Why Do MOBA’s Make Such Good Esports Games?

An explanation of why MOBAs are so popular as esports
This article is over 10 years old and may contain outdated information

Today in Esports there is a genre of games that draws massive amounts of viewers and fellow players alike, and that genre is  MOBA. The MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) genre, also known as ARTS (action real time strategy)  includes games such as League of Legends, with its over 32 million active users, and Dota 2 with just over 5 million unique users, at the time of writing this article . These games have become popular not only to play, but to watch. MOBA games top the charts in terms of viewers on popular streaming sites such as TwitchTv. As a player and fan of both League of Legends and Dota 2 I got to thinking, why are these games so popular?  Not only as a fun game to play, but as an Esport to watch.

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A Helpful Analogy

My quest to make sense of the popularity of MOBA games as an Esports had me asking what they had in common with other sucsseful venues. The answer came in the form of basketball. Both basketball and MOBA games have a simple goal, be it to put a ball in a basket, or to destroy a key structure in the enemy team’s base. What makes things interesting is the complexity of the execution of that goal. Both in basketball and MOBA there are obstacles stopping you from accomplishing what you set out to do. Be it a 7 foot tall center guarding you,  or the support that lands a well timed stun. The excitment comes from seeing the players tackle these challenges.

The simplicity in the goals of both basketball and MOBA games makes them fun to watch. If you’re a poor basketball player you can still understand what takes place in the game and be excited by it, and the same is true of MOBA games. You can come in with a small amount of outside knowledge and skill and not only understand what takes place in a game, but enjoy it. That enjoyment is the key to success in both. If you asked ten different people what excited them about the sports they watched, you will probably get ten subtley different answers. Be it seeing a perfect timed three point shot, or a well executed gank, what’s the same is that there is something there for you enjoy. 

The MOBA genre boasts some of the most popular games in the world, as well as some of the most popular Esports titles. Be it the ease and simplicity of understanding the mechanics that drive the game, or the excitement of a well timed play, they continue to impress.

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Justin Everson
Avid gamer and writer. I work and live in China 11 months out the year, but still get to play all my games. I am most interested in how video games affect modern culture, and people from around the world.