Searching for fandom in E-sports
I went to a Sci-Fi convention a few weeks ago. One of the good ones, run by fans themselves and not taken over by corporate interests, Redemption if anyone wants to know. Anyhow, one of the Panels being run caught my interest ‘Where does Fandom live?’ I wasn’t 100% sure what it was about, and when I turned up, neither did the rest of the audience. The panelists weren’t too certain either and couldn’t remember suggesting anything; many of the ideas for the Panels run at these conventions originate under the influence various forms of intoxication so this wasn’t unusual.
After some discussion about what we should discuss, the Chair remarked that she had been a great fan of fanfiction and loved indepth debate and fan theorizing over various television programmes. Her old hang out was Live Journal, however recently Live Journal seemed to have died out and she just couldn’t track down where the associated fandom had disappeared to for the new shows that were appearing.
We talked about this and really couldn’t come up with any clear answer. Facebook was mentioned, so was reddit and tumblr; tumblr in fact emerged as the strongest contender for a replacement. However, nothing seemed to satisfy. Maddy remembered long debates on LJ and a strong sense of community, reddit was too large and generally unfriendly, tumblr was very visual but it was extremely difficult to carry out any form of detailed group discussion. I advocated for the forum, and although they could fulfil many of Maddy’s demands, these days with the many alternatives, forums are hard to grow and maintain.
So, the final conclusion of the Panel was that fandom still exists but it’s now scattered and more likely to be found in small disparate groups. There isn’t the community and there isn’t the depth of discussion. Harsh.
And what have I found so far in e-sports? I’ve found reddit, I’ve found Twitter, I’ve found Twitch chat. The closest thing to an actual community where faces become familiar is Twitch chat linked to a stream, surprising since Twitch chat is notoriously racist, sexist, homophobic, juvenile and shallow. Twitch chat is all of that. However there are means within the medium, through which groups can form and cling together despite the hostility of the general environment. There are mods who moderate the channel chat and can set the general tone. Subscribers pay a monthly fee to subscribe to the channel and they are identified by a subscribers icon. Since it tends to be regulars who both subscribe and visit the chat, people start to identify and recognise one another and in this way a group forms. People then arrange to game together outside of chat and may start to meet and communicate independently in skype or using Twitter. In many ways the chat operates similarly to a community server for a pc game, like TF2 for instance with it’s admins and regulars, but instead of playing themselves, everyone is watching someone else (the Streamer) play.
However, for me, the final clincher for an ideal fan community is still missing and that is proper discussion. All the best community servers for a game are linked to a community forum and discussion can take place there; on-server (and Twitch) chat tends to be more conversational. As an average fan, I’ve found no equivalent where I can endlessly discuss composition, builds and strategy of my favourite teams. There are obviously places where this occurs of course, but in this New World of Fandom, they’re hidden away; difficult to find without an in to the group or friendship circle.
Anyway, I have managed to make some links, a tip of the hat here to Cyanide’s posse from his Twitch chat, but it has seemed so random. But for small matters of chance via the Stream I might never have come across them.