During The Outbreak: All Sports Are eSports Now

from the vroom-vroom dept

The COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the world, and in many cases shutting it down, has become so pervasive so as to even dominate the headlines here at Techdirt. To say the outbreak has altered our way of life would be a massive understatement. Social distancing, shutdown states, stuck in our homes, jobs reduced and gone; this whole thing has become a nightmare.

And it impacts even areas of our life that we enjoy, but are less important than others, such as sports. Professional and college sports have basically taken an unwanted holiday, shutting down in an effort to partake in killing this virus off. It's been strange for fans like me, who wake up on Saturdays and have to find legit ways to watch sporting events that took place years and years ago as a substitute for live broadcasts. And if you think there aren't a great many people who are starved for live sporting content, you need only look to what is going on in the autoracing world, where it's basically all become eSports now.

We'll start with Formula 1 Racing, which pivoted from its canceled live races into using video games as a substitute, using current and former drivers behind the virtual wheels.

Interestingly, because some drivers are pretty good behind a virtual wheel and others aren’t, the competition will “be configured in such a way to encourage competitive and entertaining racing,” which is a gentle way of leading into the fact rubbish drivers will be given advantages like “reduced vehicle damage, and optional anti-lock brakes and traction control for those less familiar with the game.”

The races are going to be held on the same days as actual races were supposed to go down, which means the first one should be running any minute now (at time of posting), since the Bahrain Grand Prix was meant to be held today.

These races are being broadcast over the internet and a whole bunch of people are watching them. It's somewhat gratifying to see that real drivers driving virtual cars in a game realistic enough to get people to suspend the notion that they're watching video games somewhat has become a thing. All the more cool is how this is helping fans of the sport limp along through this epidemic while still being able to watch a version of the races and racers they love.

But that pales in comparison to what NASCAR is about to pull off. Having created its own ad-hoc race using NASCAR video games and, again, real drivers, the whole thing was watched by enough people that the broadcast channels are going to pick it up and televise the next races.

The first eNASCAR iRacing Pro invitational Series event, held on Sunday, was—like Formula 1's move to video game competition—a chance for both drivers and fans to get some kind of racing fix in these weird and challenging times. In first place was three-time Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin, and nearly one million people watched it on Fox, so now a whole season of it, called FOX NASCAR iRACING, is going to take place.

And just to drive the point home that this is all about giving people a sense or simulacrum of their normal Sunday experience, Fox is bringing in the normal television commentators into the virtual "booth", including Jeff Gordon.

To say that this whole episode the past several weeks has been surreal seems like it lacks punch. Still, it's been interesting to watch eSports fill the void for us, helping us try to pantomime normalcy in a world gone mad.

Filed Under: covid-19, esports, pandemic, sports


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Mar 2020 @ 2:10am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    There is a problem with the story, however: It’s nonsense. Sad as their predicament is, the only “advice” to be gleaned from the couple’s behavior is “don’t be a unimaginable moron.” The headline of NBC’s story is “Arizona man dies after ingesting chloroquine in an attempt to prevent coronavirus.” But this is not correct. He did not “ingest chloroquine,” and neither did his wife. Rather, he ingested chloroquine phosphate, which his wife found in her back pantry the form of fish tank cleaner.

    From the interview:

    “I was in the pantry stacking dog food and I just saw it sitting in the back shelf and thought, ‘Hey, isn’t that the stuff they’re talking about on TV?’ And it was.”

    It wasn’t.

    I’m afraid that this is the stuff of idiocracy — the equivalent of a person seeing a bucket of chlorine next to her swimming pool and drinking it because the letters on the outside are arranged in a similar order to the word “chloroquine.” And the idea that the president is to blame for this is . . . well, it’s simply incomprehensible to me. It is possible, certainly, that Donald Trump (along with Andrew Cuomo) has been too bullish on the prospects for chloroquine as a tool in the fight against coronavirus. But that, if true, is a dramatically different sin. We simply cannot run our country on the assumption that “I have high hopes for this drug currently in clinical trials and hope it will eventually be fast-tracked by the FDA and prescribed by a doctor” will be heard by reasonable people as “go into your pantry right now and eat fish tank cleaner if the ingredients look similar to you to a word you heard on television.” Insofar as there is any advice to be disseminated here, it’s “don’t eat industrial cleaning products,” which one would hope is a lesson that most people have already internalized.

    Not to be outdone, Forbes got into the action, too. Here is the lead paragraph from a piece on the affair by Tara Haelle, who offers “straight talk on science, medicine, health and vaccines”:

    When President Trump incorrectly announced that the FDA had fast-tracked approval of the drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine for treatment of COVID-19, he added, “The nice part is, it’s been around for a long time, so we know that if it—if things don’t go as planned, it’s not going to kill anybody.”

    Except it just did.

    No, it didn’t. And one can learn that it didn’t by simply reading the next paragraph, which confirms that, “Instead of the drug form of chloroquine phosphate, the couple ingested a chloroquine phosphate product that’s used to treat parasites in fish. ”

    53
    This being so, one wonders what the “public service” angle can be here, for if chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine do turn out to be as useful as I assume we all hope they will, they will be limited, regulated, subjected to our existing prescription regime, and delivered, to borrow a term from Tara Haelle, in “drug form.” Does NBC know this? Does Forbes? Or do they believe that, if and when a cure is found, we will see the president call a press conference at which he encourages Americans to forage around in their pantries for consumer products that contain some of the same component parts as the treatments the medical community has begun to utilize?

    Insofar as these outlets had a responsibility here to “educate the people,” it seems to me that they could have better achieved this by running this story beneath a glaring “DO NOT DO THIS!” sign. Not everything in this vast and populous nation is a referendum on the president.


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