Next week brings us the latest instalment of the Esports Awards, the industry-leading ceremony designed to reward excellence in the space and, occasionally, pay back the odd favour, as is often the case with these things.
While this is an industry that is constantly changing and evolving, there are a number of new names and faces at this year’s awards that speak to an evolution in how the mainstream views "esports", and the wider world of gaming.
At times, the ceremony has definitely stretched the definition of esports, with the likes of Dr Disrespect being given Best Esports Streamer, when, he’s not connected to esports in any real way, but it is still a great bellwether for changes we might see in the next year. Or, in this case, a great indicator of the changes we’ve seen in the past 12 months, with a number of new titles and faces appearing in the lists of nominees.
Probably the headline story comes from the Game of the Year award, where not one but two battle royale titles sit with a great chance of winning. The phenomenon that is Fortnite has obviously been included, alongside its more serious, less fun big brother PUBG, and that in itself will be good for the awards. The mainstream media is suspicious of gaming generally, but Fortnite gets clicks, which they live on like flies do excrement, meaning this should guarantee some "real" journalists take notice.
In terms of real journalists, there is a fantastic list to pick from in that respect, with the big names all there. ESPN writers Jacob Wolf and Tyler ‘FionnOnFire’ Erzberger are up against less well-backed types, such as Duncan ‘Thorin’ Shields and Jarek ‘Dekay’ Lewis, showcasing the wide variety of talent in the scene. The shortlist isn't limited only to breaking news, but boasts a wide range, from storytellers like Shields to the more traditional reporting Wolf and Lewis specialise in.
Brave choices in console
In the player categories, the big games are well represented, with the likes of Nikola ‘NiKo’ Kovac and Oleksandr ‘s1mple’ Kostyliev from CSGO up against League legend Song ‘Smeb’ Kyung-ho and TI8 winner Anathan ‘ana’ Pham.
There are a few surprising omissions, with Nicolas ‘dev1ce’ Reedtz of Astralis probably the most unfortunate to miss out, giving his starring role in the team’s Major victory and dominance of 2018. We also must shout out G2’s Niclas ‘Pengu’ Mouritzen, part of the Rainbow Six squad that is utterly dominating, for being a nominee with limited chance due to the size of his scene, who 100% deserves to win for his ridiculous talent, but probably won’t.
On the console end of things, there are some big-names who have had a terrible year and miss out, like Seth ‘Scump’ Abner of OpTic’s Call of Duty roster, but in William ‘Leffen’ Hjelte and Dominique ‘SonicFox’ McLean the organisers have made some great choices. The latter is the most talented man in Melee, and has only failed to dominate due to playing both Smash and Dragonball simultaneously through 2018, something people thought impossible at a high level.
As for SonicFox, he might be the most recognisable face in the FGC, either in costume or otherwise, and again he is a player that defies convention in the most thrilling ways. Compared with the toxic children making headlines in Overwatch and the act first, think later actions of some Call of Duty players, it is refreshing to see players in that list who have redefined what is possible in their own spheres, rather than just people who won a lot of money.
Sadly, a couple of areas do seem to have fallen foul of the politics infesting the industry, with the best CSGO commentators excluded most likely due to personal failures, rather than their performance on the mic, but that is the reality of a growing scene. Overall, though, the lists speak to a world that is evolving, with new names and new games, and that is the most pleasing aspect of all.
Images: Caitlin Oh, GodIsAGeek