The BAFTA's miss the mark with 2017 esports audience award nomination
One of Britain's top awards shows is including esports for the second year in a row. But in contrast to last year, one of its nominees seems very out of place.
Yesterday, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA), in cooperation with computer hardware giant AMD, revealed the nominees for its 2017 "Esports Audience Awards." According to BAFTA, the award "aims to recognize and acknowledge the games that captured the hearts and imaginations of players and audiences over the past year in the esports space," and last year's edition saw Hi-Rez Games' SMITE take home the title. There’s no word on what the exact requirements were for entry into this list.
This year's nominations includes most of the titles that have come to dominate the esports circuit, like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and League of Legends. The only real head-scratcher is the mobile card game Clash Royale, from Clash of Clans developer Supercell.
Adding a mobile title to this list isn’t inconceivable. Hearthstone was among the nominees last year, and with competitive Vainglory garnering support from established esports teams in the past month, there may very well come a time when one of the major esports titles in the world is played on mobile. But Clash Royale falls well below the prestige of games that have spent several years building up their own dedicated fanbases and esports circuits, particularly when the game itself is less than a year old and has only been featured in six tournaments. The impartiality of the awards could also be called into question, seeing as BAFTA's newly-appointed vice president of games, David Gardner, invested in Supercell through his venture capital seed fund London Venture Partners in 2011.
Compare the influence of Clash Royale within esports to that of Super Smash Bros: Melee, Nintendo’s 2001 release which has seen a widespread, grassroots resurrection in the past years and which was absent from the list of nominees. Throughout 2016, Melee was played at some of the largest esports events in the world and received widespread attention from well-known industry giants such as DreamHack and Beyond the Summit. Additionally, 2016 was also the largest year ever for the game in terms of prize pools, as players were paid out $650,000 last year alone. Fans have grown to love some its competitors, and the subculture of Smash has grown to such an extent that we’re seeing the development of local tournament circuits across the world.
Perhaps the jury felt it was necessary to have at least one title on the list that represented mobile gaming, and perhaps Clash Royale will at one point in time be considered an equally as influential esports title like Hearthstone (though that's doubtful). But right now, it’s hard to find an instance where mobile gaming has impacted the esports industry in any substantial way (well, except that one time).
Sure, the award itself may not be as prestigious just yet as the BAFTA’s hallmark film and television awards. But the addition of Clash Royale is disappointing and sells the work of other esports short.