On the heels of its excellent and well-received look at the esports industry, HBO Real Sports recently released a clip from their year-in-review discussion. The esports community is sharing this clip wildly, too. But this time, it’s for all the wrong reasons.
In the segment, a discussion on Soledad O’Brien’s piece on the League of Legends World Championship in October, panelists openly mock esports stars. Even as Bryant Gumbel himself admits the games are “the fastest growing sport in America,” O’Brien slips in an insult, calling the entire industry’s fan base “nerds.” Another correspondent adamantly argues, “It’s still not a sport, it’s a game!” Oh, and then there’s the predictable Star Trek convention line.
Mockery aside, here’s the real problem: While Real Sport’s correspondents are yucking it up over semantics, they, like just about everyone else in mainstream media, are missing the point entirely. No matter what you call esports players—and please put me firmly on the “athlete” side—the fact is that the industry is already here, and it’s already a big damn deal.
Indeed, the more time media wastes navel gazing instead of just covering esports, the more they push the community and the industry to the Internet. Video streaming sites like Twitch, which specialize in game video, already see more than 44 million unique monthly visitors, and top esports tournaments have viewership north of 32 million. Sport or not a sport? That’s a great debate to have if you want to alienate what might be live video’s hottest growth industry in the next decade.