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eSports Milestone: Pro Gamer Ninja To Be The First Pro Gamer Featured On ESPN Magazine Cover

from the paid-to-play dept

We have been tracking milestones in the maturity of eSports as a real cultural pastime for several years now, given how eSports almost perfectly intersects two main topics here at Techdirt: technology and digital economies. While those that claimed eSports would become a real thing have long been the recipients of skeptical narrow eyes, pro gaming has already zoomed past a number of important checkpoints on its way to legitimacy. Tournaments were heavily viewed overseas at first, but pro gaming then became recognized by universities for athletic scholarships. Next came coverage of tournaments on ESPN, followed eSports leagues being created by some of the major professional sports leagues in America and abroad. Even the IOC kicked around the idea of including eSports in future Olympic Games.

While the latest milestone perhaps isn't as grand as the opening of leagues and new broadcast channels, it is still a notable development that the very first pro gamer will be featured on the cover of ESPN The Magazine this week. That honor will go to Tyler "Ninja" Blevins, who has amassed an enormous following on Twitch and elsewhere.

Ninja revealed the cover on Twitter and said "So excited to be the first professional gamer to be featured on @espn the Magazine. Cover and profile will be shown on Sports Center tomorrow in the 7 AM EST hour."

We'll have to forgive ESPN for the hamfisted Playstation controller icons that accompany the cover image, I suppose. The bottom line is that this ESPN cover is reflecting the popularity of pro gaming, not creating it. Ninja has recorded streams viewed by over a half a million people, putting his viewership at levels that rival smaller professional sports events. Given the adoption of eSports by younger generations, ESPN needs to cater to those interests, if only for purely business reasons.

Still, ESPN is a mainstay in the professional sports world. It's no small thing that eSports has reached a place to be featured on the cover of its magazine. In other words, anyone waiting for this whole eSports fad to wane in popularity appears to have been waiting in vain.

Filed Under: espn, esports, ninja, sports, tyler blevins


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  1. icon
    PaulT (profile), 21 Sep 2018 @ 12:25am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Sport?

    "Are you implying there's no difference between "sport" and "game", or just saying "sport" fits here? "

    Most things that are classed as sports are also games. I can play a game of tennis or I can take part in the sport of tennis. The differentiator tends to be the professional, organised game. Whether you like it or not, non-strenuous games like darts and snooker are sports in the general parlance, and there's rarely been any controversy until people try erecting imaginary barriers to keep out the newcomers.

    But, personally, I don't really care, it's just funny to watch people argue about their arbitrary lines, when in doing so they're disparaging things that other people class as sports. The fight for an arbitrary barrier to stop esports being included in the clique without excluding other sports is quite amusing.

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