Editor’s Note: A version of this article first appeared on SPOTS.
China is the largest esports market in the world, with over 400 million people, and 30% of its esports fans are women. In 2020, the country’s domestic esports market was worth around RMB 147 billion ($23 billion), accounting for around 30% of global revenue.
Elsewhere in the world, women made up 22% of esports fans globally in 2019. South Korea has the largest female fanbase in the world, with 32% of its esports followers identifying as female. women. The United States lags behind with only 17%.
In South Korea, top players such as Lee Sang-hyeok aka Faker can earn as much fame and fortune as K-pop idols. And just as K-pop has had a significant impact on Chinese pop culture, the esports fandom in China is also heavily affected by that of South Korea. When China’s top professional league for League of Legends, the League of Legends Pro League (LPL), introduced some Korean players to the team in 2015, it also brought fan culture to the Chinese gaming industry. sports.
What exactly drives the esports fandom in China? We’ve chosen the opinion of three female fans and discussed their experiences and opinions on today’s world of esports.
Devoted esports fans
When the Honor of Kings mobile game was released in 2015, Jessica Wang had no interest in playing it. Even when her five roommates gathered in her college dorm to play there every night, she kept her eyes fixed on her K-pop idols BTS and tuned out the noise around her.
Seven years later, her roommates have all but forgotten about the game, while Wang has picked it up and now considers herself an esports enthusiast.
Now a Hangzhou-based legal assistant, Wang watches esports live streams almost every night. She even subscribes to notifications so you don’t miss a thing. Wang started by following the King Pro League (KPL), then moved to the LPL this year for an enhanced viewing experience.
“It’s like watching any sport. It’s all about excitement, uncertainty, feedback, teamwork, strategies, operations, interaction and chemistry between people,” Wang told RADII.
Even though she finishes watching a game at 3 a.m., Wang wakes up to go to work happy and satisfied. She says it’s rare to find a passion outside of work and she’s grateful to have one. She’s so dedicated that even the music she listens to has been discovered via esports live streams or video clippings.
“I’m always a committed and devoted fan, regardless of the field,” says Wang. “My greatest gain is happiness. Pursuing my passions leaves me full of power and energy. It’s rare and precious to find things that make you relaxed and happy.
His current favorite team is Edward Gaming (EDG), who won the World Championship last year. She even bought a puffer jacket with EDG’s winning score on the back. This means nothing to most but serves as an insider reference that other fans will understand.
In addition to watching live streams, Wang also checks her social media daily for the latest game results and live rankings. She fondly describes her actions as “checking my kids’ grades.”
Whenever the Covid situation permits, Wang prefers to watch games offline in the halls to experience the exciting atmosphere and stronger fan reactions.
Jia Yubi has a similar relationship with esports. A fan since 2014, she still watches live streams and regularly attends offline events. Although Jia also plays video games herself, she says she is a totally different person when watching e-sports.
“I don’t like to talk when I play, but when I watch a game I get exuberant and emotionally invested, and really identify with my team.”
She adds, “I think most esports fans enjoy the exhilaration and thrill of the game, and the emotions you get from watching it on a screen are completely incomparable to being in the scene.”
After being a fan for eight years, two unforgettable — and sad — memories come to Jia’s mind. Once, she and other fans waited in a parking lot to deliver gifts to their favorite gamers. His favorite player Xiye and his team hadn’t performed well, and it broke his heart to see them frustrated and lazily sitting in their bus.
The second time, a semi-final was held in Guangzhou, not far from Jia Middle School. She had already bought tickets and said to herself that it was “an opportunity not to be missed in my life”. However, she couldn’t go at the last minute because her final exam was suddenly postponed.
“Missing the event is always my biggest regret,” she says.
Fandom esports vs fandom pop
“Esports and pop fans have a lot in common,” one esports analyst said in a 2020 post. “Both groups are made up of Gen Zers who are true digital natives. They’re outgoing individualists of mind.
Wang retained some of his habits as a pop music fan while pursuing esports. After years of following K-pop, she learned Korean well enough to do Korean-Chinese translations.
And yet, as with K-pop, his favorite element in the esports fandom is also “coupling”. Mating or “expedition” are terms commonly used in fan communities to describe the desire to see two individuals in a romantic relationship.
“I can’t stop pairing them – I love couples. It’s my greatest source of happiness,” Wang rejoices.
She enjoys watching her current favorite ship, male players Meiko and Viper, play games together. Wang often watches video clippings or text documentations of every little interaction between the two on social media, even mundane activities like chatting, ordering takeout or dining together.
“I like to observe human chemistry,” says Wang enthusiastically. “Meiko and Viper cooperate so well. It’s as if they were playing with the same brain. It’s like there’s a bubble around them, and no one else can break in.
However, Wang has also learned to stay calm and not get too emotional about esports. She knows that esports players change teams frequently and that her ship could separate at any time:
“I learned to accept the separation and enjoy the moment. It’s like I’m a fan of a boy band that’s destined to break up.
Wang also acknowledges that fandom in esports differs from that found in other entertainment fan cultures. “The fan economy is everything to pop stars,” she says. “But fans are useless to esports players. We can’t do anything to affect their competitive results, even if that’s the only thing that matters.
Fangirl Jia agrees that she is also in two different modes when following esports and pop culture. “Esports players are more real and dynamic,” she explains. “Stars are beautifully wrapped while esports players are not celebrities or commodities but athletes.”
Qingdao-based student An Wanwan doesn’t worship idols and thinks most esports fans understand that players are different from K-pop idols and other celebrities. “They are just men who play games very well. But outside the arena, they are literally a bunch of internet junkies who haven’t completed their compulsory education,” she said.
Like most fandoms these days, some esports fans are also rude and harass each other, says An. She once came under attack online from extremists after commenting on a few players.
Toxic elements aside, there are good apples among the group and An has made some meaningful friendships with other fans. She even travels and watches matches with another fan she met online.
“A lot of esports fans have cliques that they watch games with and chat about esports. Making close friends this way has been a windfall,” says An, who grew up watching the NBA with his dad. , a fundamental memory that fueled his current love for esports.
“At the end of the day, I love competitive sports,” she says. “I love the story of young people fighting side by side, going through failures and setbacks, and then reaching the top together. The process is fascinating. We are all witnesses to this story.