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Esports and Media: How Should the Two Interact?

George Miller

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Esports and Media: How Should the Two Interact?
Reading Time: 4 minutes

The media wants more access, and eSports organizations want the freedom to opt out of that access. No matter which way you slice it, there’s no easy answer.

 

Should media access to players and post-match press conferences be mandatory at major esports events? The ongoing question was brought up by former Yahoo! Esports Director Travis Gafford, who while covering the League of Legends World Championships in China tweeted the following: “It only took about 75 seconds for me to hear “Immortals has declined all interview requests” after that game finished.

Esports (without the “E”)

As esports continues to move more in line with its traditional sports bretheren, looking at the policies of traditional sports leagues can provide context to this issue. The most popular professional sport in the United States, the NFL, mandates Super Bowl attendees to be available to journalists during their annual media day. In 2015, at Super Bowl XLIX in Phoenix, Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch came to the stage. “I’m here so I won’t get fined,” Lynch replied to every single question.

While his remarks are now a trademarked joke, there’s an underlying point. While not entirely productive, Lynch at least appeared at the event. Also, the NFL has a pre- and post-game policy regarding media access:

“After a reasonable waiting period, defined as 10-12 minutes maximum after the completion of the game and the players have entered the locker room, the home and visiting team locker room areas will be opened to all accredited media with immediate access to all players and the head coach.” 2017 NFL Media Access Policy

Traditional sports leagues see working with media as a symbiotic relationship; media creates the content which fans consume which then turns into revenue for both parties. However with esports, universal access hasn’t been as consistent. Media is not always guaranteed access to players, coaches and organizational staff — and the issue goes much deeper than simply not being able to do interviews with players that have just lost a match.

Friend or foe?

It’s no secret that esports doesn’t always get along with the media. Players, coaches and owners have made it known that the media isn’t a priority and that — at times — it is a privilege to talk to them.

As one former Counter-Strike: Global Offensive manager said, “We don’t owe the media anything.” They weren’t wrong, either — without statutes in place, there’s no requirement for teams to do anything with the media if they so choose.

Take for instance Dota 2’s yearly world championship, The International. The event, just like most, has a media day where teams come down and meet with journalists and do various interviews. But unlike other developers or tournament organizers, Valve does not facilitate these interactions. It creates a risky scenario for press outlets hoping to cover the event: those who show up without industry contacts may be unable to garner a single interview, and especially for non-endemic outlets this can become a wasted coverage investment.

 

Be careful what you ask for

In situations like the latest League of Legends World Championships and The International, it’s easy to see where the frustration comes from. When there’s no guarantee the largest events of the year won’t yield the results outlets are looking for, who wouldn’t be? However, some events are starting to get on board with mandatory press conferences — and it’s not as simple a solution as some would imagine.

ELEAGUE attempted to increase media access during their Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Major held back in January. The organizer asked the winning teams to do press conference immediately after their matches and while some teams obliged, bringing their entire roster, other teams sent only one or two players — and some didn’t show up at all.

As the discussion continues, one major theme in regards to players, coaches, and team staff have separated themselves from the rest: esports players aren’t always prepared for life in the spotlight.

The above reason isn’t just a lazy excuse, either. Good players in the esports space can rise to prominence quickly; according to a study by ESPN, esports players are as much as five years younger than their traditional sports peers. This sometimes comes at the cost of post-secondary education and life experience. Going from playing a video game in a bedroom to competing on a stage in front of millions with the hounds of Reddit scrutinizing a player’s every move is hardly a smooth transition, either.

Given all that, is it really that hard to believe that not everybody is prepared for the spotlight? Nobody wants to see a sobbing teenager pelted with questions right after a loss, or an angry player lose control and say something in the moment that could damage their career forever — and when media demands access no matter what, teams often do (and in many cases, should!) push to protect their teams from those types of situations.

So what now?

It’s fair to say that there’s not a lot of trust between esports organizations and the media right now. Plenty of people on the organizational side have heard a horror story or two about overreaching media figures who push too hard when working with talent. Likewise, the frustration of inconsistent access continues to be a thorn in the side of outlets looking to enrich the space with deeper narratives. But at the end of the day, it’s not one side or the other that has to give. Both can be better.

