Does Heroes of the Dorm On TV Mean E-sports Is Mainstream?

Jason Winter
By Jason Winter, News Editor April 27, 2015


Thanks to my cord-cutting, no-cable ways, I didn't watch the final round of the Heroes of the Dorm competition last night, when it aired on ESPN2. But judging by my Twitter timeline during the event, a lot of other people did, and they came from all walks of my social media circles.

I'm both a gamer and sports fan (cheap plug to something I wrote recently), so I follow a lot of gaming and sports personalities on Twitter, so it was a little disconcerting for me to see both of those spheres talking about the same thing Sunday night.

And, while some of them enjoyed it, others were not at all happy about “nerd stuff” invading the holy sanctum of sports that is ESPN... well, ESPN2. Which is like ESPN, but usually less interesting.

Among them was Major League Baseball pitcher Brandon McCarthy, who's usually a pretty progressive and chill dude but last night turned into as salty a critic of e-sports as there is:

Mccarthy Tweets

Which prompted some agreement amongst his followers but also some disdain, as well as the following rather sagely comment:

On the other hand, no less a name than NBA Hall of Famer Bill Walton – who went to UCLA, which is in the same NCAA conference as Heroes of the Dorm champion Arizona State and chimed in with this:

E-sports are growing, and are legitimately mainstream in other, non-English-speaking parts of the world, but for most people, p-sports (physical-sports, a term I totally just invented) are still much bigger. I'm still skeptical of e-sports becoming a major player in Western markets, at least on the level of the most popular p-sports, but with a rabid enough fan base – and their dollars, of course – it can still be at least a factor.

Too much hype? Or the right amount?

I've always felt that one of e-sports' greatest strengths – its passionate fans – is also its greatest weakness, as far as gaining acceptance in the mainstream. Nowhere is this more evident than in listening to high-decibel commentary from overcaffeinated casters, shouting a mile a minute at the top of their lungs about something that, by and large, most of America doesn't understand.

Or maybe that can work. Sports are a cultural bastion, but so is music. Through the last few decades, we've seen various musical movements – rock and roll at first, then heavy metal, rap, grunge, etc. – bubble up, be derided by the mainstream music lovers as brash, loud, obnoxious, “kids' stuff,” and eventually gain acceptance and become mainstream in their own right – after a remarkably short period of time after their introduction.

I like to think there's a common ground between the admittedly staid and droll announcing we hear at baseball games and the high-pitched screaming from e-sports, which definitely turns me off – and is, for my money, worse than any ex-jock going on in the broadcast booth about how young players these days don't respect the game or other such tripe. If I have to deal with something obnoxious, I'd rather it be quiet and obnoxious rather than loud and obnoxious.

Unlike McCarthy, former NFL punter Chris Kluwe likes gaming just fine – he used to write League of Legends articles for the magazine I edited – but even he agrees that e-sports have a lot of work to do before they can truly compete with p-sports:

Kluwe tweets

The deciding factor, of course, is money, which is based on popular appeal. If millions of people want to watch e-sports, networks will find a way to profit off of that. I don't see any reported Nielsen numbers yet for Heroes of the Dorm, but all the positive Twitter activity in the world won't amount to anything if ESPN (and others) don't think they can profit off of it, no matter how much you and all your friends thought the broadcast kicked ass. The reverse is also true; if McCarthy and others thought Heroes of the Dorm was an abomination, but it drew great ratings, you can bet we'll see more.

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About the Author

Jason Winter
Jason Winter, News Editor
Jason Winter is a veteran gaming journalist, he brings a wide range of experience to MMOBomb, including two years with Beckett Media where he served as the editor of the leading gaming magazine Massive Online Gamer. He has also written professionally for several gaming websites.

Discussion (14)

Eviil 7 years ago
I don't mind esports going mainstream at all, just another thing to watch during downtime. Sometimes its really fun to watch but beware of those announcers with 'downs', it really makes it boring to watch your favorite video game.

Randyblythe 7 years ago
I really don't want gaming to become "mainstream" via TV. It will become mainstream by humans evolving. First we had books, then movies, and now video games. We evolve into the best entertainment, video games are simply interactive movies.

The people who still watch TV are old, gaming will grow endlessly until virtual reality or something new takes its place, it's just simple evolution, and humans will move on to that slowly at first, then it will become the new "thing", just like gaming is becoming now.

Putting gaming on TV is a step backwards, it's not what we should be doing at all.

kek 7 years ago
That Chris dude, once you play league and like it, you'll be forevermore a retard. He is the embodiment of retardation; beware, before it's too late you might become him anytime soon.

"Too many objectives throws off viewers". In league it's just 2 buffs, dragon and baron... omg, ResidentSleeper, rather eat shit to death.

View 1 reply
Sean 7 years ago
"It doesn’t have worldwide famous “e-athletes” and I’m not sure if they’re getting paid every “workday” the only pay is the grand prize."

You clearly know absolutely nothing about the global e-sports scene. Players like Faker, Misaya, and Toyz typically draw anywhere from 1-5 MILLION live viewers when they stream their solo gameplay. Pro league contracts in North America can reach over $50,000 a split, of which there are two in the calender year, which doesn't include players' stream revenue, sponsorships, and of course, prize money. E-sports' rate of growth in terms of both participation and viewership absolutely destroys that of basketball during its rise in the late 50s early 60s, and with the speed of today's technological developments , there's no reason for that to change. E-sports are a completely legitimate form of competitive entertainment, with strong international infrastructure and a vehement fan base that continues to grow by inclusion every day.

Greaterdivinity 7 years ago
No, this happened once before over a decade ago with MLG. It tanked, hard. People aren't watching ESPN to watch esporst, they're watching it for physical sports.

Where are folks watching esports? Online. On Twitch. That's where the core audience has and will continue to be. Not on TV.

Also, I didn't watch it, but I heard the program was spectacular. Filled with hilariously awful commentary and cuts from major team fights to a panning shot of the crowds reaction...because that's far more important than a big team fight : 3

View 1 reply
Moe 7 years ago
The over commentating is just a part of the e-sport culture and broadcast style. The play that keeps coming up is 5 v 2 on Sky temple. While yes, seems stupid to be excited over 5 v 2 at the enemies core these are essentially walk-off homerun calls. This is like Puig ripping a 450ft homer over the left field wall during a regular season game.

You see the ball hit, you know no one on the field has a chance at it, but all the greats will call it with excitement. Why? Because that's the end, that's the wrapper, that puts closure to the game and/or match.

It shouldn't matter how the moment occurs but that the moment is occurring and one must call it in the most exciting way possible to close it out.

View 1 reply
Anon 7 years ago
I never took E-sports seriously, just because when you compare the logic between regular sports and e-sports, e-sports just doesn't have much behind it other than being fun to watch. It doesn't have worldwide famous "e-athletes" and I'm not sure if they're getting paid every "workday" the only pay is the grand prize. The only people that seem to be getting money off of televised e-sports shows would be ESPN and probably the online streams too (just my guess.) Other than that it's just a game among the too-many MOBAs around. And I totally agree with the over-commentating, switch to decaf.

View 1 reply
Anon 7 years ago
Also, Chris Kluwe is a jackass and you shouldn't ever take him seriously

Anon 7 years ago

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