It’s odd to think about a book that covers video gaming history but isn’t retro. This particularly feels weird when thought of in terms of eSports, since organized video game competitions aren’t exactly new. The business of eSports team development is a somewhat new and interesting phenomenon, though. One of the longest-running eSports teams out there is OpTic Gaming, a team which released a self-titled book chronicling their development. OpTic Gaming won’t blow anyone’s minds with its writing, but its stories and drama can be interesting to both dedicated OpTic fans and those just interested in professional gaming as a whole.
As a professional Call of Duty team, OpTic Gaming’s book tells the stories of the team in relation to the CoD titles that were popular at the time. Covering time ranging from Call of Duty 2 to Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, each short essay covers topics like team formation, roster changes, tournaments, and the team’s transition from pure eSports to an entertainment organization. Seven members of the team past and present write the books essays including Hector “H3CZ” Rodriguez, Ashley “MiDNiTE” Glassel, Seth “Scump” Abner, and Will “BigTymeR” Johnson. Some stories explain critical points in the team’s formation, while others focus on funny stories (one team member chronicles how he couldn’t use a bathroom during an important match, for example). Each essay feels like it was written by the corresponding team member, with writing styles and perspectives changing with each author. Considering OpTic gained its popularity by connecting with its fans directly, it’s no surprise the book takes a similar, open tone.
OpTic Gaming feels very much like any of the other new endeavors OpTic describes taking on in the book: initially rough and unrefined. Though none of the team members make their money being writers, an additional round of editing would have punched up some entries that felt particularly flat or boring. The team also takes for granted that readers have a knowledge of competitive Call of Duty match formats, sometimes using unexplained jargon to describe match results or decisions. Also, if I’d been left to judge the book based on the superlative marketing jargon on the cover (“the legendary four-time Call of Duty Major League Gaming Champions, OpTic Gaming, takes you into the game and their universe as never before”), I’d likely have put the book right back down. Still, also very much like new endeavors OpTic takes on, the book improves with time, becoming an eye-opening account of years that have changed players’ lives.
In particular, essays from MiDNiTE and H3CZ stand out from the others, blending personal experience and background with the events of the scene in ways that feel both efficient and gripping. BigTymeR’s direct address to the reader felt off-putting to me, at first, but matches his naturally charismatic style. Regardless, it feels like they’re letting their walls down and being genuine about the good and bad in their lives, a facet that’s key to success online. Sure, there’s the typical “Mom wouldn’t let me play video games” stuff, but they also talk about the tension of kicking off team members who were friends, living in a house with teammates who were in many ways strangers, and more. The book also takes breaks periodically, and team members talk about their topics like their favorite Call of Duty game, how they came up with their gamer tag, or even chime in on the stories other team members have told. They’re disorienting occasionally, but they make the book feel more cohesive instead of like a series of blog posts tossed in a paperback.
Though I never paid attention to eSports teams before reading this book, I could understand by the end why people attach so much to organizations like OpTic. I definitely would have appreciated more from MiDNiTE as the only woman on the team, and it feels bizarre to read a book written in a present style when it ends before Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 comes out. Still, OpTic Gaming contains plenty to learn for anyone looking to play eSports professionally or create an Internet-based entertainment business, in particular. Aside from the practical usages, though, OpTic Gaming’s book shows just how much the eSports industry has changed in a relatively short amount of time. Whether you casually watch games on Twitch or own a jersey for your favorite team/clan, OpTic Gaming is a worth a read.
Final Score: 4 out of 5.