January 22, 2019 / By Ross Lipschultz
As we keep an eye on the dynamic esports scene, two articles worth noting show very different sides of the industry, as well as potential opportunities for any brand interested in making a move into the space. The first article, from the Associated Press, chronicles one of the most rampant issues in the sport: “Women in professional esports navigate hyper-masculinity and harassment.”
The aggravation many female gamers feel due to the behavior of their male counterparts, audience, etc. has led to a wide gap in representation on the professional level. Despite the Entertainment Software Association reporting that almost half of U.S. gamers are women, the percentage at the highest level is completely disproportionate, and that’s mainly because of the bullying and harassment. The Associated Press chronicles the widespread intolerance and vile comments that have not only caused some esports pros to leave the sport but also have reached the level of high-school-age and younger players that prevents them from wanting to pursue a career in the industry. There’s often talk around many sports of people being told to “stay in your lane” and discouraged from going after what they care about, and in esports, it has created a bubble of toxicity.
This is an area that needs a progressive brand to make the change the industry needs. Due to social media, there’s no way to eliminate all the nasty messages female gamers receive from what many deem “guys in their parents’ basement,” however, companies that want to inspire young women should see this as a place to create a constructive environment. In just the past month, major brands like adidas (She Breaks Barriers) and Bumble (The Ball is in Her Court) have launched campaigns to empower women through sports, but there has yet to be anything close to this in esports.
Unfortunately, some gaming companies use their female athletes as a PR stunt to say, “Look how inclusive we are!” instead of realizing that female gamers, as the article notes, want to be treated like everyone else and not like show ponies. The opportunity to invigorate a large audience without an advocate for themselves is something marketers should consider when planning endeavors into this industry, as it speaks to another area for accessibility that is lacking in the space.
Speaking of accessibility (and on a much more fun note), CNN created an insightful profile on the Silver Snipers: “The world’s oldest esports team is gaming their way to longer lives.” The Swedish side, led by 60+-year-old players hilariously named as “Teen Slayer” and “Trigger Finger,” ventures to Counter-Strike championships internationally, thanks to their sponsorship by Lenovo and professional-level training from their world-renown head coach.
The article paints a picture of the many good things that can come from esports, including the camaraderie among teammates, the compliments and connections from grandchildren, and, most importantly, the effects on the brain. While many people deem esports as “brain-rotting” or “a waste of time,” CNN’s interviews with doctors suggest that gaming can help with neuroplasticity, which is the ability for the brain to form new neural connections and slow down the mental effects of aging. Combine that with the study that says elderly people are up to 35% less likely to die if they report feeling happy, excited and content on a typical day, and it points to esports providing an opportunity for people of all ages to enjoy themselves.
Obviously, these aren’t one-to-one connections between esports and sexagenarian happiness, however, the article speaks to a broader point that esports has the potential to welcome many more demographics than what it welcomes now but having the support of brands can be crucial. The Lenovo partnership gives this team of people who might be viewed as outsiders a sense of respect from and connection to their competitors that may be a third of their age and working with a 10-time champion as a coach doesn’t hurt either. Lenovo has promoted the Silver Snipers on their blog multiple times and doesn’t treat them as an anomaly. They play like any other team, and brands that encourage an environment where that is the case will win out in the industry.