Ah, eSports – so fun to watch an association go through the growing pains of becoming accepted and professional. The thing that makes eSports so unique is that we expect players to act like gamers, while also being professional eSports athletes. Riot has taken a stance on this that has raised some eyebrows.
According to a new contract for League of Legends Championship Series (LCS) teams, team members are not allowed to publicly stream game play of titles such as Dota, World of Tanks or Blizzard games. This got many gamers very upset, leading to the Director of eSports at Riot making a statement on Reddit. This point, while it makes sense, seems a bit off the mark in this context:
I can’t stress enough how these guys in the LCS are on the road to being real, legitimate athletes. This is new territory for a lot of teams (especially in esports), because the transition goes from being a group of talented individuals to being real icons of a sport and a league. Similarly, you probably wouldn’t see an NFL player promoting Arena Football or a Nike-sponsored player wearing Reebok on camera. Pro players are free to play whatever games they want – we’re simply asking them to keep in mind that, on-stream, they’re the face of competitive League of Legends.
I completely agree that they should not be touting the competition. You wouldn’t see a player for Man United wearing a Man City jersey, and the example of a Nike-sponsored player wearing Reebok is spot on. However, you often see pictures or videos of famous athletes attending or playing different sports. Why not watch a footballer try to race a car? Or how about watching basketball players trying out baseball? We don’t expect them to be professional at those other sports, but it certainly doesn’t detract from our interest in watching them play what they’re good at.
I suppose the issue comes in with money, as always. Most pro eSports athletes earn extra money from their streams. Whether streaming LoL or Hearthstone, people will pay to watch their favorite eSports pros play games. Riot obviously wants their players who are getting a monthly salary by playing LoL to only stream that MOBA. This will cut into interest in streams (maybe), but will also mean that if players want to give World of Tanks a try, or laugh at themselves while playing StarCraft 2, they aren’t allowed to stream that to their fans. This can certainly cut into their cash flow, and seems rather unreasonable from Riot. I’m sure some celebrity level athletes are paid to attend other sporting events, why not allow similar dispensation for eSports athletes? Sure, they shouldn’t play competing games, I understand that. But I don’t see how a LoL pro streaming Hearthstone is going to detract from the Riot brand.
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Last Updated: December 5, 2013