(Editor’s note: This is a recurring column that will cover the ins and outs of esports media and journalism. With more interest than ever in esports, there has likewise been more interest in the reporting to this industry and what goes into it. I hope to shed a light on the industry through interviews with media professionals and news analysis from the perspective of someone with six years of professional journalism experience. Anything you’d like to see? Send me an email at Vince@slingshotesports.com. Enjoy!)
In interviews, FlyQuest’s Galen “Moon” Holgate is often one of the most insightful and interesting League of Legends pros. He probably does more of them than every other player, too.
For those unfamiliar with how the interview process works at the North American League of Legends Championship Series, media members send requests for 1-on-1 interviews while matches are being played. The teams then either accepts or decline the requests, and the players meet the media members in the press area after their post-game fan meets. Teams aren’t required to grant all requests. Until this spring, they weren’t required to approve any.
Moon, as he told Slingshot’s Andrew Kim after his team’s semifinal loss April 16, does every interview someone requests of him.
“Doing interviews for me is really relaxing,” Moon said. “I just like interacting with people. I think it’s really important to build your brand for me personally. I compare myself to a lot of people, especially junglers like, oh Akaadian (Matthew Higginbotham) has this many followers and I only have this many. Starting this split, I decided I was going to do every interview possible. I’m going to reach out to Riot, reach out to different people and try to get my name out more, trying to just become well known as a person, and this is the best way, I think.”
Moon’s take on interviews is refreshing. Of course, it’s born from a self-motivated interest of building his brand, but Moon’s stance is important for two reasons: First, it’s a staunch difference from most press/player interactions in esports. And second, it’s extremely rare for a player to acknowledge the press has any value in increasing his visibility.
I’ll start with the first point. It has become clear during the rise of esports in the past few years — at least from a media standpoint — that players aren’t media trained. Not only that, but most have never really been in situations where they’ve had to interact with members of the press at any time in their lives before becoming professional gamers. Compare that to traditional sports, where most players are interviewed dozens of times in high school or college by the time they reach the professional level. There’s a distinct unfamiliarity with the press (and the media process) that dates back to the beginning of the esports industry.
Likewise, until recently, there wasn’t much of a media presence in this scene. In addition to Slingshot, for instance, ESPN, Yahoo, TheScore, WWG, Red Bull and Inven Global have all attended at least one week of the North American LCS. Two of them launched near the start of last year’s spring split. Two didn’t exist this time last year. The amount of media presence — and subsequently, the number of interview requests — has risen significantly in a short time.
Media outlets have started to cover esports the way they cover traditional sports, but the media training on the other side has not had ample time to catch up — or, in some cases, the desire to do so. So for Moon to openly embrace the media is a positive sign for relations between players and the press.
What’s more important is that Moon sees the media as valuable to him. Since the press has existed in traditional sports, that’s long been the overarching concept: For better or worse, the media covering the games aids in building outside interest in the sports, teams and players. The media act as the buffer between the athletes and the outside world. That maxim has shifted some in recent years, as social media and other entities like The Players Tribune or the LeBron James-backed Uninterrupted have removed the filter and brought the athletes straight to the fans (a concept that has its own set of positive and negative consequences, but that’s for another day).
Esports has been at the extreme of that trend since its inception because there was no mainstream media coverage in the industry’s formative years. So the teams themselves because the outlets to reach fans, and there was a resistance (if not an animosity) for the outside press.
It’s still prevalent today, as for every organization that embraces the media (Immortals and Splyce are the two that come to mind readily, though there are plenty others), some have not budged. Team SoloMid, for instance, continues to take more of an isolationist approach regarding the media. TSM grants very few LCS interviews, doesn’t respond to requests for comments in stories and has been known to blacklist entire outlets for the simple act of reporting stories about TSM.
Esports is still very much in its formative years as an industry, and it’s been an uphill battle at times for the media in terms of access. So I cannot overstate the importance of an LCS player like Moon, an up-and-coming player in the North American scene, not only embracing the media, but thinking their presence is valuable to him. The more pros who adopt that sentiment, the more room for growth we have as an industry covering esports.
There was a lot of discussion about the Counter-Strike Summit over the weekend and what place an event like that holds in the scene. For what it’s worth, I thought it was an interesting change of pace that would be good to have a few times per year.
But what’s always interesting about a Summit event is who gets on the couch and casts. That’s what is so good about the idea of the Summit in the first place. We get to see players in a position where they can talk about the game from a different perspective. They’re narrating the action as it happens.
From what I saw of the Summit, Cloud9’s Jordan “n0thing” Gilbert and SK Gaming’s Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo impressed me the most with their casting. Neither comes as a surprise, but FalleN gave a perfect mix of insight, jokes and subtle trash talk that he was compelling the entire time he was on the mic. He even spent some time calling a match as a play-by-play caster, which was especially funny.
As for the casters, Alex “Machine” Richardson seemed like a natural in that environment. He has a good sense of humor and the ability to improvise, which was especially necessary during the first two days of the tournament, which included some lengthy delays in game play.
Make sure to check out previous editions of the Slingshot Media Column with guests Callum Leslie, Tim Sevenhuysen, Richard Lewis (Parts 1 and 2), Mark Register, Duncan “Thorin” Shields (Parts 1 and 2), Tomi “lurppis” Kovanen, Ferguson Mitchell, Travis Gafford, Kevin Knocke and Kevin Morris