The storylines in esports are most vibrant and potent when the players themselves are the focal point. This is where fans are spoilt for choice. There are a multitude of players with various personalities as well as public persona's (some of which do not mirror each other). Players in esports as well as any other mainstream sport can be the subject of round the clock virtual paparazzi. A guaranteed way of remaining ‘relevant’ is to stand out from the crowd and either exude a nonchalant demeanour, overtly well-mannered personality or conversely a bad mannered trash talking player. There are a lot of different facets to this and people can fall into different personality spectrum's. Love them or hate them these people are the most talked about and most sought after. They single-handedly can write headlines through what they do, what they say and also what they don’t do or say. They are marketable commodities that appeal to the instant gratification market segment that primarily are the most vocal.
There is nothing untoward with this type of culture. Esports is perfectly structured to accentuate this effect. In fact the difference in players and how they mix in situations is what makes sport dynamic and interesting, capturing the attention of the audience. When people tune in to watch an esports personality that they know, they can be reasonably certain of what to expect. More often than not you will know in advance that the player will act a certain way and say certain things. For the mannered player you do not tune in to watch something sensational and out of character. Any deviation from this player’s perceived persona will make headlines as it ticks the ‘out of character’ box. On the other side of the personality spectrum you have players that attract different types of people. While most people will take time to cheer a player in their endeavours, some will congregate awaiting majorly controversial sound bites. It is only a matter of time before something newsworthy will come along usually the result of a poor lapse in judgement. The only thing better than a winner is a winner with a blatant disregard for the rules. A lot of fans are looking for entertainment and those players that can fill this niche tend to get more exposure regardless of skill level. Once again this is not a slight on the players but merely an observation on the state of the industry.
As esports becomes more and more global, it garners increased popularity and coverage. With this added exposure we will have an ever growing cultural melting pot. Generally this is excellent for a growing sport to increase notoriety but with this influx comes problems. How do we expect people that are not familiar with ‘our’ culture to act and how tolerant are we when faced with theirs. To take it down one social level, how tolerant and understanding are we of people’s individual preferences and subsequent actions.
Incidentally there needs to be lines drawn in the sand that outline the differences between professionalism and individual behavioural quirks. An amalgamation of the two above statements loosely fit into the ‘sportsmanship’ bracket. Players from certain regions and dispositions will have their own interpretations of what exactly is acceptable. Some players will uphold vintage ideals of sportsmanship while others will hold true to zany personal notions. There can be no middle ground as long as some people believe they already stand on the high ground. There has been a call recently for more trash talk to occur, a throwback to a competitive scene that was equal parts raw and exciting. While there is no need to facilitate monkish behaviour we can instead create an environment that adheres to some principals of sportsmanship while not inhibiting the player’s personalities.
For a lot of top athletes competitiveness and sportsmanship can sometimes conflict with each other. It is the job of one side to make the other side the loser. Sport is just about winning. Some studies have shown that the higher the level of an athlete the lower the emphasis of sportsmanship over success. For many top players success is something that they will use to define themselves. Winning and success can be used to validate feelings of self-worth. Perhaps the initial emotional trauma affects confidence to such an extent that until an extenuation for losing can be attributed, potential ramifications of perceived negative behaviour cannot be processed in real time. There are a lot of cases of retrospective remorse that occur publicly usually accompanied with a heavy slap on the wrist or monetary fine. The player appears remorseful, apologises for inappropriate behaviour that disrespects the sport, the team and the fans. With the advent of twitter, facebook and other instant social media platforms the chances of something controversial not being noticed is so minuscule. As previously stated, players should not have their individuality dampened but they should be held accountable for their actions and ability to uphold a basic semblance of respect and sportsmanship.
*When an unreturned handshake causes so much discussion there is obviously something wrong. Generally the loser may view the handshake as bad mannered and some people believe the onus is on the loser to instigate the handshake. There should be no distinction between winning and losing. If you play against someone that you can walk to after a match then you have the option to shake their hand. If you are of the disposition whereby you do not shake hands after a match and your opponent approaches you then you should return his gesture, out of respect. If you don’t agree with other peoples customs you should at the very least respect the person.