Esports is taking the world by storm. From tournaments that have a viewership of millions of fans to even the smallest local gatherings, there’s a lot of content. The excitement of taking the game seriously and playing competitively is becoming more attractive to video game fans everywhere.
However, this has also started a new trend of esports players rising to stardom. Big names such as Faker, xQc, and more are increasingly well-known online. This is true even among people who don’t play certain video games or maybe people who don’t play video games at all.
Faker is definitely a great example of this. In the Western world, everyone knows about him and he regularly pops up in articles on websites such as 22esport.gg. But back home in South Korea, he’s even bigger of a star and even attends talk shows. Everyone knows about him.
But how did this come to be? How exactly are esports players becoming entertainment icons? Let’s unpack the details in this article!
Rising Popularity of Esports
We’ve already stated that esports’ popularity is worldwide. Still, it’s important to mention that while this seems like a booming phenomenon, esports has actually had quite a slow start.
And if anyone had to take a guess on when the first esports occurred, most of them would likely get it wrong. In fact, it occurred all the way back in 1972 with the “Intergalactic Spacewar Olympics” at Stanford University, hosted by the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.
Only 24 players were in attendance. However, this means they started what would become a steadily growing trend of gamers getting together and celebrating the games they love.
Today, we know esports tournaments mostly from games such as Overwatch 2, CS: GO, and League of Legends. The 2022 League of Legends World Championship even set a new record of 5.1 million concurrent viewers. This only serves to prove how far esports has come since the 1970s.
Considering the fanbases of these games are dedicated to the game, it makes sense they would become dedicated to the players they resonate most with, as well. This only helps aid them in their journey to stardom.
Like most other stars, esports players need personal branding to make sure their stardom continues off-screen, as well. This helps them stand out among the increasing crowd of professional esports players in different games. They need this to be more recognizable to fans, but also to sponsors and other organizations.
With that, it makes sense that social media presence is incredibly important for professional esports players. Regular Tweets, Instagram posts, Youtube content, and maybe even a stream here or there will help with their personal branding off-stage.
Still, some players may become recognizable simply by the fact that they are just that good at the game. They’ve proved their skills in their respective games and shown time and time again that the world should remember their names.
With all these tools, esports players can cultivate a unique persona that defines them both on and off stage. Using social media, they can also connect with fans and establish themselves as influential individuals.
Streaming and Content Creation
We’ve mentioned streaming and content creation already. However, it’s important to emphasize just how influential these tools can be in helping a streamer become an entertainment icon.
Live Streaming in general has become a more popular activity. With streamers like xQc transitioning to full-time streaming after ending their professional esports career, we can only expect to see more professional players open up their own channels.
Streaming on websites like Twitch and YouTube allows players to interact with their fans on a more personal and casual level. It also allows them to showcase more of their personality with fun interactions and activities on-stream.
This can come through playing different games than the one they usually do, coaching viewers and giving tips on improvement, or even doing something entirely different such as a baking stream.
Sponsorships and Endorsements
As with any other business, sponsorships and endorsements are big in the esports world. There’s a symbiotic relationship that forms between players and certain brands that are relevant to the esports community.
These are mainly gaming tech and gear companies. A few examples would be HyperX, Razer, Corsair, and Elgato. These companies have signed contracts and deals with popular esports players to showcase their products and appear in promotional content.
The benefits go both ways. The esports player gets more exposure by endorsing the brand and appearing on their social media. Likewise, if the esports player is a fan favorite, the gaming brand gets more customers.
Esports players don’t have to stick to the same cookie-cutter formula of collaborating with gaming brands and performing in tournaments. For some, esports is only a stepping stone into what they truly want to do. For others, the ability to branch out and try something different while still settling down in the esports scene is valuable.
Lots of players take chances and venture into the music, fashion, and film industries. Many tournaments will often host and create sketches that esports players get to be a part of, as well. We can consider these their first steps into acting. Similarly, brands like Louis Vuitton, Adidas, and Champion have shown interest in collaborating with esports players and their respective organizations.
Overall, just like any other celebrity, esports players are a versatile bunch. Media appearances off-stage are a testament to that fact.
Impact on Popular Culture
It’s safe to say that esports players have popularized the industry and video games as a whole. They are shaping the next generation of gamers who no longer have to feel like they’re wasting time just because they’re dedicated to a video game.
By appearing on talk shows and interviews and creating documentaries, they are breaking the stigma that has surrounded gaming for a while. Esports players are presenting gaming in a new, profitable, and fun light.
This all has served to elevate the status of the esports industry. A clear sign of this is the fact that more non-gaming brands are becoming interested in collaborations, partnerships, and endorsements.
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