The aftermath of Undas weekend brought to my mind a common phrase thrown around in gaming circles: Dead Game.
The phrase ranges from a go-to troll comment, to a toxic gatekeeper, to even an innocent question. Esports titles are made not just with competitive balance and casual appeal, but also with longevity in mind. After all, the longer you can get people to play a game, and the longer you can get new players, you increase the games lifespan which means more income opportunities for developers.
What is a Dead Game in esports?
The development of new games, either from competitors, or sequels to an old game can lead to the such comments. If, for example, Tekken 8 comes out, would Tekken 7 be considered a “dead game”? If so, this isn’t consistent with certain titles like Marvel vs Capcom whose second and third iterations (Marvel Vs. Capcom 2: New age of heroes, as well as Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3) still have active and healthy communities, arguably even more so than its latest title, Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite. The same logic goes with VALORANT and Counter Strike: Global Offensive, for shooter games, or MOBA games like Dota 2 and (PC) League of Legends versus its mobile variants League of Legends: Wild Rift or Mobile Legends: Bang Bang.
For others, the dead games are those with little to no player base compared to the mainstream games. Tekken being the most popular fighting game in the Philippines for casual and competitive players alike, many find it hard to process that other fighting games such as Street Fighter, Guilty Gear, or even Mortal Kombat also have their own communities in the country. While these other games have healthy communities, they are often recipients of dead game jokes from both within and outside their own player base.
As long as there are players, games don't die
Motivations for playing vary per player and game. Some struggle with the desire to fit in with the majority or validated by their peers when they are passionate about games that are not considered mainstream, which is understandable because gamers, like any other person, has an inherent desire to be accepted and validated by their peers. These are what we call our esteem needs according to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
The toxicity underlying the dead game narrative is also that of a concept commonly discussed in these articles: social comparison. Social comparison interacts with our esteem needs in such a way that by attempting to push that one is playing a better game, they are better gamers than others; which is more often than not far from the truth. It is merely an attempt by toxic gamers to gatekeep other fellow or would-be gamers from their communities.
Beyond the competition and business of esports, a never truly dies for as long as there are players and communities that share the same passion. We can look no further than the speedrunning community, a community of gamers dedicated to finishing games as quickly as possible. These gamers passionately replay even the classic games like Super Mario World, or other obscure titles primarily fueled by their love for the said game.
As esports and gaming in general move to a more business-centered model for better or worse. Let us not forget that before we were all “good” at a certain game, whether it is competitive or casual, people gravitated towards their favorite games because it is fun and created strong positive feelings within each player.