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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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George Miller started his career in content marketing and has started working as an Editor/Content Manager for our company in 2016. George has acquired many experiences when it comes to interviews and newsworthy content becoming Head of Content in 2017. He is responsible for the news being shared on multiple websites that are part of the European Gaming Media Network.

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Australia

Jamie Skella becomes Chief Strategy and Commercial Officer of Esports Mogul

Niji Ng

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Jamie Skella becomes Chief Strategy and Commercial Officer of Esports Mogul
Photo Source: riftherald.com
Reading Time: 1 minute

 

Esports Mogul, the eSports tournament and media company based in Australia, has roped in Jamie Skella as its Chief Strategy and Commercial Officer.

Skella will lead the operations for the business and focus on new strategic product initiatives to enhance the operations in Australia and South East Asia.

Skella had been a Counter-Strike player for Pantheon. He now owns an Australian esports bar, GG EZ Bar. He has worked as Head of User Experience for Australian Football League and Chief Product Officer of Horizon State.

Gernot Abl, Managing Director of Esports Mogul discussed the new hire in a statement: “The alignment between Mogul’s business and Jamie’s breadth of experience in esports, digital product, and startups, seems almost uncanny. I don’t think the fit could be more perfect. I’m excited that his arrival is one that is able to deliver value to all corners of the operation and help realise our enormous potential.”

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eSports

NBA 2K League partners with Champion athletic apparel

Niji Ng

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NBA 2K League partners with Champion athletic apparel
Reading Time: 1 minute

 

Ahead of the 2019 NBA 2K League Draft, which is scheduled on March 5 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., the NBA 2K League has signed multiyear partnership with Champion Athleticwear. As per the agreement, the sportswear company will serve as the league’s official outfitter.

Champion will offer the NBA 2K League’s 21 teams game uniforms as well as warmup, travel and practice apparel. In-game avatars will also be outfitted in Champion-branded uniforms. Throughout the season, Champion will provide apparel for marquee events like the NBA 2K League Draft Clash, in-season tournaments and the NBA 2K League Finals. Starting today, fans can purchase NBA 2K League merchandise on Champion.com.

“We are thrilled to have an iconic brand like Champion as our official outfitter,” said NBA 2K League Managing Director Brendan Donohue. “Champion’s authentic designs and innovative products make them a great partner for the league, and we can’t wait to see our teams compete in their new uniforms this season.”

“The need for esports apparel is quickly evolving and Champion is pleased to be an integral part of this historical opportunity,” said Champion Group President-Global Activewear Jon Ram. “Being the official outfitters for the NBA 2K League is an exciting and pivotal opportunity for Champion to continue our evolution and expansion to outfit teams within the esports and traditional sports communities. Together we can push the boundaries and bring esports to a wider audience.”

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Asia

China declares eSports as a profession

Niji Ng

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China declares eSports as a profession
Photo Source: esportsobserver.com
Reading Time: 1 minute

 

China’s Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security (CMHRSS) has officially recognised esports as a profession. The new professions “esports operator” and “esports professional” are included in the 15 new professions approved by the government.
The other professions in the list include AI engineer, big data engineer and drone pilot.

CMHRSS defines “esports operators” as those who organise esports events or produce esports content, as well as those who increase the commercial value of esports through promotion and marketing.

“Esports professionals” are considered those who compete in tournaments, perform in events, or train with other professionals. It can also refer to those who analyse games or assist with training.

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