On the organizational side, it will continue to be important that players be educated on how to live life in the public eye, and help guide young players as they learn how to navigate that lifestyle — which certainly includes media relations. It will also be important to come to grips with the fact that all press won’t be good press. Leagues, teams, players, talent and everybody in between are capable of making mistakes, and the media should feel comfortable to talk responsibly about the positive and the negative sides of esports without fear of retaliation.

Media can continue to improve, as well. As young a space as esports is, esports coverage is even younger. The word ‘responsibly’ is bolded above for a reason; it’s not uncommon to see coverage that blurs the line between opinion and fact, nor are stories of players feeling unfairly pressured or miscontextualized during interviews. As players and teams mature, so must the industry that covers them.

 

Will the two sides be able to come together? For the sake of everybody involved, let’s hope so.

 

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eSports

Lamborghini Enters eSports Arena

Niji Narayan

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Lamborghini Enters eSports Arena
Reading Time: 2 minutes

 

Car manufacturer Lamborghini has entered the world of esports with The Real Race, a global esports competition open to Assetto Corsa Competizione players of all levels. Assetto Corsa Competizione is an extraordinary racing simulation game developed by Kunos Simulazioni.

The tournament started on 29 May with five qualifier weekends, before culminating in a live final at Lamborghini’s headquarters in Sant’Agata Bolognese, Italy.

The Real Race will be Lamborghini’s first official entry into eSports, delivering a new sim racing championship blending the real and virtual worlds of racing. Assetto Corsa Competizione was developed alongside car manufacturers and provides a dynamic platform for Lamborghini’s latest racing series.

The top three players from the tournament’s live finals will enjoy a three-day experience in Italy, the home of Lamborghini. Players will have a chance to train alongside Lamborghini Squadra Corse drivers and to drive a real Lamborghini race car at an internationally- renowned racetrack. The competition is open to all experience levels.

Five qualifier weeks take place from 29 May to 2 August. The top three players from the first and last qualifier weekend and top two players from the second, third and fourth weekend, will be whisked away by Lamborghini to the live final on 18 September, where the best drivers will be determined.

“Sim racing is one of the fastest growing sectors in eSports, with eSports increasingly important to younger generations. I also follow it closely! This is an opportunity for us to combine the excitement of virtual racing with the appeal of Lamborghini cars and our motorsports program. ESports creates an environment where race heroes and top drivers can be challenged by anyone. This encourages wider engagement with real-life racing, reflected by Lamborghini’s investment in this new sports platform,” Stefano Domenicali, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Automobili Lamborghini, said.

“I’ve paid close attention to the rise of eSports. Seeing the realism of racing games and how drivers are using racing simulators to practice, or professional eSports players going from simulation to the real thing, is just incredible. The Real Race is designed to portray realism and professionalism. Skills in sim racing are so transferable, which is why Lamborghini wants to give players an opportunity to test drive the real thing as part of the prize. There’s nothing quite like getting behind the wheel of a Lamborghini,” David Coulthard MBE, former Formula One racing driver, who will be the studio-based commentator for the live event, said.

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eSports

NBA 2K League Season 3 Week 5 Preview

George Miller

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NBA 2K League Season 3 Week 5 Preview
Reading Time: 2 minutes

 

Blazer5 Gaming point guard Nidal “Mama Im Dat Man” Nasser was named NBA 2K League Player of the Week for Week 4 of the 2020 NBA 2K League season. Having set the NBA 2K League record for most points in regulation with 77 points against Bucks Gaming last week, Nasser has led Blazer5 Gaming to a 4-1 record on the season. Blazer5 Gaming will visit Kings Guard Gaming on Wednesday, June 3 at 9 p.m. ET and Warriors Gaming Squad on Friday, June 5 at 9 p.m. ET.

