Thursday, December 19, 2013

Labor Relations and League of Legends

My latest PopMatters article is now live: Labor Relations and League of Legends.

Troubling news from eSports recently after Riot Games announced they would prohibit their LCS players from streaming their competitors' games. Riot quickly changed their tune after community backlash, but the issue has already been set. eSports has matured enough to begin raising issues of exploitation and commodification of its players, which means we've basically arrived, right?

I spend a good deal of this piece comparing League of Legends to the NFL, partly because this is what the game's creators are measuring themselves against. Riot calls their players athletes, people who have started an eSports career. Yet what these terms mean is still ill defined, especially when a "career" can start and end in just a few years. If we are meant to take the idea of professional gaming seriously, then we must consider it a legitimate profession, which in turn should be understood with labor relations in mind. Contract transparency and a collective association of competitive eSports players would be a great way to start.

The push for an organized player body must, eventually, come from the players themselves. Sorry LCS Champions, but I don't foresee ESPN coming to your aid any time soon:

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