I was really excited to see Rocket League make it onto television screens this weekend during the Universal Open - a 2v2 tournament on NBC Sports. As a huge fan of the game who has watched an increasing amount of pro play since the first season of the Rocket League Championship Series, I was curious how it would be received by a more mainstream audience. The results aren't in yet, but I did see something that marked a shift for me as an esports viewer. Player personalities are finally starting to show through and fans seem to be taking to it.
One player that stood out to me the first time I ever saw him play Rocket League is Jacob. Jacob "Jacob" McDowell is an American Rocket League player currently on the NRG team that recently won the X Games Rocket League Invitational. However, I know Jacob as the dude that played in a giant foam cowboy hat during the RLCS Season 3. Not only did he have the giant foam cowboy hat on during the match, but his car had the hat as a topper in-game. It helped that he made some ridiculous goals and demoed everyone in sight to the delight of the crowd, but whether I liked him or not he was instantly identifiable both in the game and outside of it.
Jacob instantly became a player I looked for in any Rocket League tournament going forward. I knew his games would be entertaining. I was excited to watch his double matches at the Universal Open and apparently I'm not his only fan as seen here after one of his more tame goals:
Most of the players I've watched are young kids that are incredibly focused on competition and could care less about standing out inbetween matches. Without a mind-blowing performance, most viewers won't remember 90% of the players after their first couple of games. The funny thing that the hat proves is that it isn't that hard to stand out in esports.
One of my major issues as a viewer is that when you are watching new game for the first time there's a lot to take in. Learning how to watch the specific game itself is intimidating enough, but trying to mentally link player handles with their names with their faces with their esports team that changes all the time is confusing. It's not like players are represented by their in-game avatars so viewers have to rely on camera cuts showing the players staring at the screen midmatch to start to try to have an idea of who is who. Players switch teams a lot inbetween tournaments as the teams themselves rise and fall. This industry is in its infancy. Anything a player can do to stand out is good for everyone involved and will help esports grow its fanbases. Having fun while wearing dumb hats or promoting stories like Dad scoring a backwards goal doesn't hurt either.