One of the most frequent types of lazy journalism rears its head with esports. For many years, even when an article on esports was purporting to give a balanced account, it would maintain a negative overtone.
To prove it, here’s just a small selection of headlines in the past year. These are from a variety of different publications, both online and offline, from all around the globe.
- The rise of eSports: are addiction and corruption the price of its success? (The Guardian, June 2017)
- The problem of treating play like work – how esports can harm well-being (phys.org, May 2017)
- 5 most common health concerns for esports athletes (Rappler.com, Sept. 2017)
- From gaming to gambling: the rising risk of esports (The Telegraph, May 2017)
- Fortnight video game caused over 200 divorces in the United Kingdom (BGR India, Sept. 2018)
- Schools have started to send letters about the dangers of Fortnite (Dexerto.com, June 2018)
- Couch Potatoes can now pursue Varsity Esports Scholarships (eLearningInside News – Sept. 2018)
- Warning over child addition to esports in Thailand (Buritam Times, Sept. 2018)
- Toxic gaming culture can’t fully explain the Jacksonville Madden shooting (The Verge, Aug. 2018)
Indeed, if you head further back in time, you will find that blaming esports and gaming for many of society’s ills was commonplace.
What is far less common are reports that showcase the benefits of esports. There are, as the old saying suggests, two sides to every coin. However, it seems that whenever the mainstream media flips the esports coin, it tends to come down on the negative side.
There are, indeed, many benefits to gaming
These days, there are several moves to redress that balance. In the UK, for instance, the British Esports Association has released its own infographic that details a number of benefits.
The document is freely downloadable from the British Esports Association website. But there are a few highlights:
- Esports is social – 54 percent of gamers say games help them to stay in contact with and connect with their friends.
- Esports can prove beneficial to individual who have problems with perception or cognitive abilities.
- Games can be used as a tool to help a child learn, including skills in basic literacy, mathematics, and reading.
- Playing games can help individuals increase their perceptual skills, decision-making ability, the speed of processing information as well as enhance their ability to multitask.
- Players of strategy games, such as StarCraft, have shown improved task management skills compared to non-players.
- Some esports game promote the development of teamwork
- Professional gamers are motivated to win and are more likely to be optimistic about their ability to reach goals.
- Esports is producing a number of positive role models for young people.
- Gamers demonstrate improved memory skills and recall and show an improved ability to complete tasks.
- 71 percent of parents stated that video games have a positive influence on their children’s lives.
Of course, these benefits do not come with a blanket guarantee, nor do they recommend parents should be loading up the latest Grand Theft Auto game and handing the controller to their five-year-old. It is assumed the players in question are playing age-appropriate games.
Whether you believe the claims of the British Esports Association or not, there is a growing weight of scientific information that clearly corroborates many of the statements listed above. Yet it is rare to find these beneficial aspects of esports widely reported in the mainstream media. Why is that the case?
Is there an anti-esports agenda?
When an issue is routinely reported on with a lack of balance, devotees of that area naturally begin to question whether they’re reading journalism or propaganda.
One of the most interesting articles on this subject was penned by James Batchelor of gamesindustry.biz. Here, he reasons the UK needs “to reverse the way the media thinks about esports.”
One particularly prescient part of the article states:
“Government reluctance and public ignorance concerning esports are not helped by negative stories surrounding the sector. ODEE (Michael O’Dell of Team Dignitas) says that while not all coverage can be positive, some press outlets only tend to touch on esports when there is bad news to report, such as cheating in tournaments.”
What makes matters worse is that some of the stories and epithets used in the media are patently not true. Hugo Byron, a professional esports commentator for CS:GO tournaments, says as much in Batchelor’s article.
“It’s a big stereotype that gamers are fat, living in their mum’s basement, spending their whole day eating chocolate and playing video games. Look at the photos of the top teams, a lot of the best players are in really good shape. Not bodybuilders, but in really good shape.
“Lots of the teams hire chefs to cook for their players, so it is not just eating junk food all day. There’s a need for a balanced diet to keep esports players healthy.”
However, such stories tend to run counter to the generally negative narrative surrounding esports. Let’s go back to Batchelor’s article one more time for a conclusive point from ODEE.
“I’d like to reverse the media’s thinking and show the cool stuff, rather than the very tiny instances of bad stuff that does sometimes happen to all sports [not just esports].”
That’s a very salient point. While esports does have its down side, as does every sport, you seldom here the positives of esports being lauded in the press. All this said, as esports grows in popularity, here’s hoping the mainstream media that indulges in solely reporting on the negative aspects of esports will begin to offer a more balanced view.