Today’s Esports Athletes, Tomorrow’s Space Marines


Control. Command. Power projection. The esports industry has the makings of a professional military headquarters.

Admit it: you routinely employ a mobile device to live on a data-by-data basis and feel entangled in the digital grind. Subconsciously, you realize the red pill has expired—it’s transhumanism or quietus, now. You’re accompanied by billions of dupes who’ve flown into the same reality-bending latticework, but this isn’t consoling. The neighbors are neurotically detached and partake solely in self-serving correspondence. It’s a conundrum that leaves you with two choices: indulge your instincts and commence squirming, or play dead and hope for the best.

For 380 million esports aficionados, the choice is clear: play dead. Competitive gaming embodies the gentrification of human sensibilities; athletes are wholly subdued by fastened sensors that actuate in-game avatars while abandoning bona fide experience. Ideate with neurological shocks, maneuver with edgy peripherals, and perceive with palpitating vibrations—by way of pixels and textures, of course—but “be aware that you’re literally connecting yourself physically to your PC,” states @BenKuchera. Though pseudoscientific pundits rave over the cognitive benefits of gaming, nothing exists to invalidate Ben’s warning. As bullets, skins, and dance moves titillate senses for hours on end, gamers exist in indeterminate states of consciousness.

Mixed reality is a lawless space where algorithms and software architectures incite virtual villainy. Never mind horse thievery and bootlegging—in Gametown, avatars are gang-rapedgropedrobbedstartled, and liquidated in hack n’ shoot “adventures” that top industry billboards. Moreover, the gamer conscience is in a freefall; global playtime is going supernova and Corporate America is marching lockstep to analyze and exploit the fallout. Energy drinks; “GodMode” nootropics; eye-training applications; moisture-absorbent outfits; attitude adjustments—no orifice, bodily function, or personality trait is off limits as companies corner every niche in the esports experience and tighten the unregulated embrace of impressionable athletes.

In tandem with omnichannel marketing campaigns, gaming upside potentials in gambling and telecommunications allow cities like Los Angeles to intertwine esports with disparate entertainment sectors and orchestrate anticipated events that draw hundreds of thousands. @DrPatSoonShiong—owner of the L.A. Times—regards esports as an “evolved engagement engine;” athletes are fluid touchpoints that lure consumers into proprietary cyber domains with maximal efficiencies. Blizzard Arena Los Angeles seats 450 spectators; Esports Arena at Luxor (Las Vegas) seats 900; Esports Stadium Arlington (Texas), 1000—electronic portals are materializing in major markets to bridge enthusiasts and amplify social-media fandom.

The physical reach of esports mediums is a projection of influence unseen in conventional marketing and no less striking than an advancing army annexing foreign territory. Power-projection aside, industry’s command over market willpower would arouse Napoleon; its control of athlete behavior has defense contractors besides themselves. Now that the federal budgeting floodgates have opened to subsidized space defense, and commercialized space transportation is imminent, it only follows that a genetically-modifiedquantum-leaping military adept at otherworldly warfare will be required to defend humanity. It might be too late for esports athletes to squirm, but it’s never too late to roar, “FOR THE EMPEROR!!!”

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