Socialist Worker

Excel Esports documentary reveals pressure and stress of pro gaming industry

by Nick Clark
Issue No. 2736

Professional gamers wear sponsor-branded clothing just like ‘traditional’ athletes

Professional gamers wear sponsor-branded clothing just like ‘traditional’ athletes (Pic: BBC)

Here’s an unsettling glimpse inside a new but highly lucrative entertainment industry.

Professional computer gamers play in front of huge audiences for hundreds of thousands—sometimes millions—of pounds. The competition in this new BBC documentary is a prime example.

The Excel Esports team plays in a Europe-wide league that attracts audiences larger than the Superbowl.

It clearly has a lot of cash, though the first couple of episodes never spell out where exactly that comes from.

Excel pays high wages to a team of players recruited from around the world and accommodates them in London and Berlin. It also has its own high-end training facilities at the prestigious Twickenham rugby stadium.

The point is made early on that this is because Esports is just like “traditional” sports. The players have their own team kits displaying the logo of their sponsor BT.

And they get professional physical training too. Gaming intensely all day every day can cause a lot of muscle strain.

It’s a serious point. If players damage their wrists, their careers can be over before they’re 25. That’s a problem given that, as their manager says, “They’re putting their whole lives into this.”

That means the damage is psychological too. The players seem barely older than teenagers, but they’re under immense stress. One says he found the pressure to perform “so hard I almost wanted to die.”

These troubling notes aren’t exactly covered up, but they are subsumed into a story that champions Excel as an underdog team.

Still, the dark side of this industry is never far from the surface.

Fight For First: excel ESPORTS. On BBC Iplayer from Sunday 10 January

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