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Modeling Criteria to Rate Who the Best Esports Players Are


‘Chiu on This’ is a short and regular opinion blast

With the Esports Awards show finishing, I thought it was a good time to explain the extreme complexity it takes to do something like pick who the best PC player of the year was. As is typical of every awards show, people feel slighted when their favorite isn’t picked and call the show a sham. As for my part, I’ve done rankings like this before (though in my case only game-by-game), and it’s incredibly hard just to do one game, nevermind trying to rate the entire field.

The reason it’s so hard is because of both the breadth of depth of knowledge that is required. There are experts in each particular game who know their game the best. There are also people who cover a wide variety of games, but don’t have the requisite depth of knowledge to truly be able to break down why X player is great at their game and how that compares to Y player in a completely different game and scene. I’ve seen people try to shortcut this by going purely through achievements and tournament results.

That is a terrible idea given that I suspect almost no one in the world could truly do a tournament breakdown that legitimately takes into account every trophy won and how hard each path is. Here’s a basic example, I will compare Ad Finem’s Boston Major run of 2016 to Polt’s ESL Cologne run of 2014.

The Major is an incredibly important and prestigious event in the Dota2 year. ESL Cologne is considered a great premier event, but not at the scale of a GSL or a Blizzcon. So in terms of prestige and importance relative to their scenes, the Boston Major is more important. So if you went purely by results and prestige, Ad Finem’s 2nd place > Polt’s 2nd place.

In reality, if you talked to someone who was an expert in both scenes, you’d likely come to a completely different conclusion. Ad Finem’s run was predicated on a weird tournament format where I think the top three teams of the tournament all played against each other in the upper bracket in the single elimination. Ad Finem had a great run as they beat everyone who was put against them and had a style of play that caught their opponents off guard, but by the end of the tournament I could not say that they were the 2nd best team in the tournament. This bares out when we see the rest of their results in the ensuing months.

Polt’s 2nd place at ESL Cologne was different. Polt played in a meta that was incredibly imbalanced specifically against his race: Terran. At that time, there were only three players in the world who could legitimately beat Protoss as a Terran player: Maru, TaeJa, and Polt. This was a meta that was so imbalanced that it is comparable to the bl/infestor days which I consider to be the worst imbalance of any esports game I’ve seen.

In this scenario, Polt made a run all the way to the finals and beat four Protoss players: Stardust, MaNa, Classic, and Rain. MaNa wasn’t very good and didn’t play that style, so the victory against him wasn’t noteworthy. Stardust was a top 10 or so Protoss player, so that was a good victory. What really cinches this tournament victory as being great is that Polt beats two of the greatest Protoss players to touch the game. Classic had yet to become one, but soon after this loss he was to win a GSL. As for Rain, he already established himself as a top 2-3 Protoss during this time period. Polt’s run to the finals netted him a 2nd place, but because he did it in one of the worst imbalanced states of the game and against two all-time great players, his run here is far more impressive than Ad Finem’s run to the finals at the Boston Major despite the latter being more prestigious.

This analysis isn’t even complete as I didn’t bother comparing and contrasting a specific player to Polt. Then imagine doing that across the entire breadth of esports games for every single tournament through a tournament year. That’s why it’s incredibly hard to do and I suspect that they have to get a bunch of panelists from these various esports games to hash it out. Though that itself may not solve anything as every expert I’ve met has different types of criteria they prioritize as the most important.

As for myself, here is what I’d do for such an award. I’d break down what it means to be the best PC player of the year. First I have to arbitrarily choose the year of 2018 only. This already creates a problem as while Overwatch, League of Legends, and SC2 seasons have ended, games like Dota2/CS:GO are ongoing. Then you have to break it down by scene. By pure mathematics, people should be able acknowledge that the larger scene has more infrastructure, coaching, and talent pool to play against. So dominating a larger scene must be put into context when comparing a game like League to SC2.

Additionally, you have to put into context the demands of the scene. Being a player in League is completely different to Dota2 in terms of tournament circuit. The skills needed to be a great SC2 player are completely different from the skills needed to be a great CS:GO player. You also have to systemically break down and categorize what each game allows you to do. There is more freedom in games like Dota2 and CS:GO than in something like League or Overwatch. Conversely then, if a player is able to break the bounds of those limits in those respective games, that should be added into the discussion as an important piece of context when trying to make a judgement across the board.

If you definitively wanted an answer to who was the best PC player of the year, then you’d need someone that could on some level break down and analyze all of these different aspects. I’ll try that in my next blog as I explain who I think was the PC player of the year.

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