In every sport, there are athletes who have a bigger fan following than others. Born from their superior skill or fascinating personality, these players are discussed at work, while standing by the water cooler, their life taken apart bit by bit by the media. In eSports, it’s similar but different at the same time. Not much is known about pro players’ real life, however, when the time to gossip comes, fans more than make up for it by analyzing the player’s plays on Reddit or in YouTube comments. If the player also happens to stream a lot, he has to deal with opinions in Twitch chat too.
The Reddit Circlejerk
Both in traditional sports and eSports, this phenomenon has a positive and negative side, though the negative sometimes seems to outweigh the positive in case of eSports. While it’s most apparent in League of Legends’ subreddit /r/leagueoflegends, the phenomenon of the Reddit Circlejerk exists in other eSports as well. How does it work?
It’s quite simple, actually. Let’s say that Midmond “Godling” Nasterson has an amazing tournament, where he gets a pentakill every game. Reddit hails him as the best player on his team, position, region, and maybe the whole world. Now, several months later, his team starts having problems, he underperforms. Suddenly, Reddit forgets about everything they said just months ago, and starts calling for the player to be replaced for being a noob. Once the team starts doing well again and our dear Midmond gets back in shape, he starts playing like a God once again and Redditors forget everything they said… once again, hailing him as the best. That, ladies and gentlemen, is the Reddit Circlejerk.
While traditional athletes also have to deal with something similar and much more in conventional media, at least they are compensated for it better. Most eSports players don’t make nearly as much. Competitive gaming is also, by definition, much more tightly attached to social networks. Pro players usually use them to keep up with the news in their game, interacting with fans as well. When you spend a lot of time on social networks, you unavoidably get exposed to the negative part of the circlejerk, which does not help you to get out of a slump at all. In fact, some teams choose to forbid players from using social networks at all for a period of time, all in the name of avoiding distractions
As a consequence, veteran eSports players grow a thick skin pretty quickly. What about the rookies? Let’s take TSM LoL team’s Vincent “Biofrost” Wang as an example. Following his successful debut, he was hailed as one of the best Supports in NA. That is good for him, it might raise his self-confidence. But what will happen when the current TSM roster starts having problems? Will Reddit turn against him? Probably. It remains to be seen how he deals with it. While it might sound ridiculous, it’s possible that this plays some part in players’ long-term success. It can make or break a career.
The Reddit Circlejerk isn’t something good or bad, it just is. There’s no reason why it happens, it just does. When a bunch of passionate people can express their opinions freely, the ones who scream the loudest are the ones who are heard. People with negative ideas always scream the loudest unless there’s nothing negative to say. It just so happens, that people have a tendency to think the worst of everyone else if provided with reason to, maybe because it makes them feel better about themselves. This is NOT limited to Reddit, however. It happens in real life too, just look at Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
A final thought: if a player gets praised, slammed, and praised again on Reddit, he has people who care about his performance. Yes, they might not be the most reasonable of individuals en masse, however, their lives are still affected by what he does. Maybe it’s not such a bad thing? It just means that people care. Make up your mind for yourself. It’s just food for thought.