E-Sports in the western scene is still growing, and one of the more recent components of that growth is a professional infrastructure that raises the competitive competence of the region, as well as the increase of consistent, well produced content that prompts community engagement and discussion. Currently, the primary channels for promoting League of Legends content are Riot promotions [stream, website, client], Twitter, or Reddit. The latter two are powerful tools but they usually value brevity and engagement over relevance. Therefore, in order for a product to be successful, it has to be either short enough to fit within the attention span of the average community member or compelling enough to keep the viewer captivated. Establishing positive and constructive interaction between content creators and community is the most important step in the stable growth of e-sports culture.
Summoning Insight: The Case Study
With that in mind, let's consider the show "Summoning Insight," hosted by MonteCristo and Thorin. The average length of the show is 3 hours long, but the format is fascinating enough that it has garnered a healthy following of weekly viewers. However, the show has received increasing amounts of criticism from the community, with many people implicitly suggesting that the show should be discontinued because it is toxic to the e-sports community.
This article will break down the elements of the show to examine it from a holistic perspective, and then evaluate the criticisms to form constructive recommendations because, despite its deficiencies, Summoning Insight is an example of consistent, well produced content that the community needs to prompt discussion and foster e-sports culture.
Cast of Summoning Insight
Christopher "MonteCristo" Mykles is [as Thorin refers to him] the regular co-host of the show, and fulfills the role of an expert analyst. Generally conservative in his opinions and predictions, MonteCristo's background with casting OGN and League of Legends analysis helps the show articulate issues and criticisms of the competitive scene and infrastructure and provides the show with with a stable/credible personality to contrast with Thorin. While he's sometimes criticized for letting his organizational affiliations skew his analysis or predictions, he's arguably the most knowledgeable personality on the topic of League of Legends macrostrategy which forms the basis for most of his arguments.
Duncan "Thorin" Shields is the enigmatic host of the show and the primary target of a significant portion of the show's criticism. Having taken the philosophy "Haters make you famous" to heart, he has created a polarizing persona for himself that gives the show its engaging edge. On the show and social media, he is known for making hyperbolic statements, disrespectful remarks, and controversial opinions, inadvertently or tactically garnering a lot of attention towards himself and the show. However, he has a vast knowledge of e-sports spanning back to 2001 in various games like Counter Strike, Starcraft: Brood War, and Starcraft 2 and is an undeniably proficient researcher and interviewer. In the show he leverages these skills to guide the conversation and provide context or data for arguments.
Each week, the show hosts a different guest from the League of Legends community. Sometimes, the content in the show is heavily structured around the guest, but usually the guest just provides an alternative perspective to the regular hosts based on their own experiences. This allows the show to explore new topics, promote players and analysts, and market the show to the guest's fanbase. Unless the show is delving into a specifically relevant or interesting topic, the popularity of each episode is dependent on the personality and accessibility of the guest.
Breaking Down the Content
Summoning Insight markets itself as a show that provides insight into topics of interest to enthusiasts of the professional League of Legends scene. The discussions span across most competitive regions and covers a variety of topics, from game analysis to e-sports development. However, many people criticize the show and hosts for lack of analytical depth and instead claim that the show promotes unfounded criticism, unsubstantiated comparisons and predictions, and unprofessional behavior for the sake of popularity and viewership. Let's first define these elements and then measure them in an episode of the show.
The show's main goal, 'insight' refers to any comment or question supported by analysis or experience, where viewers can transparently examine the assumptions in the discussion and build upon them to continue discourse on the topic. This can include topics ranging from the details of Cloud 9's macro-strategy to understanding the importance of SK's sports psychologist to their success.
This refers to any content in the show that is either unsubstantiated by relevant data or not clearly connected to the data. While the opinions of the hosts and guests are valuable, the viewer likely does not understand the context in which they were formed and can't adequately discuss the topic without appealing to authority. This includes anything from speculating the efficacy of a player under different circumstances, or claiming why an organization made certain roster changes.
This topic forms a medium between insight and opinion because, while the statements can be analyzed and the hosts often give reasonable context for their arguments, it's incredibly difficult for anyone to fully account for all the variables. Often, a large majority of context is simply unavailable, causing many of the predictions to be more opinion than analysis. For the average viewer, this is generally a segment that's interesting to watch, erupting in passionate [and often irrational] discussions.
This metric is any filler included in the show purely to keep it engaging, including jokes, trash talking, zealous rants, irrelevant tangents, community drama etc. This includes anything from calling out members/players in the community to making inappropriate and outlandish remarks, often in an attempt to incite a reaction from the audience.
