FANDOM CULTURE AND IDENTITY IN ESPORTS

Esports offer a new and unique opportunity for fans. Not only can fans watch professional players, but they can experience the game directly as players themselves. In this paper, we explore esports fan identity at the intersection of viewer and player in Overwatch, League of Legends and FIFA forums, considering a spectrum and influence of geek to sports orientation. We explore differences and similarities between these esports fandoms in regard to expression of knowledge,
identification with professional players, and the search for legitimacy. These groups generally use knowledge and skill to demonstrate legitimacy, as a form of (sub)cultural capital. Fans display concerns about where they fit in regard to both traditional sports and other esports. However, whereas in traditional sports, outgroups are defined as membership in rival teams, in esports, outgroup status is conferred to casuals. Esports fandom is tribal in the sense that it is a method for
fans to display tribal affiliation as “real” game players against the newer, lower level players.

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