Another Open Letter, This Time to the Community
Before we get started, let me clarify some points in my last letter. First off, I was blown away by the reception. I didn’t think half the people who ended up reading it would give it the time of day, but it was awesome to see the range of responses I received. That said, there was some confusion regarding the overall point I was trying to make. I wasn’t advocating some sort of “donation model” in which every independent effort would live or die by the recommendation of our most prominent community members, and I definitely wasn’t speaking about anything other than the growth of independent media in esports. The path to a world filled with a variety of unaffiliated esports media organizations is long and fraught with twists and turns. The contribution made by our community pillars is just one thumbtack on that map. It won’t necessarily make or break our endeavors, but I feel like they have a responsibility to help further efforts beyond the ones that they are personally invested in. In my opinion it’s a duty of their station.
Anyways, let’s get to the good part.
What’s up? Did everyone have a good holiday? I hope so, because now that 2012 is here, we have work to do. 2011 was a banner year for esports in many ways, but now isn’t the time to rest on our laurels. Our efforts have proven beyond a doubt that esports has major staying power and unsurpassed growth potential in our modern age. There has never been a better time when all the necessary elements have converged so perfectly to give esports a chance to be the breakout phenomenon of the 21st century. We’re all having a blast attending events, tuning in to streams every night, and showering organizations, players, and sponsors with our unbridled affection. That’s a big part of what esports needs, but there’s more work to be done. It might not be fun, at least not right away, but I think it’s what needs to happen if we want to our subculture to become fully developed in its own right.
All of this comes back to my previous point: if we want independent media organizations in esports, we need to support them. It’s hard to get your name out there without a little bit of help. Again, this isn’t a do-or-die scenario. Nothing I’m saying is a hard and fast rule. It boils down to this: we want independent media. That much is clear. We need to support it more than we’re doing right now. It’s not a lost cause. Not at all. We just need to put some effort into it.
The StarCraft community in particular is what I’ll focus on for the time being. The SC community is, in my mind, one of the most organized sub-community in esports for the time being. If nothing else, it’s often the one getting the most attention. We need to set an example here and now. If we can blaze a trail, the rest of esports will be able to follow. We have incredible resources at our fingertips, resources that we as a society are only beginning to comprehend the potential of. Social media technology gives each person an ability to have their beliefs heard and felt across the internet, and right now we’re using them primarily as tools for creating and distributing .gifs and captioned images.
Reddit is a website that has been used to organize protests, petitions, support drives, and a number of other movements that had noticeable impacts across the globe. It’s been used that way for StarCraft II in the past. We’ve organized large-scale tournaments, funded documentaries, and even paid for MarineKingPrime’s trip to MLG. However these are exceptions to the rule. By and large Reddit’s capacity is languishing.
It just so happens that the SC2 community has a strong presence on Reddit in the form of r/starcraft, but there’s no reason that other esport communities can’t carve out their own niches (r/leagueoflegends and r/esports are notable up and comers). The way for this to happen, however, is to lead by example. If we can prove that Reddit is an indispensable tool for shaping and developing the culture and events surrounding SC2, then all the better for other games to use their respective subreddits for the same purpose. For this to happen, we need to seriously batten down the hatches.
What does that entail? First off, we need to stop posting so much crap. I like a funny .gif as much as the next guy, but we’re not doing ourselves any favors in the long run by focusing our efforts on laughs and karma whoring. There’s room for funny jokes and topics, but by and large, “joke topics” are crap. This isn’t news to anybody; people speak up on a regular basis, but they just get shot down by such air-tight counterarguments as, “that’s the nature of Reddit,” “Redditors are karma whores,” and “this community sucks.”
This community doesn’t suck. All online communities fall victim to these same habits. But we’re not just any online community. We’ve accomplished a ton in 2011, and that just proves what we’re capable of doing when we put our minds to it. So let’s do it! This isn’t some sort of unapproachable task, nor is it a grueling punishment. It just requires more forethought than most of us are accustomed to using when it comes to making posts online. Please, for the future of esports, THINK before you post something. Think to yourself, “Will this help further a cause that I passionately want to see grow?” It the answer is no, DON’T POST IT! I know it’s been said before, but that’s really all there is to it.
Think about it this way: years from now, when we have kids, what do we want to share with them? Do we want them to see a truly developed and successful esports event created from community ingenuity and sponsored by companies who were encouraged to enter the market by overwhelming fan support? Or do we want them to see some funny meme images? The solution is so simple and the effect down the road could be that drastically different. We each have a role to play in this journey into 2012 and beyond. It starts in communities like TL, WP, and Reddit, and on all of our computer screens. We decide what to put there, and the rest is history.