Sunday eSports: Competitive gaming in the media

eSports in the Media

By on January 27, 2013 at 2:49 pm

The reception of professional gaming within traditional and even gaming media itself has become a lot more prominent of late. Games like League of Legends and DOTA 2 have helped punishingly difficult learning curves come back into vogue, while the continued growth of prize pools at events like The International have caught the attention of traditional newswires and even business publications.

Earlier this week was a case in point. On page 13, next to the editorials, a half-page column on gaming kicked off with three full paragraphs about the exploits of Andrew “mOOnGlaDe” Pender and his recent sojourn in Katowice, Poland, for an Intel Extreme Masters leg. Pender’s been going overseas for the better part of a decade, but even on the last year his media profile, and that of other Australian gamers, has soared.

So to better understand the change in the relationship between traditional gaming media, mainstream media and eSports, I spoke with some pundits, editors and players to see what shifts caught their eye over the last year, where they think the partnership is going and what eSports can do to make itself more appealing to the wider market.

Jared “PiG” Krensel, full-time professional Starcraft 2 gamer:

When I did a interview on ABC 24 back in May 2012 the questions were starting to move away [from] just showing gamers as different and actually gave me an opportunity to show that gamers are normal people, whilst explaining that being a pro-gamer is actually a legitimate career choice these days.

A common focus is the idea of living off earnings from playing and other gaming related sponsorships and activities like streaming or coaching. I’m happy to see that more gaming websites however are taking for granted that their audience knows what pro-gaming is and instead focus more on experiences at tournaments, training, etc. Basically what you’d expect in a tennis interview or golf interview. I think this is a good thing which one day we can see in traditional media also.

eSports is new and refreshing. In an age of constantly evolving technology I believe that even people who know nothing about eSports are fascinated (and sometimes afraid) of the idea of everyone never stepping outside their home to kick a ball around and instead competing through video games all day. I guess I think putting forward an image of healthy, mature and intelligent professionals is the best thing I can do to increase my appeal. There is a very obvious need to remove yourself from the stereotypes of fat, unhealthy, socially awkward “gamers” in order to increase mainstream appeal. Likewise the characteristics liked in an athlete are also good to have.

Jessica Rozema, head of community and public relations for ESL Australia:

Event organisers struggle to communicate to a wider audience what these events/eSports actually involve as it is somewhat an unknown industry in Australia. As major games like League of Legends apply massive monetary prize pools … the overwhelming and growing popularity of these games and eSports as a whole start grabbing media attention.

More and more we are seeing events place a strong focus on production value and building up a spectator audience, and in my opinion this is where it is at. Ensuring that event organisers reach out as often as possible to educate people about what we love and why is a fantastic way to bring more professionalism and monetary/sponsorship support to grow the industry in Australia more and really put us on the international map.

I feel like eSports has definitely struggled for years to grow in Australia, however we are on the verge of taking it to the next level … having ESL come to Australia as an internationally known entity has caught the attention of some major companies and in turn this has sparked the interest of the general gaming community. As the community grows, and companies begin to see a commercial side to the industry media will follow, and I only hope that those with a passion for gaming journalism stay in the game and continue to represent.

Ali Abdo, co-founder of ShadowLogic, organisers of the Shadowloo Showdown international fighting game events in Melbourne:

I believe the mainstream media still has a way to go before they take competitive gaming seriously. Some have stepped up and giving it a go. Maybe they didn’t get the response they wanted, or maybe they feel once is enough. But I would like to see the mainstream media give competitive gaming it’s own segment maybe after they show the sports news. Would fit in nicely between sports and the weather.

We now see gaming sites interviewing professional players, putting up results, attending events. One site that stands out for me has to be GameSpot, they’ve really stepped up their game in the competitive gaming department.

I believe the change has come from the media realizing competitive gaming isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Add in the fact that everyone is streaming these days to get their name out there and build themselves a persona and an audience.

