Opinion: Twitter reaction to 'Heroes of the Dorm' shows wide eSports acceptance is still far off

A rabid crowd and an excited fanbase were ecstatic to find Heroes of the Storm fill the ESPN2 airwaves last night. Unfortunately, some of the reaction from the other side shows that eSports are still a long way from being accepted as the norm.

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Yesterday was a big day for Blizzard and for Heroes of the Storm. Not only did the Heroes of the Dorm college tournament finish in grand style, but it did so in front of a nationwide audience on ESPN2. For many that have played video games throughout their lives, it was fascinating to see their hobby evolve into a very real competition. There were stakes, preparation, drama, and personalities, along with an arena filled with rabid spectators. It encapsulated all that's great about sports.

Of course, there were definitely those that grumbled on Twitter. Some people gnashed their teeth over the idea of "ERMAHGERD! VERDJAGAMES!" on a sports channel. That's to be expected. When I saw the compilation of tweets, I didn't bat an eye.

Now when the passive-aggressive insults and sarcasm started coming from the actual ESPN anchors, that's what grabbed my attention.

The trouble thing about these tweets is that it ultimately reinforces what many gamers knew all along. There are those that will never accept video games as any kind of competition. Worse, there are some that will always look at the gamer, point their finger, and shout "Nerd!" It doesn't matter that gaming has become a multi-billion dollar industry, has grown exponentially as an artform, or grown to encapsulate the greatest aspects of competition. To people like the aforementioned anchors, it's nerd stuff. It's the subject of derision. It's a second-class hobby. It was so aggravating to see this attitude that it made me wonder why ESPN even bothered in the first place. I look forward to the encore when it comes time for the Dota 2 International, where teams can win more money than most pro athletes are making right now.

I'm someone that's been following the eSports scene for a while. I've watched as Blizzard and Valve have made overtures to national television networks to get their game a decent slot. However, this kind of reaction reinforces that maybe video games should stick to channels that will appreciate them. I've made the case in the past that mainstream acceptance shouldn't be the overall goal or the end-all, be-all of competitive gaming. After all, Twitch has built an empire largely by focusing on competitive gaming. Competitions that focus on Hearthstone, Pokemon, League of Legends, or Evo for fighting games know where their strengths lie.

"I don't need video games to be anything but video games," David Philip Graham (a.k.a. Ultradavid) first told me back in July. "I'm suspicious of people who want them to be sports. I view that mostly as a marketing gimmick intended to convince disappointed fathers that sons aren't wasting their time playing competitive video games, they're spending their time playing professional sports. That is, it's something for the older generation, and only for the current generation to the extent that they've internalized their parents' disdain for video games. Screw that! Video games don't have to be sports to be legitimate; video games AS video games can be legitimate on their own."

I couldn't have put it any better. There's no shortage of competitive gaming coverage out there. A dedicated new media world, like Twitch or MLG, is where the gaming audience can find them. It's where these games can truly be appreciated, without any "holier than thou" crowds to mock them. Continually reaching out to ESPN is a fine idea and I did get some pride out of seeing games on the small screen. It also reminded me that the gaming audience is an easy target for some of those people, someone they can all point and laugh at.

It's also more baffling to me that some of the ESPN anchors would go so far as to bash what's on the company airwaves. Are these cheap jokes worth mocking your own network? Clearly, somebody at the top of the ESPN food chain is seeing the eSports path as one worth pursuing, so why undermine that? Is it worth a few laughs from the so-called "jock" crowd? Is it worth riling up the people that ESPN is trying to reach out to? There's something to the old saying of "If you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all," especially when it comes to the people writing your paychecks. (This is without even mentioning Colin Cowherd's completely asinine take on the subject.)

At least not everyone was completely sardonic about the whole thing, with ESPN college basketball analyst Bill Walton offering the rare example of someone getting into the spirit.

But yes, ESPN anchors. Let's mock the gamers and question why they're taking up precious airtime. After all, you have more important things to talk about.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

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From The Chatty
    • reply
      April 27, 2015 3:08 PM

      eh, Michelle Beadle's progression was the best. Looks like you only picked the first one.

      Part of it (from reddit) : http://imgur.com/jz0mRPw

      With eventually progressed to :
      https://twitter.com/MichelleDBeadle/status/592528875873140736

      And finally :
      https://twitter.com/MichelleDBeadle/status/592543713240350720

      Kinda went from "WTF is this?!" to "KILL THE CORE" to "Now I want in."

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        April 27, 2015 3:19 PM

        This was the best: https://twitter.com/MichelleDBeadle/status/592526729622593537

        Having Tastosis and Day9 on your casting desk is always a good thing. They killed it yesterday

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          April 27, 2015 3:55 PM

          Day9 is such a likable dude. When people talk to me curiously about streaming I tell them to go watch Day9.

          I hope he does more for ESPN, was the right move to put him out there.

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        April 27, 2015 4:01 PM

        She's awesome in general

      • reply
        April 27, 2015 4:31 PM

        ya, Ozzie missed out or is cherry picking. I like to believe the former is true.

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          April 27, 2015 4:36 PM

          and I don't the RoFlo or Darren Rovell were "some of the ESPN anchors would go so far as to bash what's on the company". Their tweets seemed all in fun and generally good natured. Like, "what a world we live in." As for Beadle, I don't see any of those series of tweets from walker270, in our out of context as bashing.

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      April 27, 2015 3:12 PM

      people on this very site talk about how dumb they think watching other people play games is so this isn't exactly surprising

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        April 27, 2015 3:16 PM

        It's just funny that some of these people were actually willing to bite the hand that feeds them because they couldn't keep "LOL! VIDEOGAMES!" to themselves.

        I love that Colin Cowherd prefaced his rant with, "I'm going to get fired for this." We should be so lucky.

        • reply
          April 27, 2015 3:36 PM

          You would get the same Twitter results from putting sports on non-sports channels. It happens every year during the baseball playoffs on TBS.

    • reply
      April 27, 2015 3:22 PM

      I think hotd was exclusive to ESPN? The international had the exact same feed as the twitch channel so there wasn't a reason not to watch it on twitch or just in the client.

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        April 27, 2015 4:00 PM

        One guy tried streaming it on Twitch and his account was banned. That's old media for you. I look forward to home team lockouts for future esports event streams.

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          April 27, 2015 4:10 PM

          That's when you'll know that esports have hit the big time.

    • reply
      April 27, 2015 3:27 PM

      I really wouldn't use comments on Twitter as evidence of anything. You can pretty much do a search and find someone making dumbass comments about just about anything you can think of. Also, go to any @espn tweet sometime and look at be fucking dumb comments on them.

    • reply
      April 27, 2015 3:33 PM

      80% of the Twitter people I follow are sports people and the reactions by most were more curious than anything.

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      April 27, 2015 4:02 PM

      Is the video online anywhere yet?

      • reply
        April 27, 2015 4:20 PM

        Play ESPN app has it with valid cable login or provider.

    • reply
      April 27, 2015 4:44 PM

      https://twitter.com/PabloTorre/status/592539214463541249

      ps. the pablo guy was enjoying the show.

    • reply
      April 27, 2015 4:48 PM

      "esports" with all the uniforms and mountain dew can die in a fire. I want to see more stuff like Evo where people get to be themselves and have a good time.

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