The Role of Content in the Evolution of Professional Gaming
“Welcome to the Big Dick Club” – Michael “Imaqtpie” Santana
The growth of esports demands an increase in the quantity and quality of content representing the community. With traditional sport organizations flowing into the esports market, and League of Legends garnering enough traction to sell out the Staples Center with over 30 million viewers worldwide, improving content for League professionals will best shape the global image of esports.
As the most played video game in the world, League of Legends is pioneering the path for esports to solidify its recognition as an established industry; the game has indirectly taken on the burden of mass structuring a sustainable competitive environment in esports. While interest surrounding the scene grows every day, such growth necessitates an increased attention towards defining the esports scene – in terms of voice, community and structure. In this paradigm, content serves as the communal representative for the game and those involved – and escalating its originality and output will help fuel esports’ evolution.
But what are we talking about?
Content exists in many forms. Anyone who has delved into League of Legends can pinpoint streams, YouTubers, documentaries, daily shows, articles, sports websites – the list goes on. Ultimately, League of Legends as a community encourages a spectator relationship between personalities and viewers, favoring content that brings gameplay and lifestyle to the foremast of its narrative.
From this, I value two major outlets for content production as driving forces for the community: streams and documentaries.
Log into Twitch.tv anytime of day and you will find League of Legends at the top of the streaming charts, seemingly without fail. More so than any other game, League has integrated stream culture as a vital ingredient for its player base and community. Imatpie, Nightblue3, Valkrin, Dyrus, Bjergsen – these are a few of the popular streamers out there whose names have become synonymous with League of Legends – some even doing so without ever going pro.
But what are the consequences of streaming?
Streaming has in some ways invented a new vocabulary for the gaming community. As anyone who has ever read Twitch chat can testify – it takes its own language to understand the rhyme and reason of what exactly is going on in any given Twitch chat box. To the untrained eye, this feature of the broadcast shows nothing but spam and pointless discussions. To a large degree, the untrained eye is correct.
But beyond trolling, Twitch chat has embedded a culture that has grown to shape the attitude of League’s community. Any avid Twitch follower can pinpoint Kappas and 4Heads, PogChamps and BibleThumps, Kreygasms and PJSalts. There is, in fact, a logic to the fashion spectators bond in the chat over the rituals that have evolved of spectating gaming on Twitch. In many ways, commanding the chat to spam Kappa Pride is not much different from a band of Barcelona fans chanting the soccer team’s song mid-game – the main difference being the location at which the event is being consumed; yet the act of unifying the audience stays the same.
My main issue with Twitch chat used to be the problem with extending its intricacies over to a non-traditional esports consumer. I feared that the uniqueness of streaming culture would create a barrier of entry too bizarre for mass viewership of League as a spectator sport. And surely, I have been consistently proved wrong by the continual records shattered by Worlds every week.
So what does this suggest? Well, to me it reads that instead of resisting streaming idiosyncrasies, League content must embrace them. Successful streamers have already implemented interaction with emotes into their daily routines – tune into BoxBox’s Riven-only stream and see how he asks his chat to “woo” in response to a good play. Does this language barrier exclude outside viewers? Possibly. But more importantly, content creators should generate content that uses this language to such well degree that it energizes the newbie to yearn to learn the culture for its oddities and peculiarities. For ultimately, these strange interactions of 2016 are slowly defining a new movement in pop culture, fed from the emoji millennial culture, and propelling a new form of media consumption special to gaming culture.
Documentaries, on the other hand, turn to demonstrate the lifestyle of gamers. In a lot of ways, documentaries fueling League of Legends closely resemble the trends in reality television such as Real Housewives – the only difference is that the gaming community actually wants to know what Bjergsen had for breakfast the morning of LCS summer split Week 4.
At this time, some of the most successful North American documentaries that have come out are TSM: Legends and Team Liquid’s Rebirth. Not to mention the plethora of non-continuous projects launched by Machinima, Gamespot, Rig8, Push to Talk TV, Riot Games, and plenty of other sources. Perhaps the most ambitious documentary project to launch will be released this November 2nd by 1 UP Studios, the production company responsible for generating Liquid’s Rebirth series, as they have announced on Yahoo esports their upcoming release of BREAKING POINT: a full length feature showcasing the “dirty laundry” of Liquid’s inner struggles during Summer 2016 split.
The danger with such content lies in exposing “too much” – leaking crucial information regarding the team’s organizations or making their players become reality personalities instead of athletes. However, the trailer for BREAKING POINT in particular, that you can find on YouTube, paves the way for a new wave of esports content in the full-length-feature format – which could go long ways in breaking open the scene to a larger audience – perhaps even finding its way into film festival circuits and the becoming homestays in the likes of Netflix and Amazon. In doing so, these documentaries will boost the recognition of the scene – and their responsibility now lies in determining what angle they craft for the overarching narrative of esports for non-traditional gaming followers.
I personally am highly anticipating the release of this feature and believe in its potential to shake up the game in terms of the quality expected from the narratives of eSports films. I believe this will launch a movement for content production – and am ready to join said movement when it arrives.