Hating on Esports in 2018 - Breaking the Stereotype

School's in session, sadly enough, with a great portion of the youth dragging their heels back to the classroom. With that theme in mind, I fancy dishing out some education myself in response to the question - why is it that certain people are still against or 'hating on' esports in 2018? To discuss this, I'll be pulling on cases of this dislike both locally and internationally, while properly understanding the stereotype which still hangs on the term of excessive gaming. 

In my eyes, everyone who lives in a country with an internet connection has been exposed to video games of some form at some point in time - it's simply inevitable. Whether be it through first-hand experience or watching others across the numerous platforms such as console, PC and mobile; everyone forms an opinion on it as an action. Gaming is the act of playing a game, for whatever reason that may be. Competitive gaming is the act of playing a game with the intention of competing against others for pride and prize - this is referred to as 'esports' as it embraces the mentality of sport in a virtual reality. In order to reach this level of gaming, heavy practice is required (just like in sports) in order to develop certain skills, hand-to-eye coordination and in-game knowledge to use in order to best an opponent and perhaps interact with teammates better.

This is quite different to excessive gaming, the recently diagnosed 'addiction' courtesy of the WHO, which has pinned gaming as a possible mental addiction. Prior to the incredible scale which the esports industry has climbed, 'gamers' were stereotypically viewed as introverted loners locked up in their mother's basement- but although many would argue for this, those who are aware know that this stereotype should have died a long time ago, yet it just hasn't. Some people are still quite against the idea of esports, competing for prizes similar to and even larger than certain physical sports due to the fact that it's seen as lazy. Of course, Gamers.com.mt and anyone educated knows that esports is a battle of skill and strategy with a huge skill gap across the many titles and genres. Still, we have some way to go in order to properly defeat the stereotype. 

What triggered my appetite for this topic was a recent event which saw sports fans rebelling against investment into esports. Occurring in Switzerland, a league football game between Basel and Young Boys was interrupted from both sides of the pitch as the two crowds united under a banner of rebellion against esports. In doing so, the match was paused and restarted as protests 15 minutes into games made further action impossible. Tennis balls and controllers were thrown onto the turf, a large "pause" button banner and other banners directly stating "esports are shit" were made visible in the stands and chants were sung. The crowd does not want their teams to invest in esports, it seems, for some reason. Perhaps they don't find esports to be equal to sports? At this point I'm hypothesizing since no arguments were displayed, just a strong resent for esports. 

Another instance, which shows the more cynical approach which many take to esports, came thanks to the interpretation of Jimmy Fallon on his popular show. With the recent happening of a gamer appearing on the cover of ESPN, the American National Sports magazine, Ninja did not appeal to Fallon. Being a former esports player, it was shocking to see a gamer on the face of the magazine, a former esports competitor. Here's what Fallon had to say: 

ESPN magazine this bi-week by Tyler ‘Ninja’ Blevins, who is one of the world’s greatest Fortnite players. He’s a video gamer, this is the first time a video game player has been on the cover of a major sports magazine. Some people consider this guy, Ninja, to be an athlete, because he streams for up to 12 hours a day and has, I guess, a lot of physical dexterity. And if that’s true, congratulations masturbating teens - you’re going to the Olympics!

Fallon points at the controversial topic - are esport competitors considered athletes? Technically yes, but it's the interpretation of physical ability that divides most people. Although they do prepare, practice, compete for prizes either in teams or alone, an incredible hand-to-eye coordination is not enough for most people who expect whole body movement. However, lets take SIMRacing, a topic which we discussed quite recently thanks to an interview with a Maltese youngster (https://www.gamers.com.mt/news/851/interview-with-bernard-vella-the-young-maltese-simracing-prodigy) - wouldn't more people be convinced in that context that esports makes athletes? Isn't turning a resisting wheel in a precise manner not physically demanding? The couch potato mentality is strong here, frustratingly enough.

Most competitors out there are actually quite self-conscious when it comes to their fitness, as gaming is a sedentary action. Next time you're watching esports content, look out for how many people fill-in this 'couchpotato' identity, not to make fun of them, but to show how wrong most people are - we've come to that point. Anyway, what's wrong with being a little overweight and an esports competitor simultaneously? Nothing, because the stereotype has expired. Fallon then goes on to talk about the extremely inflated topic of 'Fortnite coaches' to try solidify his argument. His large media presence is not encouraging. 

We'll turn our attention to the local area, through the internet. Esports is still quite young in Malta, but with the help of companies such as us, Gamers.com.mt, it's on its way to continuously grow every year. Yet, some still find local resistance. On a certain Facebook post, the one in which we shared an interview with Kurt Aquilina, a comment with 88 threads erupted over the concept of esports. Certain people were fixed on random and untrue facts, such as 'esports is a detriment to modern society', and thoughts such as 'gamers are better suited for life on other planets' to paraphrase from Maltese. Many fought on behalf of esports, although it's safe to say that this mindset was set in stone.

What was the point of this article? To highlight the modern treatment of the competitive gamer and the state of esports within people's minds using cases. Not everybody agrees with it - some people doing so without properly understanding it. When I get asked about my work and I reply with 'esports journalist' I do earn funny looks; most asking what exactly I write about. I explain and most will try to comprehend while others leave with the impression that I write about gaming, which is not too accurate. Yet, whatever happens, one can only imagine how much esports will grow within ten years both internationally and locally - maybe the stereotype will change by then. 

We'd love to hear your contributions in the comments section down below! 

Posted by Gabriel Sciberras on 25th September 2018, 10:43

I'm Gabriel - 17 year-old student attending a sixth form with a little free time on his hands. I've been working with Gamers.com.mt for a roughly a year now - spreading my interests in technology, gaming and writing over the platform along with interviews and hardware reviews. All constructive feedback is appreciated. Thanks for reading!

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