Mainstream Media: A Love Hate Relationship With eSports

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eSports has been around for some time, but you would never have guessed it if you only paid attention to mainstream media.  However, as the pile of money in the scene continues to grow, more and more want a piece of the action.

As big brands from the tech industry to sporting franchises flood the scene, mainstream media has begun to follow suit. With big publications prodding, the results have been rather mixed.

Mama We Made It

Many in eSports have yearned for mainstream acceptance of the scene. Fans and players alike wanted to be held up on the same pedestal as traditional sports. They wanted a moment where they could say “mama we made it” as the world finally gave them the approval they so desperately sought.

Initial coverage from mainstream media, however small or ham-fisted was seen as a big boon to those with this line of thought. There was widespread initial euphoria, but that was soon followed by anger and ridicule.

From BBC to ESPN to HBO, whether it was articles or video features, many of them suffered from the same characteristics. The coverage often reeked of ignorance and exposed a thorough lack of research or knowledge. Two traits one would not expect to see in well-established publications.

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Whilst ignorance could be stomached by some knowing that this was giving eSports a huge viewer reach and credibility, the arrogantly biased narratives could not. Some articles could not hide their derision for the scene and coupled with misinformation or general lack of knowledge, it was a slap in the face to eSports fans.

Forced narratives that sought to reinforce outdated stereotypes of gamers and eSports as whole served to further alienate eSports communities from major publications and created a disdain for those outside of the scene. It was a sobering experience for those craving external approval of competitive gaming.

Ignorance & Greed

Online journalism is often marred by a harsh reality; that online publications live and die by clicks and views. It is a reality many struggle with, but this is still no excuse for mainstream media’s blunder-filled entrance to eSports.

Ignorance and greed are very much to blame for how heavy handed mainstream media’s approach to eSports has been initially. Greed because as eSports continues to grow in viewership and money, it has now become far too large to be ignored.

Ignorance comes from a lack of respect. Many mainstream media outlets refuse to acknowledge their ignorance in the scene and that allows content to be created that hurts eSports in many ways.

The obvious harm is that of reinforcing outdated stereotypes in both gaming and eSports. This is exacerbated by the fact that the audience of mainstream media already has a massive bias against eSports as a whole.

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Ignorant articles also serve to undermine and ultimately harm important narratives that are already being championed by some in the scene. Let’s look specifically at the most recent article by mainstream media to offend, a BBC article trying to cover sexism in eSports.

The article showed an obvious lack of understanding of the nuances in eSports, specifically CSGO. The lack of research was glaringly obvious, even at a basic level. What was even more apparent, was the forced narrative they were going with.

Whilst sexism is a massive issue in gaming and eSports, BBC’s approach to it undermined all the hard work that others are making in this issue and that is really the biggest tragedy of it all. Their misinformed piece can now be used by those opposed to dealing with sexism in gaming, who can now point to it and say sexism in gaming isn’t that big of a deal and is just a forced narrative.

Mainstream Media Can Raise the Bar

Despite the fact that the majority of this article discusses how big media are royally screwing it up, they should still be welcome in the eSports scene. Not because of some misplaced desire for mainstream acceptance, but because they can raise the bar for journalism as a whole in the scene.

However, for that to happen, major publications are going to have be cognisant of their ignorance and seek to rectify that before diving in. They’re going to have to treat eSports like they would any other topic, such as politics or traditional sports. Thankfully, there are promising signs of this already happening.

ESPN has been notorious for some awfully ignorant articles in the past, however they now have a dedicated eSports team that covers topics in the scene. Yahoo did the same thing, by putting together a team knowledgeable of eSports and with insider information.

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Another example of how mainstream media can really shine, when doing things right, is an article written by a Playboy writer on League of Legends. Whilst it is fairly old, back then already, a journalist outside of the eSports scene put together an incredibly well researched, well written article and the community loved it. It raised the bar for what was considered a great article.

Mainstream media can most certainly help eSports grow in more ways than one. They just need to accept their ignorance and be willing to learn.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Critical Hit as an organisation.

Last Updated: January 4, 2017

Glenn Kisela

I've always loved video games as well as writing, so mixing the two together was inevitable. When I'm not doing that, I do photography and design. May or may not report you to the relevant authorities. I'm also a big fan of English Cricket. Ask me about the ICC.

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