OPINION: Tell the Stories Behind Esports

17 Jul 2017

By: Sport Industry Group

Duncan McMonagle, SVP strategy & partnership at Minute Media on why it's high time the industry starts treating eSport-stars in the same way as their other sporting counterparts... 

While it may seem like the popularity of esports has sprouted up seemingly overnight, the truth is the industry has been slowly gaining momentum for a number of years. In 2016, more than 6 billion hours were spent watching professional gaming and it’s projected that by 2020, 500 million people will be watching esports. With these numbers, I think it’s about time we start treating the esports athletes in a similar manner as their traditional sports counterparts.

One way to do this is to focus on telling the stories of the industry and showcase the players behind the teams and their personal journeys to where they are now.

As with other sports, the story behind the game is what draws fans in. As a media property entirely focused on esports globally – all games, tournaments, teams – DBLTAP tells these stories while bringing fans closer to each tournament and event. Through videos, in-depth interviews and behind-the-scenes footage in partnership with ESL, DreamHack, Fnatic and E-League, we offer fans the next best thing to actually being on site at these events.

Similar to traditional sports superstars that have overcome challenges and adversity to become the best in their sport, many of the recognized esports athletes have relatable underdog stories of practicing for hours, discovering raw talent and then convincing their parents to allow them to leave school to focus full time on chasing their dream to become an elite esports athlete.

There are now a number of legendary stories, and one story that stands out is the rags to riches story of Sumail Hassan, a 15-year-old DOTA player from Pakistan who once sold his bicycle to afford practice time in internet cafes. He immigrated to the United States with his family to pursue his dream and was recruited to join Evil Geniuses, a professional DOTA 2 team, and shortly thereafter helped them to win The International – taking home $1.3M. Another story features Ian “Enable” Wyatt, a professional Call of Duty player and part of the FaZe Clan team that has also overcome adversity to be a professional player. In his YouTube video, Enable explains how he lost his right thumb as a child but has still been able to excel at esports and is living proof that talent and determination can overcome a perceived physical disadvantage, inspiring more to play the game.

These are the stories that encourage fan engagement and create real sports idols. It’s being able to show the personality of the players for fans to identify with their journey and using interviews to humanize the players and make them as relatable as your own friends. And it’s showcasing the tournaments and games in a way that makes the fans feel like they are actually there.

Some media properties have started to focus on the storytelling aspect of the sport and move beyond the standard game highlights, scores and play-by-play commentary, but for the most part, these have been created in isolation. VICE created a memorable mini series and standalone special report but there seems little consistency or any one provider prepared to commit to telling these stories at scale or make esports their core focus.

As the industry continues to grow, brands and properties that commit early to esports will ultimately have the upper hand as more traditional brands try to break in to cover the industry. Mountain Dew is one such brand that has committed to being a part of the esports conversation, now sponsoring a few teams, and hosting their own leagues and tournaments. DBLTAP are now working with Mountain Dew to help tell these stories regularly, creating video formats that enable their personalities to shine, and get fans closer to their idols. Ultimately, it is these brands and properties that have already earned the trust of fans and players to tell the stories that deserve to be shared.

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