wim Stocks. Rebecca is the founder of Happy Warrior, an esports consultant firm, and Wim just recently retired from being the General Manager and CEO of World Gaming & Collegiate Starleague and is now the Head of Partnerships and Commercial at Belong Gaming & Vindex.
The three areas we were particularly interested in were: esports recruitment analytics, promoting diversity in gaming through analytics, and being an analytics provider for an esports league. As hosts of the event, we could collect a controlled data sample to conduct a variety of analyses.
We selected the game Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege for its military-style, tactical gameplay. Our tournament included a mix of high school students, college students, and members of the US Army as part of a semi-pro team called US Army Esports. Some teams were semi-professional teams that had coaches, and others were just friends getting together to join in on the fun. Some were using our tournament as practice for real Rainbow Six League play. This provided us with a truly diverse group of gamers that were a mix of amateur and organized, highly skilled competitors. The event was a three-day tournament from 23 through 25 April 2021. In the best of 3 final series, Psych Ward won 2-0 against US Army Esports; the second game went to the last round of overtime to decide. It was a nail-biter, but Psych Ward won both games and the tournament! Great job, Psych Ward!
Overall, the tournament ran smoothly, and we had a great time as hosts. Although we prepared for this tournament for about three months, there were several operational aspects we could have better anticipated. As every first event will have a learning curve, we recognized a few key takeaways. The first is to create alternative bracket systems in case of cancellations and no-shows. On game day, three of our eight teams dropped out. This dismantled our bracket system and required a solution on the spot. We solved the problem by adding a one-time losers bracket for the quarter-final losers. There is no way to be 100% positive each team is going to show up for every game, and we need to be better prepared for that.
The second takeaway is to allow substitute roster spots at the time of registration. Life gets in the way sometimes, and it can affect players’ availability to play at the set times. We manually added substitute players, which led to much more work than necessary. The third is that we needed more people on the control end of the tournament. As one of the commentators, I was also the main player support person in the discord chat. Any player could reach out to me individually, or I would be the one in our discord server responsible for responding to them. This would have been better managed with an additional person. We also would have benefitted from having someone to put out social media posts during each match because game details in real-time is exactly what social media users are looking for. It would have helped build awareness of our event and drawn a larger audience if we had someone posting in real-time.
CANA’s overall intent in hosting this tournament was to further explore analytics in esports. In that respect, it was an extremely beneficial experience. The most crucial takeaway is that there is a lot more data waiting to be discovered. We ran this particular tournament for one specific game, Rainbow Six Siege, and we also used a data application called R6 Analyst to get the most detailed information on the gameplay. The R6 application gave us a great deal of data to work with for each individual's gameplay statistics. This type of information can provide potential training points to players; inform spectators, scouts, coaches, and sponsors; and support industry game analysis and more, in a growing billion-plus dollar industry.
Even with the large amount of data collected from this application, we quickly noticed there were many other aspects of the game that could have been collected. This validated the endless analytical aspects of this one particular game - and it is likely to be the same for all the other video games. At the moment, we feel esports data analytics has only scratched the surface of what information might be collected, and this tournament proved that.
The other major takeaway is that the esports industry and community is extremely supportive. We received many suggestions and comments from our competitors and other esports industry leaders on how to make improvements going forward. Everyone wants esports to succeed, so they are always trying to help out. They are looking out for the best interest of esports as a whole, and that mindset is vital to the success of any industry. Lastly, esports and analyzing esports is a blast! This industry is so young, new, and exciting, and we are enjoying every moment of it. We are really looking forward to being a catalyst in furthering the success of esports through the use of data analytics.