This article by @famsytron seems to have garnered a fair bit of attention over the weekend. I will give it credit, as it is a fairly comprehensive discussion of the term.
I had my own run-in with thoughts of ditching the term ‘esports’ back a few years ago. I was more concerned then with ‘bringing competitive gaming to the mainstream’ – an idea that I now categorize as counterproductive, a misplaced mission of the major gaming leagues and commentary houses of that time. These days I tend to think it more appropriate to build a new sport properly first and let the mainstream come to it, rather than compromising the integrity of a sport just to get it on DirecTV Channel 101.
It was referenced that MLG refuses to use the term. That’s more indicative of where their priorities are as a company, built to leech money from gamers rather than build a league that creates true professionals; of course they’d like to avoid the term. It’s far simpler to produce ‘over-the-top television’ than put in the study and effort it would take to build an actual professional Halo league in the States.
I think we’ve been having our own dilemma of political correctness around gaming, one that has been plaguing our collective efforts to find a unified voice over the last 10 years. In the process, we find ourselves gun-shy to call ourselves anything at all, really. ‘Cyberathlete’ is a pock-marked corporate trademark that stands more for individual greed and a certain shill for Creative in particular than competition and sportsmanship. We won’t call ourselves simply ‘athletes,’ out of fear that packs of jocks laying dormant in locker rooms everywhere will catch wind of our collective nerd sweat and come beat us up. We’re even reluctant to use ‘esports,’ a term that suits us just fine really.
If anything needs to go, it’s the ‘e’. In an effort to differentiate ourselves from the world of sports, we’ve just spawned new useless problems for ourselves. Esports is a confusing concept for outsiders because of the constant effort we collectively put forth to ‘promote esports.’ It sounds completely new and different, and we try to make it sound like something completely new and different, but it’s not a foreign concept at all. What we do is sports. If the problem is that an utterance of the term ‘esports’ necessitates a lengthy explanation for the uninitiated, it’s a problem of our own creation. The debate whether all this is sport or not is a silly one that’s having a detrimental effect on our forward momentum.
And if there’s something else that needs to go, it’s the misguided notions that we need to evangelize all of what we call esports as an indivisible whole, and that the individual sports we participate in are somehow not worthy of such attention, that we need to default all discussions up to the umbrella of esports.
Starcraft has a real chance of experience some explosive growth this year, and could really come into its own in the west. To help it along, we’d do well to think of it as simply a sport first and an ‘esport’ second. It will allow it to break free of these artificial molds we’ve been casting ourselves in for years. If there’s a stigma around what we do, it’s because we put it there ourselves by over-thinking our sports.