eSports as a News Specialty Gold Rush: Communication Ecology in the Domination of Traditional Journalism Over Lifestyle Journalism

eSports as a News Specialty Gold Rush: Communication Ecology in the Domination of Traditional Journalism Over Lifestyle Journalism

Gregory P. Perreault (Appalachian State University, USA) and Mildred F. Perreault (East Tennessee State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-7300-6.ch014
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Abstract

The news coverage of eSports presents an attractive avenue to a new audience for business, sports, and gaming journalists. The audience's interest is understandable given the financial vibrancy of the hobby. This chapter reflects an analysis of news articles (n=406) published in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Forbes, and Business Insider from January 2018 to December 2020. Researchers analyzed these articles for specific marketing and public relations messages and identified how various entertainment businesses were reflected in the news coverage of eSports. This chapter argues that eSports represents a topic typically covered through lifestyle journalism that has instead been dominated by traditional business reporting. Both gaming and sports are predominantly lifestyle specialties—hence, the dominant role of business journalism in reporting the specialty means that the emphasis on the niche has primarily been on awards and financing.
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Introduction

At the climax of The Wizard (1989), the would-be eSports champion arrives in California to compete in the Nintendo World Championships after having mastered every game available on the Nintendo Entertainment System. He arrives at the final round, when it is announced that the final round would entail players to achieve a top score in a game they had never played before, that being Super Mario Brothers 3. As the screens displayed the video game, it became evident not only to the players but to the audience watching The Wizard (1989), that Super Mario Brothers 3 was indeed a real game and they, like the fictional would-be eSports champion, were being introduced to the game for the first time. It was a brilliant marketing strategy that led to Super Mario Brothers 3 being the highest grossing game at the time of release, and the game continues to be ranked at #46 in world-wide sales, with $19 million in sales (Noble, 2020).

As a core hobby between video gaming and sports, two very profitable fields on their own, it is only natural that the melding of video gaming and esports would create the penultimate world of multiple player competitions that is currently labeled as eSports. The world of eSports has developed into not only a world of wide journalistic interest, but of wide market interest. Video game companies see eSports tournaments as an opportunity to gain promotional endorsements, and garner the attention of potential customers. Journalists see such tournaments as an avenue to reach a new, and growing, audience. This is a new competitive world, a match game, a fight game, a contest with ultimate winners and losers, that touches upon every facet of the socio-cultural global realm. The burgeoning world of eSports is a journalist’s dream, as this melds the digital age of possibility with the piqued interest of massive multiplayer gamers within all realms of society. What had been a smaller segment of youngsters who cooped themselves up in their small bedroom apartments for days on end, has swiftly maneuvered into the fastest growing sport on the global market. Every company, every businessman, even every entrepreneur, dreams of becoming the central player within this new market that is referred to as eSports. The world of journalism is front and center, in this eSports gold rush.

The development of competitive video games, or eSports, has emerged from a contemporary youth culture which has grown significantly in the last ten years (Funk et al., 2017). eSports has changed the way that youth and adults view video game play. eSports reshapes video gaming, once considered to be a passive activity, into a more engaged, and social activity. It has also opened up a multi-million-dollar industry for marketers and advertisers.

Understanding how journalists cover eSports and how that news coverage works as a part of the overall ecosystem of sport, technology and news is vital. eSports represents a profitable growth area within sport, one that necessarily draws together the interests and concerns of gaming, sports and business journalism. This chapter seeks to present the results of analysis of the online news coverage of eSports. Such analysis was based upon 406 collected eSports news articles. As a result of this analysis, it is suggested that eSports offers an opportunity traditional business journalism to dominate the lifestyle journalism spaces of sport and gaming. While soft news—generally referred to as lifestyle journalism—still occurs in eSports, traditional hard news coverage remains dominant.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Communication Ecology: Refers to the complex ecosystems of institutions and relationships that exist in connecting audiences with information.

Digital Journalism: Refers to a technical process of journalism that privileges digital, online, interactive presentations and is reflected not only in digital-only news, but has become the dominant presentation of legacy media as well.

Sports Reporting: The act of covering journalism in the sports journalism beat or topic area.

Business Reporting: Is reporting that covers business, money, the stock market, investment trends and other business tangential topics.

Marketing: The process of appealing to consumers with a specific product or service.

MOBA: “Massive Online Battle Arena” games are the leading genre of eSports games, in which gamers compete in a sort online gladiator-style battle to be the last person standing.

Lifestyle Journalism: Journalism which focuses on more soft news related stories that deal more with people and subjects of human interest, and are often timeless in nature.

Esports: A form of competitive gaming popularized through League of Legends and DOTA that has grown into an expansive worldwide media system.

Sports Journalism: Journalism which focuses primarily on the coverage of sports, sporting events, players and fanbases.

Legacy Media: Refers to forms of media that predate the internet and that may, or may not, still privilege their media presentations in non-online forms.

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