ESPN The Magazine

With its ‘eSports Issue,’ ESPN The Magazine explores fast-growing gaming culture

Marshawn Lynch's eSports cover.
The cover of ESPN The Magazine’s “eSports Issue” features Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch dressed as a “Call of Duty” character.
Most of The Mag writers and editors assigned to features for this issue had to do a crash course on the subject. How did they do it?
Senior writer Mina Kimes was a driving force behind this issue. As soon as she heard the idea, she started reading about the different games, the star players and the crossover with the mainstream sports world. So she and I started trading links several months ago. One of the things that we realized very early on is that although Korea is the epicenter of eSports, no American outlet had done a full narrative feature set there. She read everything she could find about Korean eSports and about League of Legends, the biggest game in the world, then spent almost two weeks in Korea reporting her story about Faker, the best League player in the world.

ESPN The Magazine debuts its “eSports Issue,” hitting newsstands Friday. Senior editor Megan Greenwell provides some background on why The Magazine is exploring eSports, or competitive tournaments of video games, as defines it.

Why is The Mag dedicating an entire issue to eSports?
For the first time in generations, we’re witnessing the birth of a new major sport, and it’s happening with unprecedented speed. eSports is way past cult status at this point — if it’s not already the dominant cultural force of the moment, it’s pretty close to it. But there’s this weird divide that doesn’t exist in any other kind of sport or culture: The people who aren’t entirely immersed in that world have almost no idea that it exists. And although there’s been some media coverage of eSports over the past year or two, nothing went as deep as we knew we could go in a full issue. Once we saw the data — that the industry is bigger than Hollywood, that there are $5 million prizes and college scholarships and athletic visas on the line — we knew this was a world that demanded a Mag treatment.

How do you feel the eSports/gaming world will respond?
My goal all along has been to produce an issue that would be compelling both to a general audience who doesn’t know anything about gaming, and to hardcore gamers… and I think we pulled it off. The Faker story, for example, is a great read even if you have never heard his name — but if you have, you will appreciate it for being the first English-language profile of one of the most fascinating characters in the eSports world. [Deputy editor, Voices at Fusion] Latoya Peterson’s essay about why harassment won’t drive her out of gaming is a useful antidote to much of the Gamergate coverage over the past year. And whether you’re an NFL fan, an eSports fan and/or just someone who appreciates the one-of-a-kind personality of [NFL star and Mag cover model] Marshawn Lynch, seeing the behind-the-scenes process of him creating a “Call of Duty” character is bound to be a fun read.

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