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This past weekend, ESPN2 aired the finals of the Heroes Of The Storm "Heroes of the Dorm" tournament. Two teams of college students from Arizone State and Cal Berkely competed in Blizzard's as yet unreleased MOBA, with Blizzard paying all four years of the winning team's college tuition. The telecast was met with mixed reactions, with some lauding the placement of eSports on TV opposite NBA and MLB games, and others criticizing the idea, calling it ridiculously stupid. I won't get into the frankly ignorant remarks made by ESPN's own Colin Cowherd, although if you want to hear them for yourself click away.
In the aftermath of all the attention, much discussion has arisen about eSports and their validity. In particular, one article that caught my attention was from Re/Code, with the rather catchy headline "Video Games on ESPN? It's Time to Stop Pretending eSports Are 'Real' Sports", which you can find here. Now, being in journalism myself as well as a YouTuber, I'm no stranger to creating catchy headlines. Just look at the one you clicked on to get here. However, I find that it is at least helpful if the content of the article under that headline has at least some relationship to reality. Unfortunately in the case of the Re/Code piece, that didn't happen.
The very idea that eSports are somehow pretending to be "real" sports is, frankly, ludicrous. As many readers will know, I head the eSports coverage for this site and have followed the eSports scene for many years. In all my time covering StarCraft, StarCraft II, League of Legends, DOTA2, Smite and other games, I have never once heard anyone involved with the eSports community refer to it as anything other than eSports or competitive gaming. Likewise, competitors are never referred to as athletes. Instead they are commonly referenced (by themselves as well as casters and media) as competitive gamers. The reason for this is simple: eSports/competitive gaming and pro gamer/competitive gamer are descriptive terms. They literally describe what the activity or participant is. So, you aren't off to a good start when the title of your article contains a patently false statement.
Moving on, lets address the idea of channel surfers shouting "Nerds!" and flipping past the event. eSports doesn't need TV. It never has, and never will. As I write this article, there are 257,027 people watching eSports on Twitch.tv. On a Tuesday evening. There are no major events going on. These are simply people that want to watch eSports. We live in an on demand society. Cable TV is going the way of the dinosaur with subscriber numbers dropping consistently as people "cut the cord" and turn to Netflix, YouTube and Twitch for instant, tailor made entertainments. In the final analysis, all the investors in eSports see is viewer numbers. The International, DOTA2's World Championship, turned in viewer numbers that are usually only rivaled by things like golf's Masters, the Superbowl and the State of the Union address. The very concept that the eSports leagues care at all what people on network television think of their content is ludicrous. This also ties into another statement made in the Re/Code article: that calling eSports a sport is like calling a YouTube video a TV show. Nobody does that. And as I pointed out above, eSports doesn't call itself a sport.
Indeed, the idea that Blizzard, Valve and Riot are attempting to turn the ground-up phenomenon of eSports into something bigger is completely accurate. If a bit outdated. StarCraft is huge. It has been for years. Likewise for Counterstrike, LoL and DOTA2. The phenomenon has already arrived. It's sitting on Twitch.tv right now, commanding a massive amount of views. The idea that these companies somehow have an inferior complex and must try to get onto ESPN to validate some juvenile need to be accepted is laughable. Certainly, the advertising revenue from televising a few events hasn't hurt the scene any. But it is no way critical to the survival, or even growth of eSports.
I'll leave you with one final thought:
Last year, ESPN president John Skipper said of competitive gaming:"It's not a sport - it's a competition." Bravo Mr. Skipper. You understand what the rest of us already understand. It is a competition. We don't call it a sport. Nor does anyone else. I'm not in the habit of calling out other writers, but in this case I'll make an exception and remind all those that are reading this of the number one rule of writing: Research. Or, rather, since the article in question contained numerous links to sources that I would certainly consider research...make sure you actually read and understand you research before making statements on it that will potentially endanger someone's life due to asphyxia from hysterical laughter. I know I had a bit of trouble breathing after reading that article.
What do you think readers? Sound off in the comments below.
[BLOG] Opinion: Re/code's Article About eSports Is Full of Fallacies
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