(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!)
During my talk with Rachel “Seltzer” Quirico, ELEAGUE interviewer and an esports veteran, one comment in particular stuck out as it pertains to how we operate within the media world of esports.
“I think one of the biggest changes in the interviewing process and how players approach it over the years is (in the past) no one was talking to them. And then people started talking to them, but the interviewers didn’t quite know what the important questions were.”
What often gets lost in the rather rapid rise of esports is how media have entered the space faster than the community has had time to catch up. In traditional sports, players are media trained when they enter college, a process that continues through the time they are professionals. Talking to the media is a requirement, and players are taught about what, exactly, that entails.
That’s never been the case in esports. For a while, it wasn’t really necessary. But as the scope of the scene has expanded, more media outlets have become part of it. All of the sudden, the players — who are in the same age range as college and young professional athletes — have many of the same requests and still none of the media training. That has created a couple effects:
First, there’s a natural apprehension at times to doing interviews. Players could be nervous and feel out of their element. Players could also very easily lack respect or trust for the interviewer because of newness or a perceived lack of knowledge and preparation about the game. There’s no easier way to lose the respect of an interview subject than not knowing what you’re talking about, and the transcript from Cloud9’s media day news conference from the Esports Championship Series Season 2 LAN Finals is a glowing example. There are a handful of examples of being completely unprepared, not listening to a player’s answer and asking pointless questions that undoubtedly would leave players wondering what the point of that news conference was. As media members, we have to do better. It’s one thing to argue media members should have more access to players for interviews (and in my opinion, media availability at esports events should be mandatory), but reporters need to show the effort to meet the players halfway. Ask good questions. Be prepared. Listen to the answers.
Second, in talking with some people deep in the Counter-Strike scene, the increased media interest in the game has actually made interviews kind of stale. Players and talent are being asked, more or less, the same questions whenever they do an interview. Some of that goes back to the earlier point about being prepared, but it also reflects a deeper thinking from the media side: What actually qualifies as a “successful” interview. In esports reporting, one good quote from an interview can make all the difference when it comes to Reddit (and I detailed the issues with writing for Reddit last week). A good quote can make a story shoot to the top of the front page, so it would be easy for outlets to consider an otherwise bland interview a success with one headline-grabbing quote. With that, it’s easy to consider why so many interviews read the same. It’s much sexier to ask a player about the hot-button issue of the week than it is to dive into that person’s backstory. As a collective, we in the media need to do better at asking good questions, digging deeper and making interviews more engaging.
The solution to the current state of interviewing should be simple. If teams can provide basic media training for their players, and if the media members can do a little more of their homework, we can improve the landscape and create more interesting and in-depth stories for the community, which is who we both ultimately serve.
On the Radar
(A rundown of important stories in the esports media realm and analyzing what they all mean)
We reported last week about the undocumented affiliation between esports organization Misfits and Hollywood.com’s esports section, which boasted exclusive content about Misfits. The conflict has since been addressed, and there is now a disclaimer on any story written about Misfits on Hollywood.com.
After talking with Ben Spoont, CEO of eSports Now LLC, which owns Misfits, it became clear there was nothing malicious intended by failing to disclose the relationship between the two parties. It was more an act of just not being familiar in the media space and realizing the conflict of interest.
Remember: A conflict of interest doesn’t necessarily mean any wrongdoing has happened. But the possibility something dubious is transpiring can be just as damaging. When something important — like an affiliation with a team you cover — is hidden, whether intentional or not, people will naturally assume wrongdoing is happening.
Transparency is of the utmost importance, especially in the media business, and this case was a good reminder to always be vigilant.
The idea of professional players becoming casters and on-air talent after retiring makes sense in esports, even more so than it does in traditional sports. With Robin “fifflaren” Johansson and Tomi “lurppis” Kovanen on the desk during the ECS LAN Finals last week, it sparked my internal pondering of who might be next.
In Counter-Strike, Chad “SPUNJ” Burchill has been received generally well since making the transition after his retirement this summer. Anders Blume told me a few weeks ago he thought Sean Gares would be good on the desk if Gares ever wanted to do it. For retiring players, becoming an analyst or caster makes a lot of sense as a secondary career choice if they want to stay in esports.
There has been a bit more structure in establishing that pipeline in League of Legends, as notable pros including Mitch “Krepo” Voorspoels and more recently Alberto “Crumbz” Rengifo have made the transition. Riot Games frequently has opportunities for players to appear as guests on broadcasts, which can start the process. After H2K’s Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski appeared as a guest during the spring season, fans seemed to clamor for more of him, though Jankos told me during the League of Legends World Championship in October that he didn’t necessarily see the same future.
“I actually don’t know what I will do, because maybe I’ll like to be a streamer more than an analyst, but something like this is very nice for me because I still need to practice my English a lot, and it’s an opportunity,” he said. “I learned a lot as well. I’m very happy when I get a chance to do it, and I will 100 percent be ready for it in the future. If everyone likes it, if you guys like it, if I like it, maybe in the future I will be an analyst.”