You need to give people a reason to watch your event …  you need these main events to mean something. For example at Shadowloo Showdown, we make it Australia vs the World. We have the best fighting game players from all over Australia coming down to Melbourne to defend our soil and prizes from the international invaders! The rest of the world knows how much of an uphill battle it is going to be for Australia, but that’s what makes it more exciting once an Australian player knocks out an international player.

Mark Ankucic, contributor for Dusty Cartridge:

The last twelve months have been nothing short of game-changing for me. Being introduced to esports communities like Shadowloo, covering the Oceanic [World Championship Series] Finals of Starcraft 2 for Game Informer, and being completely swept up in [the Evolution fighting game championships], has reminded me not merely of my own competitive streak, but that the streak lies in all of us.

Before this year I was aware of Evo and simply assumed there were various competitions for other games. It was only within the last year I realised the true scope of the funds and viewership these eSports were actually bringing in. Unfortunately my industry career has been beggared by the ignorance I held in regard to these events, because they represent an aspect of the love of challenge and adversity that we rarely get reporting the news or expressing opinions.

The traditional gaming media is failing to catch up with eSports, treating the competitive side as an almost strange beast that sits to the side. Why can I pick up a newspaper and read about an event that happened in Rugby and Soccer not two or three pages from a breaking story about something that happened in Parliament, but find even the biggest sites and publications lacking dedicated eSports sections? At times, I think the industry is a much bigger beast than most of us can tackle or will try to tackle, either because the internet necessarily breeds specialisation or that we just don’t see that these vastly different aspects of games fall under the same banner – gaming.

Andrew “mOOnGlaDe” Pender, professional Starcraft 2 player for Team Gamecom.Nv and an Australian World Cyber Games representative for Warcraft 3 and Starcraft 2:

The limited interaction with traditional and mainstream gaming media [at home] is fairly limited compared to most other progamers internationally, but I would have to say it has remained fairly the same. Which the media being interested in [professional gaming] from Australia in general and how i prepare for tournaments.

I think it entirely depends on the gaming events I’m participating in, with regards to how much reporters take interest in myself. So it is a bit inconsistent sometimes, if there aren’t many competitions/events scheduled.

Because most people find it hard to believe that people take computer games so serious to the point where they are professionals, like a real sport. So it is something new that’s emerging and so different, especially in Australia.

One comment (Leave your own)

A few problems with esports becoming something that the mainstream media would report on

1. Mainstream media already reports predominantly local sports, and focusing on a few select Australian gamers/teams when there’s hundreds of them out there is kind of pointless (not unlike if Channel 9 were to suddenly report on local footy clubs).

2. There’s so many events and so many different games out there that you’re better off finding a site dedicated to that game that can report on good events to watch, as there physically isn’t enough time to watch all the events of quite a few esports (Starcraft 2 in particular) as compared to traditional sports (or even things like chess).

3. It is possible to make a career as a competitive gamer, but due to the way prize structures work, the bottom 48+ of a 64 player/team tournament won’t earn a dime from tournaments and will have to rely on streaming/sponsorships/coaching/casting or what have you, making the sport very cutthroat as it is.

4. You actually have to be interested in video games to be able to watch esports; the majority of readers to things like newspapers or the news are actually interested in the miscellaneous stories that are there (and parliamentary news is always relevant to have), and clearly there’s a big enough demand for sports sections (bigger than video games certainly).

5. Many tournaments have to be paid to be watched which is basically excluding everyone except serial watchers of said ‘esport’ (why is it even called an esport? chess isn’t an esport); traditional sports do not use this pricing model.

6. This is a personal preference, but I dislike the fact that anyone thinks they can just go ahead and become a professional gamer if they throw 10 hours a day at it, and the elitism that comes with the territory. You don’t see potential footy/rugby drafts that delude themselves into thinking they can make it into their respective fields forever, there’ll be a point where they move on as it’s just too competitive of a field, whereas professional video game players, even if they don’t get anywhere over 3-5 years will still try and do it.

7. Also streamers have the same problem as tournaments; there’s just an oversaturation in the market.

Edit: 8. Forgot to mention that ‘gamers’ and the industry as a whole takes itself way too seriously, especially compared to traditional sports (if that is indeed what we’re comparing to).

 
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