Polygon argues that esports players should not organize because, primarily, careers are too short and salaries are too small.
It’s not the first time this has been bandied about as a justification for player disorganization, and it continues to baffle me. Has nobody considered the very real possibility that careers as esports players are short and largely underpaid because of player disorganization?
My position for the past several years has been a relatively simple one, I think. The scene operates with massive overhead constraints that are wrongly held up either as completely necessary, or even as unique qualities that should be celebrated. As a result, the scene as a whole blows so much on airfare and accomodations, and sees so much money pumped into fatally flawed league and team business models which have no working parallel in the traditional sports world. This leaves the people who are the core engine of the scene – the players – with a hugely diminished income as a group.
Unionization isn’t about being a pain in the ass. It’s about creating leverage towards more sustainable models for players, such that careers can be lengthened, pay can be improved, and more people can realistically pursue an esports career.
We could dive into this, but really we can’t, because apparently we aren’t quite clear enough yet regarding how the business of sports works.
From TL’s Weber in the article:
The relationship between organizations like the NFL and their respective player’s union is incredibly complex and depends on things like where advertising money goes – esports is very different than the NFL/MLB/NBA in that the team owners are a completely different group than the people than own the venues (ie the NBA needs to deal with both the union as well as the teams – this matters because the teams also own the stadiums, but this isn’t true in esports, MLG owns the stadium as well as the league they run). If you can ask more specific angles like where the players can stand to gain from working with events like MLG (ideally they want ad revenue) we can talk but that’s a huge conversation and needs to be a bit more pointed because MLG will only compromise in instances where they have no other choice.
In the NBA, or MLB, or any of the other major sports leagues here in the United States, the teams ARE the league. (The quote above is too ambiguously worded to tell whether the speaker or the editor of the piece actually understands this.) There is no separate entity lording over the competitions, maintaining separate interests from those of the teams. The teams do business collectively as the league, they install a commissioner to enforce rules, attempt to resolve disputes between teams or between the players and the teams, and generally set the course for the league; but the league doesn’t exist without the specific teams that comprise it. Conversely, teams act as outposts for their league and the game they play in the cities they’re stationed in, giving fans a outlet for their fandom ‘in their backyard’, and providing a sport – an altogether frivolous activity – a means of having a real impact on a community through outreach efforts as well as providing side economic benefits.
This structure has been replicated over and over in sports with success. The internet may augment the reach of a sport, just as television and radio did for the burgeoning sports of last century. The problem is that our corner of professional competition has taken its origins on the internet as license to give this proven formula the finger and reinvent everything. Too many hold the opinion that because our sports are played not physically but electronically, that everything can be done differently and work better. It’s to our detriment.
An organized body of players would be able to force rational thinking regarding scene structure, and would be doing so for their own sake. Organized players aren’t forced to interface with MLG, or existing teams; there’d be enough leverage there to force proper setup, separately for each game. With players unorganized and without leverage, there’s little chance of seeing change in the existing scene apparatus towards permanent structure with a historically successful track record.
These are reasons to organize, not reasons to put it off.