ESPN's resistance to competitive eSports is pointless
Earlier this year, ESPN2 aired the finals of ‘Heroes of the Dorm’, a tournament featuring Blizzard’s new multiplayer online battle arena video game Heroes of the Storm. Fans of the online gaming scene were excited to see a popular event like this televised nationally but their enthusiasm was not shared. EPSN’s own went on a rant during his radio show stating that covering a gaming tournament would be “like sticking a gun in his mouth” and called the players and commentators nerds who dwelled in their parent’s basement.
Not only are these comments completely unnecessary and mean-spirited, but they represent a resistance to changing media that should embarrass the entire staff of ESPN. eSports competitions are growing by alarmingly rapid numbers and millions of people are often tuning in to watch their favorite games. More importantly, gamers are making a career out of streaming and commentating tournaments on outlets like YouTube and Twitch.
In 2014, the League of Legends Season 3 World Championship had 32 million viewers. For comparison, 26.3 million people watched the last game of the NBA finals, 15.7 million on average watched each game of the NCAA Final Four and 14.9 million tuned in for the MLB World Series. The interest is there for competitive gaming, and it isn’t just for the people behind “the basement door at mom’s house,” as Mr. Cowherd seems to believe.
Colleges across the country, , are starting to see numerous teams and clubs founded around competitive video gaming. On our campus, frequent League of Legends and Super Smash Bros tournaments bring people together to express their enthusiasm and energy for the thrill of the game.
Video games have always been a niche hobby that manage to bring together a group of people with common interests but in today’s rapidly digitizing world, the opportunities for gamers to connect with each other and form a unique community have never been higher. eSports might end up becoming the biggest form of entertainment worldwide — there is simply no way to tell.
For someone so prolific in the world of traditional sports to speak so venomously about a hobby so many people are passionate about is concerning. Sports broadcasters don’t often say that they would rather quit their jobs or kill themselves if they were asked to cover table tennis or swimming, do they?
Millions have people have shown their passion for eSports and continue to do so today. Frankly, an ESPN anchor really doesn’t need to worry about covering a video game tournament. The sport has already found a dedicated audience and medium in which to broadcast. The home of eSports is online, where a global audience can convene to chat about and witness the big moments in gaming.
Advertisers and sponsors are donating millions of dollars to gamers and gaming teams, making it a lucrative field and competitive scene. In the past few years, the prevalence of online gaming has done nothing but increase, and will probably continue to do so. We may not be far from a future where the ‘basement-dwelling-neckbearded nerds’ of today are millionaires and celebrities. I sure hope we can all be ready for that.