Esports Awards organisers need to pick a side

Monday night's Esports Industry Awards took place in London, as has been the case for the past three years. The morning after brought a mixture of delighted winners, slightly salty losers and onlookers who have different opinions about the legitimacy of certain nominees, awards and even names for awards.

Let us start with the positives, though, and the most obvious winner of the evening to many will have been in the ‘PC Player of the Year’ category. While there are many great players and teams, both in CSGO and beyond, there is no doubt in the mind of any expert that Oleksandr ‘s1mple’ Kostyliev is not only the best in the world now at that game, but has also elevated his own level and the game beyond what people previously thought possible.

That is tough on a few players, such as the Astralis boys who have won so many titles this year, but individual awards in teams games are always complex, and nobody could argue s1mple’s place as top dog in his own field. Fortunately for the Danes, they were able to secure the team of the year award, although even that is debatably unfair, with G2’s Rainbow Six squad comfortably the most dominant in the scene and deserving of every gong.

Elsewhere, there was a nice recognition for ESPN’s Jacob Wolf in the form of the Journalist of the Year award, and it’s always edifying to see when such a prize really matters to the recipient, as you could see it did to the American reporter who has climbed to the top of the esports tree. Giving ESPN the Coverage Site award seemed a little odd, mainly because of the massive disparity between their resource levels and every other outlet in the scene.

Credit where it's due

There were, as we mentioned, also a few contentious moments, none more so than when Tyler ‘Ninja’ Blevins, a Fortnite streamer with competitive Halo experience, was given the ‘Esports Personality of the Year’ award. Regardless of how you feel about his personality, that opened, or reopened the debate about what an esport even is, and cuts to the heart of the problem the awards seem to have.

On one hand, the ethos seems to be about rewarding people from the industry, and recognising the talent we have produced, such as Wolf or s1mple, but then equally there is this movement toward mainstream acceptance that leads to the likes of Ninja being given prizes too. While his impact on gaming cannot be denied, it’s fair to say the streamer wasn’t a popular choice in the esports community.

For next year, it would be great to see the awards become purely about esports, even if that costs them clicks and views in the short term. It’s right that the best in the business should be recognised, and by courting mainstream attention the organisers actually go the other way, and devalue what the awards should be about.

Picture: Joe Brady / Twitter