Gearing up for the Season 3 World Championships, I knew that there were going to be three types of people covering the event:
- People who work for League of Legends-centric sites. They are knowledgeable about the game and passionate about its continued existence.
- People who work for gaming-centric sites like Polygon, Kotaku, etc. with gaming knowledge, but less than than the people above. They are aware of eSports’ existence and growth, but they are not covering the day-to-day of the game.
- People who work for large mainstream sites who see video games selling out the Staples Center and have their ears perk up. Finals are a spectacle to them, an anomaly that will get the same reaction from viewers: “Oh, that’s weird.”
The disappointing thing about the last party is that they, more often than not, have the most potential viewers and the least time to attempt to understand the subject matter.
This comes into play when networks like The Young Turks create pieces on League; theirs in particular raised a bit of criticism in the community because some parts were dismissive, shallow and represented a lack of initiative in knowing what they were reporting on.
For instance, they referenced the game being played with “thumbs” instead of a mouse and keyboard, or that the Chinese were the favourites going into the finals (they weren't) and that the Koreans upset them (they didn't).
I can tell you for a fact that The Young Turks definitely do not give a shit.
After watching the video, I can explain what TYT wanted to do. They wanted to take a weird thing that was happening, distil it down to its base elements for its non-gamer audience, then move on to making the next piece to populate their channel.
They wanted to have a very simple discussion about the main points of eSports that didn't require them to do much research or explanation. Regardless of how many Luddites are on the staff, they know that both sports and video games exist, and can be combined without too much of a mental stretch. This allows someone who knows about both to speak on it without too much background work.
Here’s the key thing: they are appealing to the same lowest common denominator with the people watching their show, as well. It does not matter if the “thumbs” thing or even the Chinese/Korean hype is wrong; their audience does not care about the intricacies of what they’re reporting on, moreso that it exists, and it’s a weird thing people do.
To try to expand on that in the short time frame they gave the video would add elements that the user ultimately would not find useful unless they were curious about eSports past the video: these are not the people that watch their content on the regular. People who are interested in eSports after watching the video will seek out information on their own, but at that point, The Young Turks have already moved on to that next story, because they have other things to do.
They are not obligated to give their viewers a look at League beyond “here’s this weird thing”, and that’s exactly what they did.
So here’s the thing we take away from this whole situation: The Young Turks are not going to be the only ones who make pieces like this, and they will not be the last people to gloss over what we enjoy about eSports and compare it to things that make us cringe.
Every time my family brings up eSports and Pac-Man or Pong in the same sentence, I wince, but sadly, that is the closest analogy for them. That is why TYT mentioned “thumbs”; the layman still things we’re playing on a SNES controller and curbing Nintendo Knuckle. The layman still thinks we’re sweaty, smelly, ugly people living in our parents basement. The layman still asks me how “watching the gooks play their games” was, and I have to restrain myself from slugging him.
And as long as we keep rewarding these networks that view us as a spectacle with our retweets, shares and upvotes, they will not be held to a standard that will force them to change.
They know for a fact that we are craving legitimacy, and we’re willing to get it from the mainstream audience by any way possible. Anything League of Legends-related from a large “name” like CNN, Forbes, Business Insider or Wired will be tweeted and shared by Riot and Rioter accounts with millions of followers who will pass it on to their friends, as well as get an easy traffic day on the subreddit with the biggest non-default, SFW audience on the site.
Even worse, they know they can use press releases or face-value judgements to craft these pieces and no one but us will care.
While Riot’s hands are tied here — they will not refuse any type of mainstream coverage, no matter how ill-prepared it is — ours aren't. While these news outlets aren't stupid, they damn well think we are.
So here’s where we go beyond just pointing out things and suggest some solutions. While it seems we’re not in a position of power here, we actually are: by rewarding those who take the time and effort to portray us properly — not “good”, but “properly” — we are encouraging others to do the same.
Instead of upvoting sites who may only want to make a quick buck off of League of Legends, respect those who are actively trying to help the scene grow. Keep in mind that the latter may still be large outlets: some people do it better than others.
Instead of consuming copy-paste articles or roundups that summarize what we others have worked hard to produce, support people who take chances, put in work, and ultimately care about eSports. These are the people who are going to change perceptions from “that weird thing the nerds do” to “I can respect that.”
Ultimately, the fans, personalities and players are the people who make incumbents in the community. By taking the time to reward those who take us seriously and regard us as more than a passing fad, we ensure that our scene will last a lot longer than when they decide our traffic isn't worth the trouble.