Image is everything. Image is key.
How do you construct a scene? How do you do it in a time where the very medium in question has nothing but bad press? How to you make a cellardwelling nerd into a rock star?
You do what eSports did and clean up your act.
T.L. Taylor’s look at a growing scene, and the work that goes into both participating in it and fostering it on a global scale is an incredibly interesting read. Raising the Stakes focuses primarily on the rising “seriousness” of the competitive eSports scene. Taylor poses a few questions; Is it possible for a scene to be created with such speed? Can these things get big enough to succeed on a popular culture level? Could they rival football while avoiding all of the scandals that plague football?
While I don’t think these questions alone particularly matter, I feel like Taylor does a great job of assessing both a new cultural phenomenon and of treating its subjects with respect. Taylor’s perspective is unique as well, chronicling multi-national tournaments and events from as far as eastern Europe and Korea.
For me, this was a somewhat nostalgic read. I’ve spent my life in and out of convention centers, first as a professional cosplayer and hobbyist voice actor in High School, and then later as a competitive Melee player. Taylor’s words reminded me of both the times I spent playing and organizing tournaments, and of trying to convince people that my hobbies were legitimate.
I particularly enjoyed Taylor’s brief interjections on tournament culture. On “Hype” and the crowd’s energy. Of sitting in the seats and thinking for the first time gaming seemed like a “real” thing. That’s a powerful feeling.
Just last weekend I ran a 150~ish person tournament at the SUB. I streamed the entire thing. It was my responsibility to make the tournament run as quickly as possible, as cleanly as possible. And for the most part, I succeeded. But it was a hell of a lot of work. But I did get to show off, on stream, in front of 70~ish people watching, some sick dunks on Graham, my training partner.
I’m pretty fly, is what I’m saying. And no one would know that without eSports, or people like Taylor taking it seriously. And for that, they have my thanks. Because that dunk was gross.
I guess the point is that eSports, and the growing scene, may have had some ups and downs. Maybe it didn’t achieve the perfect, scandal-less record some people thought it needed. But hey, it gave me a place to prove how mad cool I could be in stressful situations, so for that I’m grateful.