Amid ongoing controversy over the effect of crowd noises on competitive matches, ESL says it’s continuing to improve technology and methods to control the problem—but that soundproof booths aren’t going to be an option any time soon.
The company undergoes audio simulation of a live tournament before each event, testing its passive noise-suppression headsets with its sound system, the company told Dot Esports. ESL wants to provide the “best possible playing environment” by “balancing intelligible, clear team speech” and “eliminating as much unwanted noise as possible.”
Competition at the ESL Pro League Season 5 Finals this past weekend witnessed crowd bias towards G2 Esports due to the crowd’s disdain for North after they acted over-confident in pre-game interviews. Fans could be heard giving away enemy positions and strategies, and G2 used that towards their advantage. This has sparked controversy over how crowds can affect gameplay, and the community seems to want soundproof booths to alleviate the problem.
Although it experiments with its tech beforehand, there’s still one variable that cannot predictably be accounted for: the crowd. Different crowds at different events will have varying reactions and sentiments to game highlights, professional player interviews, and match outcomes. For example, the crowd at the ELEAGUE Major cheered for both Astralis and Virtus Pro in the grand finals while the crowd at the ESL Pro League Finals seemed to favor G2.
To prevent breaches in competitive integrity from the crowd, ESL could relinquish attendance for individuals who compromise player positions and team strategies.
To prevent breaches in competitive integrity from players, ESL could adjust its sound systems and software according to the gameplay (such as lowering the volume of utility).
ESL gave an interesting argument against the use of soundproof booths.
“Soundproof booths do offer a solution for sound damping, but this in turn also dampens the energy of a LAN tournament and disconnects the players from the crowd, which is a critical dynamic for an engaging and exciting high-level sporting event,” it said. “The feedback from players at events like IEM Katowice is testament to our current solution going in the right direction.”
It’s not necessarily clear, however, that soundproof booths “dampen” energy in an arena. Fans will get rowdy regardless of who’s playing because they love watching the game and seeing the crazy things players pull off in-game. Even if their favorite team is no longer competing at the event, they’ll still spectate and cheer at later games because they know it’s an experience they’ll enjoy.
Disconnecting the players from the crowd also sounds a little off since players are inherently disconnected from the crowd. Their faces are behind monitors and they’re focused on the game–of course they won’t interact with the crowd as much. Player-to-crowd interaction at events is much more different than player-to-stream interaction on Twitch.
In cases where the crowd gets out of hand, players are advised to tell an admin immediately, but that didn’t quite happen this past weekend at the ESL Pro League Season 5 Finals. Players reported the problem after the match, and not during the match, presumably for pride’s sake.
If ESL wants to perfect the balance between competitive integrity and event ambience, it should consider opinions from both professional players and fans who frequent events.