As an industry, esports is still young enough to be forming a history, writing the legends, and creating the names that will go down in the annals of the scene, so it is tragic to be writing about the loss of a giant of gaming already. John ‘TotalBiscuit’ Bain died last night, aged just 33, after a battle with cancer that began in 2014, and ultimately lasted until his passing this week.
Bain’s influence on both the esports a gaming space was undeniable, as he pioneered the video creation process that so many on YouTube and beyond live off today. Often outspoken, over time the proud (and Cynical) Brit's work came to be characterised by a single word that appeared again and again in tributes, honesty, and that level of integrity and straightforward thought came at a cost, as he made as many enemies as he did friends in gaming.
The true test of that quality can be seen in how many of those people eventually came to call themselves admirers, or friends. Another similarly outspoken, and similarly influential man (in a different way) summed this up, when Richard Lewis wrote for ESportsHeaven about Bain’s diagnosis. The article, published an esports lifetime ago in 2014, can be found here, and sums up how Bain’s work never flinched in the face of criticism, eventually forcing the famously stubborn writer to reassess.
As with anyone who sticks their head above certain parapets, Bain attracted his fair share of critics, and in the wake of his passing a few of the more morally suspect decided to use the news as a platform to air their own grievances. The nature of Bain’s ‘bad’ morality can be judged against those, and when you see the people he railed against, or at least would not suffer gladly, it is hard to really condemn a man for stating what was often simply common sense in a world occasionally afraid to tell the truth.
In terms of gaming itself, Bain brought attention to many titles, for good and bad reasons. His WTF series launched or boosted many indie games, with the developers of Warframe going as far as to say his video was the catalyst for their success in some ways. He was proudly pro-consumer, which made accusations he was a shill or sellout all the more hilarious, and often butted heads with large companies unhappy with his level of honesty.
2013 saw him forced to remove a video after producing a negative review of Day One: Garry’s Incident, a title by Wild Games Studio, in a case that would be a precursor for much of the copyright abuse we see today. Rather than accept this as part of the reviewer’s life, Bain fought back, forcing them to remove their strike and allow the video to survive, and doing some damage to Wild Games Studio’s reputation in the process.
That case ultimately summed up the character that Bain brought into gaming, and made his calling card down the years. The attitude that the consumer comes first, and that saying what is true is more important than saying what people want to hear, is one not all in the space have been shown to share since, with many writers proven to be in the pay or at least under the influence of developers, and it will be missed, as the tributes to him show.
In recent months, Bain had focused on his health, and ultimately his quality of life when it became clear recovery was unlikely, but he continued to work long after his diagnosis, and long after most people would have accepted they could not. A giant of gaming, and huge influence on the way esports work today, John Bain will be missed for years to come, and his impact will not be matched by more than a handful of the people who ever stumble into this sacred space we call gaming.
Image: Gemma Bain