DEFENDING THE CROWN: Anchored by 2019 NBA 2K League All-Defensive Team member Yusuf “Yusuf_Scarbz” Abdulla (Canada), Kings Guard Gaming’s defense has turned heads in the first four weeks of the NBA 2K League season. On May 28, Sacramento held Jazz Gaming to seven points in the first half, setting the record for the least amount of points allowed in one half. Kings Guard Gaming’s impressive defense will get its biggest test of the season when they host Blazer5 Gaming Wednesday, June 3 at 9 pm/et.

ROOKIE DUEL: Two of the most talked about rookies in the NBA 2K League will meet
when John “JBM” Mascone and Wizards District Gaming hosts Kimmani “Splashy” Ingram and Jazz Gaming on Friday, June 5 at 9 p.m. ET. Mascone was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NBA 2K League Draft delivered by Panera Bread while Ingram was the No. 10 overall pick.

WEST COAST SHOWDOWN: Entering the 2019 NBA 2K League Playoffs as the No. 8 seed, Warriors Gaming Squad pulled off the upset against Blazer5 Gaming, the top seeded team.  The teams will meet in the NBA 2K League “Game of the Week” on Friday, June 5 at 9 p.m. ET.  Both teams had coaching changes in the offseason.  Golden State hired Mike Newton, a former member of the NBA G League’s Santa Cruz Warriors coaching staff, while Portland tabbed Andrew Maxie, a former professional basketball player who played in Australia, Italy, Ireland, Macedonia, Mexico and Canada.

THREE MORE: In addition to tonight’s broadcast, ESPN2 has picked up three additional nights of NBA 2K League competition –Friday, June 5, Tuesday, June 9 and Wednesday, June 10.  Games begin at 7 p.m. ET.

THIS IS NOT A GAME – BP: From Bridgeport, C.T., Michael “BP” Diaz (Puerto Rico) began playing NBA 2K in 2011, but when he was 15 years old his entire life changed.  The future 2K League player was diagnosed with keratoconus, a progressive eye disease that has left him blind in his right eye. Despite this challenge, he was selected with the third overall pick in the 2019 NBA 2K League Draft by Kings Guard Gaming and was named a finalist for the 2019 NBA 2K League Most Valuable Award.

Acquired by Hawks Talon GC in arguably the biggest trade in league history, the dynamic point guard has led the Atlanta squad to a 3-2 record in the 2020 season.  Diaz and Hawks Talon GC will host Warriors Gaming Squad on Thursday, June 4 at 9 p.m. ET.

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eSports

Esports Entertainment Group Appoints Industry Veteran Magnus Leppäniemi as VP of Marketing and Head of Esports at Vie.gg

George Miller

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Esports Entertainment Group Appoints Industry Veteran Magnus Leppäniemi as VP of Marketing and Head of Esports at Vie.gg
Reading Time: < 1 minute

 

Esports Entertainment Group, Inc., a licensed online gambling company with a focus on esports wagering and 18+ gaming, today announced that Magnus Leppäniemi has joined the Company as Vice President of Marketing and Head of Esports at Vie.gg. Mr. Leppäniemi is a gaming industry veteran and brings more than 20 years of sales and marketing experience.

“Magnus is a proven marketing executive with invaluable knowledge of the gaming and esports industry,” commented Grant Johnson, CEO of Esports Entertainment Group. “Over more than two decades in gaming, Magnus has built an extensive network of relationships that could provide tremendous value as we execute on our global growth strategy.”

Since beginning his career in the gaming industry in 1996, Leppäniemi has sold and managed global esports partnerships for major brands and partners like Intel, BenQ Zowie, Electronic Arts, Activision, ESL, and the NBA. Prior to joining Esports Entertainment Group, Leppäniemi was Global Sales Director for Wehype. Previously, he served as Sales Director North America at DreamHack, a Swedish production company specializing in esports tournaments and other gaming conventions.

“I’m very excited to join the Esports Entertainment team,” commented Leppäniemi. “As the first online betting company to list on NASDAQ, the Company has a great pedigree that we can continue to build on. We want to build trust with the players, fans, teams, publishers, and the community and give them a unique esports experience. Esports betting is here to stay, and we want to build the premier platform in the industry that benefits the gaming and esports communities. I look forward to accelerating our marketing efforts, refining our go-to-market models, and building out our esports initiatives.”

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