I read an article on PC gamer the other day discussing how the prevalence of memes
in esports is killing serious discussion around the games. The argument was that by
condensing information through memes any in depth analysis is lost and dangerous
misinformation can spread, the biggest example being Mitch “Krepo” Voorspoels’ alleged
sex with a 15 year old. The underlying message of the article was the, at this point,
age old complaint that the behaviour of the community is responsible for esports not
being taken seriously by the wider world.
Although the point that memes, social media abuse, and the spreading of false information
by fans and media sources alike is a phenomenon absolutely present in traditional sports
(Link1) (Link2), that was not the discussion around the article that grabbed my attention.
One commenter claimed that traditional sport coverage would never take esports seriously
because it was just one big ball of cringe.
This is a pretty loaded statement. This throws players, commentators, journalists, and fans
under the same banner of cringe worthy. The thing is, there is a lot of evidence to back
this up. Thanks to the internet savvy nature of this medium, it is not hard to find
video after video recording and immortalising moments of awkward interactions in esports.
If you like Call of Duty you can watch the players painfully “Trash Talk” each other
like kids in a playground. If you prefer CS:GO you can watch commentators and interviewers
fail to give simple handshakes. Or if you want a real treat, you can watch LOL fans strut their
stuff on stage at DreamHack. It’s not hard to see why a lot of people who have little to no
interaction with gaming culture look in and immediately write it off as childish, weird, or
The reason for this cringe culture in esports is not hard to identify. It would not be
controversial to say that gamers are traditionally antisocial. Despite the social aspects
of many games they are primarily competitive interactions and still poses a physical
disconnect to other people. This goes double for pro players and analysts who have devoted
hours to this potentially alienating activity and those that they do interact with are
usually a closed a limited pool of individuals, such as their teammates and coworkers.
When these individuals are shoved into a situation that demands social interaction it
is not hard to understand why cringe occurs. This may not be true of all people in
esports but it is definitely a large majority.
The point of this is to identify that in esports, cringe will happen. It is unavoidable.
It is a culture made up of nerds who like memes, stats, and cool explosions. This is why
many people will never take the scene seriously. The thing is, there is nothing wrong
with this. Esports is a passion project for fans of video games. A culture of competitive
gaming has been around for years and only recently (in the west anyway) have we seen it
take off. Major sponsorships, athlete visas, record breaking crowds, to a fan of esports
I should be saying nothing new. All of this has become a reality without the wider
recognition of traditional sports.
The success of esports does not depend on the opinion of people who will never get it.
An enjoyment of esports does not depend on this either. As long as there are nerds who
love their pastime there will be people to fill a stadium. As long as there are fans,
there will be no game over.