BY JACKSON HARRIS
In 1972, Atari created Pong, a table tennis simulator that would go on to become the first widely popular video game. Installed originally as an arcade game, Pong was said to bring in $35 to $45 in revenue each day, a mark that was unheard of at the time.
In 2015, 16-year-old Sumail Hassan was a member of the winning team at the fifth International Championship for the popular eSports video game Dota 2. In one weekend of playing computer games, Hassan became a millionaire from his prize winnings. More than simply kids stuck in front of their screens, eSports has become a bubbling market, estimated to be worth over $1 billion by the end of 2016.
At 29 years old, The Daily Dot’s eSports editor Kevin Morris has found himself securely ahead of the curve in providing journalistic coverage for this rapidly growing industry.
For those unfamiliar with what eSports is, Morris is here to help. “Known as eSports, competitive games are hardly new,” Morris says in an article for the Dot. “Their history goes back all the way to the very beginning of video games, in the smoke-filled arcades of the ’70s and ’80s, where crowds placed bets on the best local players. As the game industry matured, so did its competitive side. In the late ’90s, leagues and tournaments formed around first-person shooters like Quake and Unreal [Tournament], and people were winning real money and gaining real fame.”
Morris, a New York native, attended Boston University as an undergraduate where he received a bachelor’s degree in history before obtaining a master’s degree in journalism from Syracuse University in New York. After graduating, Morris wrote for publications including The Post-Standard and worked as a Carnegie Fellow before joining the staff at the Dot, an online-centered publication, as a reporter in 2011. In 2013, they began covering eSports with Morris at the helm and quickly grew into a leader in the field.
“Kevin is the ideal eSports editor,” says Jacob Wolf, a former eSports reporter for the Dot and a senior eSports writer for ESPN. “He’s fantastic at his job as a manager and an editor, particularly because he was a stellar writer before he became an editor. During my time at the Daily Dot, no coworker or superior was quite like Kevin Morris.”
The Dot has set a standard for eSports journalism with content that has captivated readers for years, creating a place for hardcore fans and new viewers alike to read and learn about a scene that is growing by the minute. The Dot preceded “the worldwide leader in sports” that is ESPN by nearly two years in its coverage on the field. The Dot has the largest eSports news audience with 1.5 to 2 million unique monthly page views.
As more sports news organizations begin to break into the field, the Dot is getting set to separate its eSports division into a standalone website. “We want to be the front page for eSports,” Morris says. “We want to pursue all of our different opportunities like doing something on Twitch, to get as much good content as we can out there for our audience. We are really looking to create something that speaks to the community.”
According to a study done by eSports betting website Unikrn, eSports is garnering around as many viewers for major tournaments as the National Hockey League is for its big games. The study suggests that by 2017, eSports viewership numbers will rival the National Football League. With a scene this large, the lack of coverage could be seen as refusing to adopt this new phenomenon as “real sport” by traditional publications, as expressed by former ESPN and current Fox Sports analyst Colin Cowherd.
“Nobody is doing what The Daily Dot is doing when it comes to eSports coverage,” says Ryan Constance, a 17-year-old Dot reader and eSports fan from Temple, Texas.“I think it’s stupid that these huge companies are just now coming around to the idea of video games at this elite level being a real sport. There are a lot of publications that are going to miss out because they didn’t care to cover this before it exploded like it has.”
Morris and the Dot are leading the charge into a field that has the potential to be worth staggering amounts of money and possesses a fan base that is growing by the minute on a global scale. As an early adopter of eSports journalism, the Daily Dot now has the likes of a $16.2 billion company, according to Forbes’ Most Valuable Brand rankings, taking notes on how to give eSports news consumers what they want.