Episode 12 with CandyPanda from SK Gaming is a good example that is representative of the series. In the image above, every question and comment from the episode was cataloged into insight, opinion, comparison/prediction, or purely engagement. Approximately 51 out of 142 points in the show could be categorized as insight. This included everything from Monte discussing strategic depth of different Korean teams to Candypanda commenting on SK's adaptation in mindset when approaching LCS. 23 of the 51 insightful comments were made by CandyPanda as the guest of the show, mostly due to prompting by MonteCristo and Thorin. Next, 35 of the 142 topics were unsubstantiated opinions, such as speculation on the mental state of Alliance and Fnatic and the reason behind the decline of SK Telecom T1 K's players. Comparisons and predictions are an interesting way to engage viewers who may not necessarily be invested in deep analysis, but would rather argue superficial details about teams and players. In this episode, the show brought up 29 instances of comparisons/predictions, from the adaptability of Sneaky vs. Rekkles to the relative strengths of the top NA teams. Finally, the remainder of the show contained irrelevant comments, unnecessary trash talking, and inappropriate comparisons to elicit shock from the audience. 25 of the 27 controversial comments were made by Thorin, from flippant comments about Nien and NintendudeX to publicly denouncing Reginald for his unprofessional behavior towards onGamers.
Overall, the episodes of Summoning Insight seem like a good mixture of heavy insight (36%), engaging, albeit speculative, discussion with opinions and comparisons/predictions (45%) and finally the shock content (19%) for which the show is heavily criticized. This data dispels the notion that the content in the show heavily focuses on reality show-esque content at the expense of analysis and insight. Naturally, these percentages differ per episode, but as a consistent viewer of the show, this episode seems to be a good representation of the content breakdown. That being said, the next section considers the truth behind some criticisms and offers recommendations for improvement.
Increasing Analytical Context
The show advertises its ability to analyze the League of Legends scene, but 45% of the content is not adequately substantiated by data or rationale. A lot of content is empirical in nature, leaving the viewer little room to challenge assumptions. Consider the comparisons and predictions segments in the show: Both Monte and Thorin have huge insight into the scene, but it's often difficult to connect the statistics that are presented or anecdotal information that's shared to their conclusions, making the segment seem more subjective than it should be. This leads to criticism when, retrospectively, their predictions are incorrect, hurting their analytical credibility. Instead, it would be significantly beneficial for the viewers and the scene for the hosts to delve deeper into what assumptions are being made, what variables aren't being accounted for, and how to approach the discussion.
There is a misunderstanding about analysis in the League of Legends scene where an analyst has to make accurate predictions with conviction to maintain credibility. But, I believe analysis is often biased and two people with the same data can reach separate and even divergent conclusions due to the differing axiomatic assumptions in interpreting the data. A proper analysis should be a discussion surrounding the relevance of these assumptions and then apply the resulting conclusions to offer constructive recommendations.
Following Criticism with Guidance
Summoning Insight sometimes heavily criticizes players and teams without offering any constructive advice, often to the chagrin of relevant parties and their fans. MonteCristo and Thorin defend their right, and perhaps even obligation, to offer their criticisms and claim that they are beneficial to the scene, a perspective that, although true, seems incomplete. Like the game of League of Legends, building and maintaining a stable roster requires proper resource allocation, notably how to most efficiently use the limited time between splits and weeks to improve. Instead of simply focusing on who the best or worst player is currently, and how do teams compare to each other, they can help players and teams identify elements in their play to target their efforts towards how to most efficiently improve.
This provides more credibility to the idea that the show and criticism exists to benefit the professional scene. It helps counter the perception that these comments are simply to antagonize for the sake of creating dissent amongst the community and scene. And, since Summoning Insight has a relatively large and regular following in the League of Legends community, the process of critique in the show will be emulated by the viewers, establishing a model that focuses on constructive feedback for everyone to follow.
Distinguishing Persona from Identity
Thorin is under constant criticism from the community for inappropriate jokes and comments, constant trash talking, and hyperbolic statements. Despite the amount of exposure Thorin and the show have garnered from this behavior, maintaining credibility is still important. Looking back at Thorin's "Grilled" series, it's easy to see Thorin as an outstanding researcher and an interviewer with the finesse to extract analysis from people and steer conversations. These skills are still present in 'Summoning Insight', just buried under the persona Thorin has established for himself. In my opinion, Thorin can re-establish his professionalism in the show without losing viewership, but even without doing so, modeling his satire on people like Stephen Colbert can help the community distinguish between his attempt to keep the show entertaining and him being a toxic member of the community.
Personally, I dislike the 19% of the show that's devoid of insight or opinion, but I recognize its place in the show to provide filler between segments of heavy analysis and its appeal to a certain demographic. However, separating the segments from personality will help maintain the professional credibility of the hosts and show in general. The e-sports industry requires new members to create content and engage the audience, and they will look to shows like Summoning Insight for inspiration Again, setting a standard is the responsibility of the people who currently have the influence in the community to help shape the future of e-sports.
In conclusion, it's important to reiterate that e-sports content is scarce and shows like Summoning Insight, despite the deficiences of its content and hosts, deserves a place in the community. In the same way that the show should consider more analytical depth and increased professionalism to set a standard for e-sports content, it is the responsibility of the community to intelligently discuss content and to provide constructive feedback, instead of blatant dismissal and unsupported criticism. The culture surrounding e-sports is slowly gaining traction and despite people's opinions, my research on the background of the hosts has revealed their dedication to advancing the development of e-sports, and believe that they will support new ideas and content. A positive and constructive interaction with content creators and community is the most important step in the stable growth of e-sports culture.