The Cautionary Tale of Destiny
There are few figures among the StarCraft II community as divisive as Destiny. Whether you’re a die-hard fan or a detractor, his prominence since the early days of SC2 and the subsequent eSports boom allows him to serve as a lens through which we can view the shifting priorities of the eSports community as well as an evolution of the business as a whole.
The Power of Streaming
Before every pro-gamer had a personal stream decked out with team logos and scrolling sponsor ads, streaming was a much simpler idea that got by on much less. People were just excited that they could consume content from their favorite game on a daily basis. Legends like Day9 and Husky were just making their presence known via streaming sites and YouTube, and new players were able to stake a claim without having to fight for a big break to draw viewers. This is where Destiny came in. He was a pretty good player, but he was also a lot of fun to watch. Watching a Korean pro stoically power through ladder games may help your strategy, but watching Destiny try various crazy builds while pontificating on the meaning of life and eSports was an irresistible draw for thousands.
This new opportunity for exposure allowed Destiny’s unique brand of entertainment to gain a formidable following early on. As Justin.tv (later Twitch.tv) came to the forefront of the eSports streaming business, the ad revenue they provided allowed many to begin earning money for their passion. Destiny was popular enough to quit his job once he realized that he could make more money from streaming full time. With this newfound consistent online presence amongst the eSports community, Destiny shortly became a household eSports name, eventually joining the grassroots team ROOT Gaming. Although he wasn’t the highest regarded in terms of skill, his fanbase was one of the most vocal and passionate.
The Trials of Celebrity
As 2011 rolled around, the explosive popularity of eSports began to form into a more organized entity. Larger sponsors were beginning to take notice, bringing more money and events to the US than anyone would have guessed. The dream of eSports becoming a driving force of entertainment within the video game community was closer than ever to being a reality.
As was expected of this growth, teams began to prosper and multiply. Larger entities began to partner with smaller ones. When Complexity absorbed ROOT gaming, Destiny went along with them, until he didn’t. The deal wasn’t entirely to his liking, but he felt that he could botch the deal if he refused to sign. This didn’t change much in his day-to-day however. ROOT was a very grassroots organization at that point, and Destiny continued to practice with his former teammates. As StarCraft II continued to grow as a spectator sport, so too did Destiny’s viewers and fan base.
I should stress at this point that Destiny did very little out of the ordinary to instigate many of the controversies surrounding him. He has always been very straightforward in his personality and beliefs. As more and more tournaments began to spring up and more money entered the scene, the eSports scene strived increasingly to become a professional entity. This meant casters dressing nicely and conforming to an appropriate broadcast standard. As fans increasingly spoke out in favor of prominent eSports commentators and players minding their mouths, Destiny maintained that his more colorful language wasn’t intended to be harmful, and therefore shouldn’t be interpreted as offensive.
The People Have Spoken
When Destiny joined Quantic, it was seen as a great chance for him to focus on refining his play. Destiny was widely regarded as a strong player at this point, but his lack of focused training had kept him from high tournament finishes. It was hoped that the opportunities provided by joining a major team would help address that. But the landscape of eSports had shifted greatly. The masses had organized themselves into a powerful, often angry, voice. Suddenly there was vocal minority that believed that players and casters who didn’t conform to somewhat arbitrary broadcast standards should be punished.
Orb was one of the first notable sacrifices at the altar of broadcast standards. Known for his keen analysis when casting matches, he was employed by Evil Geniuses to cast their Master Cup series. When screenshots emerged of Orb using profane and racist language in his private ladder games, suddenly controversy erupted. EG’s sponsors were flooded with emails protesting the employment of Orb, and within a matter of days Orb was removed from the caster desk.
The fallout from this event forced members of the eSports community, both high and low, to come to terms with the volatile power of the masses. The community had proven that it had the power to directly shape the careers of those involved in eSports events, and those in power realized that this digital age meant much of their lives were on display, and any misbehaviors could cost them a job.
As to how Destiny fit into these developments, he didn’t. At least not right away. Some questioned why Destiny had avoided the crosshairs despite his use of racial slurs and profanities while on stream, but nobody had a concrete answer as to why one should be immune while the other wasn’t. And soon enough, Destiny did manage to raise the ire of that vocal minority, and soon pressure from Quantic’s sponsors forced him to part ways with his team.
Leaving Quantic isn’t the end of Destiny’s story. He’s been involved in even more trivial controversies as of late, even forcing him to leave the reformed ROOT Gaming. It’s clear that regardless of the team he is affiliated with, Destiny isn’t going anywhere. And why should he? He makes a living from streaming and entertaining his fans. If that’s what he likes, he should keep doing it. Destiny has always been outspoken in his belief that no words should be taboo. He says what’s on his mind and doesn’t care who gets mad about it. To some that’s that’s a commendable attitude, to others it’s unacceptable for a prominent member of the community. I personally don’t enjoy his offensive language, but I’ll be damned if someone tells him he can’t say whatever he wants on his own stream.
What Destiny’s journey through the formative years of eSports can show us is just how much has changed in these last couple of years. What started as a bunch of rowdy boys playing video games online has taken major steps towards becoming a genuine broadcast presence, certainly online, and maybe even on television. We’re past the point where people can say whatever they want and expect to be taken seriously as an eSports professional. StarCraft isn’t the only game that’s seen such an overhaul. The fighting game community had similar backlash a few months ago surrounding sexist remarks on an online reality show. The consensus is that we’re moving towards something with a broader appeal than anyone expected, and those who aren’t willing to shape up might not be a part of the main stage experience.
There’s nothing wrong with staying out of that spotlight. If standing there means you catch hell every time your curse somebody out for cheesing you, then maybe those who are the most outspoken should find our niche and cultivate their own garden. There certainly seem to be enough fans to go around.
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