You’ll have to excuse the Tolkien reference for today. For some reason this metaphor has been sticking with me, and I need to expunge it so I don’t have to think about it anymore.
Mainstream attention used to be even-handed, relatively steady, reliable even. Get a musical act on the Tonight Show and the music stores were empty of their album in a month’s time. Radio airtime could make or break a group. If something caught nation-wide attention, it stuck for a little while, and if you were even halfway decent, you might stay there permanently.
The new mainstream? Not so much. American mainstream attention towards things that aren’t the NFL is transitory and fleeting. Even weighty things like national politics only gets attention from the mainstream when some senator is caught doing the horizontal mambo with a staffer; things like the nature of the class warfare being waged simply doesn’t register. Like Sauron’s eye, it flicks from thing to thing to thing, trying to be both laser-focused and omniscient at the same time.
More broadly speaking thought, things that aren’t ready for the attention of a billion-plus people on the internet literally combust in the intense heat of so many eyeballs and trolls. Once something’s been sufficiently fried, it flicks over to something else it can quickly inflate and destroy.
Hey, remember Rebecca Black? If your first impulse was to go to Google, you’ve proved my point.
Things that are built to last and are patient in their process of bubbling up end up lasting. Try to yell and wave and scream for Sauron’s attention when you’re clearly not prepared for it? Wonkee chee sa crispa con Greedo.
This is why anybody talking about bringing esports mainstream or how we can better ‘market’ ourselves, while prescribing some minor cosmetic changes to the scene at large, are simply not being serious about fundamental flaws in the way the scene operates, and are not considering the possibility that mainstream attention is not a goal worth achieving.