Esports Fandom and the Collegiate Student-Athlete Experience: Active Audiences and Spectatorship

Esports Fandom and the Collegiate Student-Athlete Experience: Active Audiences and Spectatorship

Kelley Stuetz, Julia Crouse Waddell
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 13
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3323-9.ch013
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eSports audiences have gratifications that must be met. Online gaming provides access to gamers to create community and gain virtual reality skills within the online world. Through information seeking and virtual gratifications, gamers have a need to establish relationships and learn new skills in their game of choice. The event of competitive gaming has become so popular that it is not uncommon for college students to create an organization on campus around eSports. eSports has been studied in the disciplines of audiences, college athletics, and online learning communities; however, few have examined the importance of eSports spectatorship and the student-athlete experience. Using the extension of Hall's Encoding and Decoding model of Active Audience Theory, this research will identify the effects of audiences and spectatorship within the collegiate eSports fandom experience.
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Traditionally, sports are a type of physical activity that includes cooperative and collaborative efforts between individuals engaging in a game, or zero-sum competitive challenge. Now, a new type of less physical sport has started to become increasingly popular: electronic sports or eSports, defined as competitive video gaming (Burroughs & Roma, 2015). Although many have debated whether competitive video gaming is a real sport, its popularity has proven to make more money (CNBC, 2019), maintain active spectatorship (Burroughs & Rama, 2015; Edge, 2013; Payne et al, 2017) and develop a collaborative community within the eSports franchise (Caroline, 2011; Nardi, 2008). Esports players, or gamers, have established their status, skill, and community through online gaming platforms and the help of gamer-spectators, the fans. Even amateur players have become gamer celebrities. ESports has the innate experience for all users to be involved in some way, whether watching passively or actively participating within the platform. In fact, Shaw (2015) asserted that eSports can’t exist without its fandom. Online gaming “simply cannot function without a measure of activity and involvement beyond that which is required in other media” (2015, par. 6). Through the collaborative efforts of gamers and their fans, eSports supplies the means of gratification, community building, and information seeking when actively involved in the gaming process.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Active Audience Theory: A branch of Hall’s (1980) Encoding and Decoding Model that states that the media audiences are not passively receiving information but are actively making sense of media messages.

Esports: A sport performed solely electronically; also known as electronic sports. Often taken in the form of organized, multiplayer sport competition between professionally players individually or as a team.

Traditional Sports: The interactive games which have their own history and strict rules to be followed for centuries. For example, baseball, football and soccer are sports with strict rules, officials and have been player for an extensive time.

Online communities: A group of individuals with similar interests who use the internet to discuss, communicate and work together through an online medium.

College Athletics: A sports or athletics event funded and organized by a university or college. The major college sport governing bodies include the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) and the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.

Higher Education: Any higher learning taken post a high school education, such as college or universities.

Student-Involvement: The level of attention, interest and passion that a student shows when they are learning which enhances the level of motivation to progress in their education.

Spectatorship: The act of watching something without actively participating.

Audience: A collective group or spectators or listeners at a public event. Spectators may be face-to-face with the speaker or they may be connected through communication media or other technology.

Fandom: A subculture of fans regarded collectively as a community with the same interests and feelings towards a person, place or thing. These fans are particularly interested in the minor details of the object of their fandom.

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