June 2nd, 5:20am America/New_York

Why are you a fan of eSports?

Taylor "Hydrolis" Linden on Mon, 02/18/2013 1:13PM

This is an opinion article, and is the sole opinion of the author. It does not necessarily reflect the official stance of ESEA or its subsidiaries.

The world of electronic sports (eSports) came to be because of the potential for video games to draw a spectator audience. This subset of gaming differs from the casual experience in that pro-gamers commit large amounts of time and resources into improving their skills within a game, in order to out-compete other players. In competitive gaming, there is a lot on the line, and the excitement surrounding professional gaming attracts a lot of eyeballs.

Some questions I’ve asked myself (and been asked) over my 8 or so years within the eSports world are these: Why am I an eSports fan? Why do I spend hours a week watching competitive gaming content? Why do I travel around the world to attend live tournaments? Why do I follow pro-gamers and casters on Twitter? Ultimately, what enjoyment do I derive from the content being produced in this space?

I’m not going to write an entire article focusing on myself and why I personally enjoy electronic sports (although I’ll touch on it briefly below), but I would like to outline what I feel are the different ‘types’ of fans within our scene. After doing so, I would like to hear from you (and I am assuming you are all indeed ‘eSports fans’ if you are reading this), and hear why you are involved in this community. Below (in no particular order) is a list of general categories I feel an eSports fan can fall into. As you’re reading through the descriptions, ask yourself ‘where do I fit in?’ and start thinking about why you are a fan of pro-gaming (and please, leave a response in the comments below)!

One last thing: I’ll throw around the word ‘fan’ a lot in this article and I acknowledge that a lot of people are involved in this scene in different capacities. You have professional gamers themselves, you have tournament organizers, and you have shoutcasters (among other roles) whom are likely all ‘fans’ of eSports as well. The focus of this article is on the pure ‘fans’ (think of traditional sports, the average folk that fill stadiums), which make up the bulk of this community.

The aspiring pro…

The first ‘type’ of an eSports fan is one who follows competitive gaming because they want to become better at a game themselves. They use the world of eSports as a learning tool, and they tune into tournaments and watch their favourite streamers because they’re trying to elevate their game. Someone may only watch a jungler player’s stream because that is the role they play on their own LoL team. They don’t care about how much money a team wins, or whether Stephano (the SC2 player) had inappropriate interactions with under-age girls, but they do care about the timings of his attacks and build orders he employs. They do not follow competitive gaming for the spectacle; they follow it for the high level of play, and for what can be learned from it.

The entrepreneur…

This type of fan is involved in eSports and follows its happenings because they are trying to find a way to make money. An interest in gaming may have brought them here, but the potential to earn a quick buck is what’s keeping them here. Everyone knows the demographic which dominates our scene (15-25 year old males, technology-oriented, etc.) is a huge target for companies. This is the main point teams/organizations push when approaching potential sponsors, and many people have come and gone in our scene throughout the years trying to monetize various aspects of eSports. We all know of the team/league owners that have arrived into our space, talking about how much they love the world of competitive gaming, only to pick up and leave once their business venture collapses.

The competition monger…

Some people just love competition. Whether it’s your friend who gets frustrated with you when you beat them in a game of Monopoly, or a professional athlete making millions of dollars per year, ‘competitiveness’ and the thrill of competition is something that some people live for. This type of person thrives on the excitement and energy of people battling it out on the big stage. They might follow competitive gaming as closely as they follow traditional sports (or other competitive outlets) not because they necessarily love a particular title – but because they love competition. These people may not be gamers or enjoy gaming themselves, but they are extremely entertained by a tilt between two world-class performers. They watch because they have an appreciation for split second reflexes, and the strategy involved, both skills which happen to be demonstrated at a very high level in eSports.

The scene lover…

I would put myself more into this category than any of the others. I’m in no way trying to become a pro in any game, as I barely even play games, and I’m not trying to make money (and if I were, I’m doing an awful job at it). I don’t particularly care for competition per say, nor do I care to become e-famous through eSports. When I became wise to the world of competitive gaming back in 2005, I was mesmerized by the ‘underground world’ of people that were already immersed in it. I loved joining IRC channels with hundreds of people talking about games, strategy, and competition at the highest level. The same can be said in regards to my use of Twitter/Reddit to interact with other eSports fanatics. This sense of community and love for the eSports scene is why I remain involved. The ‘scene lovers,’ like me, don’t hold any allegiance to a certain game or community, they just love being involved in the like-minded cohesive network that is eSports.

The popularity seeker…

I debated on whether to include this category or not, but I really feel like there are people within our scene that are here for this reason. This type of ‘fan’ is becoming even more common with the sudden surge of social media (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc.) and I think they will continue to become more prevalent as we move forward. There are people within eSports who are here because they want to gain a following and due to the nature of competitive gaming (occurring in an online environment, where fan base establishment/interaction is relatively easy) – this is where they end up. A good example would be someone who wants to make a living off of YouTube (for example). They may acknowledge the large enthusiastic community surrounding eSports, and despite having no intrinsic interest in pro-gaming, start creating eSports-related content to try and grow their subscriber base. If they have a tough time tapping into the eSports community, they quickly move onto something else. I’m not saying these people are ‘evil,’ but these types of folks differ from the other types of competitive gaming fans.

The ‘force-fed’ fan…

This is a gamer that enjoys playing games in their leisure time, but doesn’t necessarily care about the competitive scene or the personalities within it. Which leads you to the question, how are they eSports ‘fans’? Well, 5 years ago it was fairly easy to isolate yourself from the competitive gaming side of thing, even if your game of choice was played at a competitive level. If you didn’t actively seek out tournament information, you likely would not even know they were happening. In today’s world, games like League of Legends and StarCraft 2 advertise pro-gaming events on their launchers, and within their clients themselves. Call of Duty is announcing million dollar tournaments, and PlanetSide 2 is partnering with MLG – eSports is everywhere. You may not care about high level competition or ever want to become a professional yourself, but you are inadvertently involved with the happenings of the scene because of the unavoidable ‘in your face’ visibility of competitive gaming within the platforms.

So those are my 6 broad ‘types’ of eSport fans. I want to emphasize that this list is not exhaustive, and you very well may be a fan of competitive gaming for an entirely different reason (and if you are, I would love to hear about it in the comments below). I didn’t sit here for days trying to think of every ‘type’ of fan there is, but I created this list as a source of inspiration, to get everyone thinking back to why they are passionate about professional gaming. Obviously a person can be a blend of many ‘types,’ or might have been a fan for one reason initially (ie. to get better at a game) and now they remain involved for another.

I am very interested in hearing why you are involved in electronic sports, so please share your story in the comments below. Everyone is always so concerned with ‘growing the scene,’ but few take the time to analyze and figure out why most of us are here in the first place.

(Photograph is property of its respective owner)

Why are YOU a fan of eSports?
(Leave a response in the comments below)
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