Welcome to the Brave New World of Anime and EsportsAugust 10, 2021
It is amazing just how many things in a given culture are divided along generational lines. Things appreciated by older Americans are often lost on younger generations. Likewise, young people are very familiar with a number of cultural influences older folks just don’t get. Two cases in point are anime and esports. Where they collide is creating a brave new world only a select few truly understand.
Anime is a Japanese art and storytelling genre that, in recent years, has exploded to become the hottest thing in American culture. Esports are competitive video games organized as professional and semi-professional tournaments with live broadcasts and considerable prize money.
New to U.S. Fans
Run an internet search on the term ‘anime’ and you’ll discover it’s one of the hottest topics in modern entertainment. Film studios are coming out with new releases all the time. Streaming services are competing to buy up all of the latest shows coming out of Japan. Apparel brands like Umai are cashing in on the craze by selling everything from anime T-shirts to hoodies and phone cases.
It is all fairly new to U.S. audiences. But in reality, Japanese animation goes back to the turn of the 20th century and the desire to counter what the early creators at Disney were producing. Whether you know it or not, anime TV shows did very well in the U.S. from the 1960s through the 80s. The genre sort of faded away before being revived again at the turn of the 21st century.
The Esports Craze
As for esports, they didn’t come out of nowhere either. The rise of the video game console gave birth to everything from sports simulations to intense strategy games. Once network play was introduced, it was only a matter of time before someone figured out how to turn esports into an endeavor bringing the best gamers together for tournament play.
These days, esports tournaments take place all over the country. In fact, they take place all over the world. Some tournaments feature strategy games; others are all about team-based first-person shooters; still others are true to the ‘sports’ description of the name, bringing players together to compete in football, soccer, basketball, etc.
Marrying the Two
What if you could take anime and esports and marry them? Well, WePlay Esports did just that recently. According to Forbes’ Mike Stubbs, WePlay recently held a major Dota 2 tournament themed completely around anime. All of the sets were anime based, as were the costumes worn by the broadcast team.
Company executives were not sure how it would all play out in the months and weeks leading up to the tournament. As Stubbs explained in his piece, anime tends to be controversial. You either love it or hate it. And if you are a video gamer who hates it, seeing an entire Dota 2 tournament themed around anime could push you over the edge.
As it turns out, the tournament was well received. But here’s the thing: most of us don’t follow esports. If we were to turn on a tournament broadcast, we would have no clue what was going on. Many of us probably wouldn’t watch for too long. And yet, here we have an esports platform bringing anime and esports together to create a broadcast that got rave reviews.
Is this the future of esports tournaments and broadcasting? It is too early to tell. Anime has as many fans as esports even without combining them. If organizations like WePlay continue to successfully pull off combined tournaments, we could see a whole new video gaming environment emerge.