Even though I had heard about eSports for a while, I never got into watching it until Starcraft 2. About a year before its release I had finished my undergraduate degree but was having trouble finding a job. I started looking for any kind of job that did not involve menial labor. eSports looked like an exciting field, so I practiced a lot during the Starcraft 2 beta to see if I was good enough. I was not, but one activity it got me into was watching matches between the professional players.
I think it would be really cool if eSports becomes really well-respected in the US culture. Right now it is not at all. There are quite a few fans among the gamer population but very few among the non-gamers. One thing we can do is just look at the popular physical sports and see if there is anything we can emulate within the eSports realm. There is a key difference between player names in physical sports and eSports.
In physical sports players go by their real name. Most people when referring to that player will use their real name. Most players do have nicknames of some sort that fans will use or sometimes the media for a fun headline, but most people talk about the player with their real name.
On the other hand, eSports players go by their nickname. The eSports scene starts online with players competing over the internet. Naturally, everyone uses a nickname for privacy. However, when a player starts getting good and competes at LAN tournaments, the nickname still seems to have prominence.
I feel the eSports community should be moving towards using real names for professional players. I think it is more professional to use a person’s real name instead of their nickname. The nicknames should still be included with the name in quotes (e.g., Chris “HuK” Loranger and Jung “Mvp” Jong Hyun). I see some media outlets do this with their eSports stories, but it needs to be more prevalent within the broadcasts.
When the casters are talking about players, they should use the real name more than the nickname. The nickname can still be used for entertainment or comedic effect much like how basketball announcers sometimes to refer to Kobe Bryant as the Black Mamba. All the additional info they put on the screen for the broadcast should also be using the real name with the nickname in quotes.
My main reason for this is connecting eSports to non-gamers. When casters and eSports websites are talking and writing about MarineKing, IdrA, TLO, White-Ra and all the other pro players, it really turns off non-gamers. They immediately think “What do these words mean?” and “Who are these people?”. Real names give a stronger connection about who a person really is. Nicknames are fine within the actual games, but the eSports industry should strive to use real names more when talking and writing about players.
If we want eSports to become mainstream, we needs to cater a little bit to non-gamers. Not everyone wants this, but more mainstream means more money. That means higher quality broadcasts, casters, eSports writers, advertising, everything. Using real names is an easy change to start the transition to mainstream.
I am not saying we should abandon nicknames. I definitely want players to keep using them and casters to keep use them, but real names need to be given more importance. Right now it seems like most tournament organizers as well as eSports websites focus too much on the nickname, and the real name is seldom used or displayed.
A combination is really the best to me. Players still get to forge a nickname when they start playing the game. If they get really good, they can keep it even after turning professional. All their original fans keep that original connection. At the same time non-gamers see the real name and make the connection that way. It really satisfies everyone. I hope that in the future when eSports becomes more prominent all the various aspects of the industry will be using both real name and nickname.
Improving Starcraft 2 eSports is an ongoing series where I discuss how the eSports scene could be improved. You can read all of these posts by heading to the category page.