According to dictionary.com, the definition of "branding" is —
No, I'm kidding, I'm not going to do that to you. Welcome to PlusHeart, my newsletter about how the esports industry makes money from its audience.
While that might sound a bit blunt, it sets the stage for one of the big questions I want to explore: how does an industry take something people love, and leverage their passion? How do business interests intersect with a very raw and human attachment?
Gaming has meant a lot to me over my entire life, and because of that passion, I fell into (and out of) working in esports. I’ve seen the hobby go from bully-attracting to (relatively) mainstream and accepted — having that identity shift is something I’ve put a lot of thought into. “Liking video games” is no longer a marker of shared interest; it’s similar to how telling someone that you “like music” or “like books” as a hobby is something that begs further questions. You feel like you should ask “what kind of books do you like?” or “how do you like to listen to music?”; there are different ways to appreciate the medium, and different things that set fans apart.
I’m going to use this newsletter to examine how the esports ecosystem connects with passionate people, and by extension, myself.
With that in mind, I figured I'd do an "issue #0" in order to set up some context and have a good jumping-off point for further issues. I also feel that in the interest of transparency, I'm going to establish some ground rules:
What I'm going to do
I will write personally, and subjectively. This is not going to aim to be objective journalism; this is going to be written with emotion and passion as features, not flaws. But that being said...
I will be self-aware to my personal preferences. At 32 (at the time of this writing), I am not the target demographic for a lot of these marketing opportunities, or the venues that they take place in. Despite not playing Fortnite, and not personally enjoying TikTok, I do my best to approach them with an open mind. They are likely not being directed at me, and that's fine.
I will include sources, and be honest about when I'm speaking from conjecture or opinion. This includes linking directly to content that I'm referencing whenever possible, because I believe that content theft sucks. Archives/screenshots will likely be made when possible for preservation.
I will respect your inbox. If there's any major corrections to be made (I mean like, game-breaking stuff) you'll get an email about it. Other than that, I will make an effort to avoid spamming you.
I will respect your money. If you're going to kick me money for this newsletter (or Patreon, which I'd prefer), I'll have your backer goods ready promptly, and mostly in a way that you can always access (torrents, mirrors, etc).
As a corollary to the above: Patreon gets the same benefits as subscribing to this newsletter through Substack’s features. Patrons can be added manually to the Substack premium account list, so message me through there if that’s what you’d like to do.
I will be transparent about the data I collect. Currently, I use Google Analytics to track Analytics for this newsletter. This data may be used in the event of sponsorship opportunities, but isn't going to be sold to third parties.
What I'm not going to do
This is not going to be a drama newsletter. I am not going to comment on Internet slapfights unless the way a team handles it severely impacts their branding, or if I’m explaining why a marketing technique might have bombed.
I am not going to rate things. I don't think this is a productive way of comparing different products. At worst, it will fuel console-warring and shit-flinging about one team's stuff getting a higher score than others, and I really don't have patience for that. If I rate something, it's going to be as jokey and obfuscated as possible. Make your own conclusions.
I will not be writing about brands that I've previously worked on. As a previous marketing employee of Evil Geniuses, Elo Entertainment, or Luminosity Gaming, I don't feel comfortable commenting on them.
I am not going to be your fake friend. Parasocial relationships are a fascinating topic, but I'd like to be responsible on the type of venue I'm crafting here. I'm not afraid to assert my boundaries, and in most cases, the door is always over there — in blunt terms, this is my house (and well, Substack's house) and I'm going to run it my way.
I’m going to be opening the Substack to paid subscriptions from this issue onward. While I’m writing the project “for myself” I’d like to keep the option open for people to support my work if they’d like to.
What you get:
Audio podcasts of each newsletter. This will involve me reading the issue aloud (to the extent I can explain verbally, for things like graphics). These will be delivered in sequence (ie, you’d get an email for the newsletter issue, then another email for the audio podcast).
Commenting privileges on posts.
Access to the Supporters channel on my Discord.
With that stuff out of the way...
If you'd like to get in contact with me, you can at firstname.lastname@example.org. To start, I'll be writing this newsletter every two weeks (releasing Fridays), with my patrons on Patreon getting it two days early, on Wednesdays.
Thanks for reading so far, and I hope this makes you excited about what we're going to be doing with PlusHeart.
See you in two weeks!