The power of sport to make positive changes to the world is well known, but when it comes to esports the headlines aren’t always so positive. Be it figureheads using racial slurs on stream, analysts praising the likes of far-right radio host Alex Jones, or just the latest allegations of bullying, esports has a gift for generating negative press and, in all honesty, a lot of the time negative press that is fully justified.
For that reason, it’s always great to see the reverse, and this week we’ve had a couple of great stories that went under the radar for some reason. There are those that say the reason is obvious, that the media isn’t interested in publishing positive stories about gamers, but that’s a conversation for another pub. Here and now, let’s try and focus on the good, starting with one of the world’s greatest CSGO professionals.
Håvard ‘rain’ Nygaard represents FaZe Clan in the greatest esport going, CSGO, and is generally very good at what he does, too. To put his ability into perspective that makes sense to everyone, this year has seen him drop off from his previous level, achieved in 2017. Even with that, he is still one of the best performing players in the game, while playing a support role in a team packed with stars.
Recently, he took time to meet a young man who is a big fan of CSGO and FaZe, not for any headlines or posed photo, but because he wanted to. Later, again unprompted, the CSGO legend also gave his personal knife (an in-game item with a very high value), that he used in multiple competitions, to the young supporter, much to his delight.
As we’ve already highlighted, you won’t find this story in any of the papers that are so keen to report on the way Fortnite is turning your child into a Satanist, or how Dota 2 water is making the frogs gay, but it made it to the CSGO subreddit at least. Likewise, our second tale of a player made a slightly bigger splash, but still won’t generate anything like the headlines it should.
Nairoby ‘Nairo’ Quezada is a 21-year-old Smash Bros player, who has found success in two versions of the game, Brawl and Smash 4 for WiiU. While he’s never been world number one, he is comfortably one of the elite in Smash, which isn’t a game that makes a lot of money, but does generate a fair amount of attention despite that.
The Make A Wish Foundation is a group that connects children with life-threatening diseases to their heroes, in the hopes of giving them a magical experience, which is pretty much as admirable as it gets. Sports stars, films stars, musicians and many more have participated down the years, with WWE star John Cena the record-holder for most ‘wishes granted’.
Nairo tweeted that Make A Wish had reached out to him regarding a kid called Riley, who really just wanted to play some Smash with his hero, and that he (Nairo) was genuinely thrilled to be asked. The experience will maybe not be an easy one for a man of his age, it isn’t for anybody, but his reaction online seemed to be of genuine joy about being able to turn his ability in a game into something way more meaningful on a world level.
Obviously, there are still the people who give esports a bad name, in the same way some footballers do for their sport, and most boxers are unable to stop doing, but the reporting needs to focus on both the good and the bad of any story. At the heart of every esports story is a human, and within that human is a heart, but too often we forget that our heroes are humans too. These are the stories that reaffirm not just the humanity of esports, but also the fundamental decency at the centre of a scene that was built on inclusion, and they deserve more light than they get.