Players are people too – please treat them as such

Bjergsen
Photograph taken by: Riot Games

When I sat down to interview Bjergsen, something happened that had never happened to me before: I was nervous. My palms were sweaty, knees weak, arms were heavy. I was confident about my questions that I had prepared. But I didn’t know whether one of the most popular Western players of all time would be an easy interview partner.

As it turned out, Bjergsen was just a super cool, chill guy to talk to. And in all honesty, at least 95% of players are. Despite their fame and income, they still are in their early twenties, they probably listen to the same music, watch the same Anime as you and I. But sometimes it feels like the community doesn’t realize that there’s a young adult, a person behind the player. And that needs to change.

One of the most beautiful things about esports, in my opinion, is that players, coaches, managers and even CEOs regularly interact with fans online. If I send a tweet to G2 Carlos right now, there’s a good chance I’ll get a reply or at least a fav – a notification that he’s read what I had to say. This sort of interaction does not happen in most sports anymore. European football players are athletes that can only be viewed from afar and even social media seemingly hasn’t changed this.

This is something unique to the esports community. This is a treasure. And we must treat this interaction as such.

Of course, this is easy when you’re a very liked and popular player. But when the tables turn and your teams stop succeeding, people very easily start jumping on bandwagons in order to force a player out of his position. One of these cases is Amazing, a player who has been crowned the champion of the NA LCS, has been to the Worlds Semifinals and has played for many established teams.

But for some reason or another, Amazing also receives an extraordinary amount of hate whenever he writes a tweet. And this type of behavior has real consequences on him and the way he views interacting with LCS fans. When I asked Amazing about this, this is what he had to say:

Some players like yourself receive an extraordinary amount of hate and harassment online in comparison to others. How do you handle this kind of behavior and do you think that the esports community tends to be more toxic than traditional sports communities? Or is it just different because esport athletes tend to spend more time online compared to traditional athletes?

You simply don’t handle it. Honestly have gotten better at not interacting with the hate as much, but it still bugs me. It’s more about that even though I know I can’t make everyone like me, part of me thinks that maybe I can somehow make that happen by being nice and forthcoming on social media, in my games, but damn you can not stop a wave once it’s rolling. It’s discouraging, but the mute and ignore buttons have helped me to weed out the black sheep and focus on the happy and supportive people in the community. Everyone can pretend it’s not important to them, but damn there is a difference to things when you’re at the top and you’re loved and cheered for. It’s the best feeling there is.

Though no, the esports community is not more toxic than the traditional sports communities, but it is more vocal on social media, due to the nature of esports being watched on a PC/Mac/laptop/phone. Everyone who watches esports also has immediate access to those resources, and most esports players are still running their social media sites themselves so fan interaction is direct and unfiltered. The only times a football star is going to be mad about statements being made about him is if a reporter asks him about it, whereas we have the live feed in front of our eyes.

Now, of course I don’t want criticism and banter to go away – quite the opposite, given that these two things are part of my job. But we need to draw a line between making a joke about missing Flash and actively calling for a player to get fired. One is a joke. The other can have real-life consequences if enough people join the chant. If I were in Amazing’s shoes, as an example, I would probably need to pay Twitter to give me a no-limit blocklist. I would most likely not even consider browsing reddit. I would

We, as a community, have to realize that this would be a horrible scenario for us all. Because not only would we damage the people we love and cheer for, but take away one of the greatest things in this sports scene specifically: How close players are to the fans. Let’s not fuck this up.

Toru

Toru is an esports journalist trying to nurture esports culture whenever possible. He’s into sports in general, manga and once started a degree in psychology.