Most can probably agree the idea of establishing an esports Hall of Fame is a good thing. Even though the industry is still very much in its infancy, it already has a lengthy history that deserves to be preserved. Careers are short, turnover is high and the idea of a place — a cyber museum, if you will — to hold all of the information about the most important contributors to esports is important.
Having it be operated by the ESL, a for-profit organization that hosts tournaments and operates within the industry, is problematic. Wildly problematic.
Major League Baseball does not run the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. The Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame has seven committees selecting people. The Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame? Not run by the people who decide the Grammys. Excuse the comparisons to other industries, but other major Hall of Fames simply aren’t orchestrated this way.
The issues here stem from conflicts of interest, but at the same time, there are plenty of questions remaining from last week’s announcement establishing a Hall Of Fame. Perhaps you’re of the opinion that it’s better to have a Hall than to not have one, and there’s some weight in that. But having the patience to wait for the right organization to handle this type of task would make the product better for everyone involved in esports.
It appears the ESL’s motives are pure in establishing the Hall. It’s necessary, and ESL’s Ken Chen said he planned to go to other organizations for input. That’s all well and good, but we’re still dealing with human beings here. And it’s natural for human beings to have some sort of bias. (That’s not meant to be demeaning to anyone at ESL, but it’s just a fact). While we’re at it, where’s the first inductee to the Hall of Fame going to be?
ESL One Cologne.
The first induction ceremony is taking place at a direct monetary event for the ESL.
Even with input from other people, or if ESL forms a committee, it won’t be independent, which is an important element for the credibility of any Hall of Fame.
Even if there’s a committee, ESL will likely have the final say in who’s in — or out — of the Hall Of Fame. Two of the most prominent names in esports history, Duncan “Thorin” Shields and Richard Lewis, had falling outs with the ESL. Would that disqualify them from being in the Hall? (That’s assuming non-players would even be eligible for consideration, which we’ll get to later)
What about conflicts with other, potentially rival, organizations? ESL competes with other organizations such as MLG and DreamHack. Whether or not anybody admits it, they do. They’re all trying to grow esports, yes, but they’re also trying to be *the ones* growing esports.
You know who seemed hesitant to the idea of the ESL running the Hall? Adam Apicella, senior event director for Activision Blizzard/MLG.
— Adam Apicella (@MrAdamAp) March 28, 2016
Apicella and Michal “Carmac” Blicharz also had a Twitter argument during the MLG Columbus Major weekend, which doesn’t probably mean much. But the point remains the same: How unbiased and independent can this undertaking truly be when the organization heading it competes with others?
Also, if the ESL truly cared about involving other organizations, why wouldn’t any of them be contacted before this announcement? Wouldn’t it make more sense to develop a committee first and then announce the Hall? That would have alleviated skepticism of ESL’s influence on the entire operation.
Again, ESL’s intentions seem to be good in promoting and preserving the history of esports. But it’s also clear the ESL wants people to know this was an ESL idea.
The thing about the announcement that stays with me more than a week after it is the lack of details about it. Perhaps the idea is in its early stages, but if that’s the case, why choose to announce it before all the basic details are shored up? Maybe they were, but the questions just weren’t asked in Yahoo’s exclusive interview with Chen.
Regardless, there are a lot of questions left to be answered. Will all inductions take place at ESL events? Will consideration be given to more than simply the players? Will people involved in games not played at ESL events be eligible? What games are included? What determines the games that are and aren’t included? How far back does this go?
There’s a lot here to digest. If this is to be an all-inclusive Hall, there should be no limit on the games and people who should be eligible. What good does a player-only Hall achieve? It would nullify the contributions of others involved in the scene.
Would Thorin and Richard Lewis, two lightning rods of controversy who have promoted this industry just as much — if not more than — successful players, be excluded? What about Walter Day, creator of the website Twin Galaxies and quite possibly the first person to record video game scores?
A lot of questions need to be answered in a short amount of time before the first induction at ESL One Cologne, happening a little more than two months from now in July.
If not ESL, then who?
It’s a fair question. If the ESL isn’t running the Hall, then who should? There aren’t many clear answers.
One could be a setup like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which is an independent board made up of people from different parts of the music industry. Heck, the lightly-mentioned idea of “involving other organizations” from the ESL could work, too, as long as the ESL doesn’t try to spearhead the entire thing (and color me skeptical of that ever happening).
The most logical solution would be a non-profit organization running a Hall of Fame. It’s a “perfect world” setup, to be sure. But it’s just simply the best way to implement this sort of idea. It would take an organization with no interest in turning a profit (good luck finding that in esports right now) to be unbiased and act solely in the interest of promoting the Hall.
An organization like that might be years away from existing, which is why excitement about the ESL’s announcement is understandable. Still, this is too important to get wrong, which is why waiting for an organization to come along — or even for this idea to be simply hashed out more by the ESL and other entities in esports — would be preferred.
Also, if the ESL sets this precedent for a Hall of Fame and it is successful, what’s to stop other organizations from doing the same thing? Riot Games? Valve? Major League Gaming? All those organizations could launch their own, and there’d be a proliferation of commercially-beneficial Halls of Fame. What’s the point?
If the ESL wants to make an ESL Hall of Fame, that’s fine. It has every right to do that. It should honor the best and brightest to ever be affiliated with the ESL. But the real esports Hall of Fame, honoring the industry as a whole, must come from elsewhere.
And if that means waiting a little longer to have it, then so be it.
Cover photo by Kirill Bashkirov/ESL, eslgaming.com.