‘I love esports a lot, but I do not want to give up my life’: Seven confessions from inside gaming and esports media
Gaming and esports media companies continue to shutter or lay off employees in light of fickle audience behavior and profitability struggles, with video content network G4 representing the latest casualty. On Oct. 16, Comcast Spectacor CEO Dave Scott issued a memo announcing the company’s shutdown less than a year after its relaunch in November 2021.
For those who have been following Digiday’s coverage of the recent wave of layoffs in gaming and esports media, this news should not come as a shock — although some observers might be surprised by how quickly G4 appeared to decline following an earlier round of layoffs last month. In fact, as recently as Sept. 30, G4 and Comcast Spectacor chief revenue officer Josh Cella told Digiday that the layoffs “won’t affect anything” when questioned about their impact on the network.
G4’s demise reflects a broader contraction currently occurring across the gaming and esports media industry. With a potential recession on the horizon, unprofitable media operations are shutting their doors or courting acquisitions by the few larger, profitable companies in the space — and, predictably, it’s the employees who are getting the short end of the stick.
To give beleaguered gaming and esports media workers a chance to share their thoughts on the issues going on in their industry, Digiday reached out to seven laid-off writers, editors and producers who worked across a wide range of games media companies — including G4 — for the latest edition of our Confessions series, in which we trade anonymity for candor. (This article represents a range of perspectives regarding layoffs that have occurred across games media in recent months — not just at G4.)
The following interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity.
A former esports writer on why they left the industry
Mainly, this industry fucking sucks. I can’t think of a better way to put it than that. The amount of investment and time and care that is demanded from you, by both readership and the algorithm — the amount of your life that is demanded from you by those things, in return for the appreciation and viewership and money you get, just never felt like it was worth it to me. I love esports a lot, but I do not want to give up my life in a job that will never be as well-compensated as it should be for the sake of esports; I’d much rather do something else.
A video producer on viewership of high-production-value esports content
It’s not like the views were negligible, right? There still certainly were people watching and enjoying it, there just weren’t enough numbers to justify the amount of people putting this stuff together. There are people with much smaller teams, or people who just do it themselves, who get so many more views than that. So maybe it wasn’t necessarily about not getting views — but it just wasn’t getting enough views for the system that was creating the videos.
An editor on executive mismanagement in games media
[Non-endemic, upper-level executives] just fundamentally didn’t understand how the space worked. They had no idea what they wanted, or what success would look like for a video game website. And they had no idea what our audience looked like, or what our community looked like. To most of the [upper-level executives], it was a line item in an Excel spreadsheet. Finally, someone was like, “Hey, what’s this? What if we just deleted this line item?” And then they just did it.
A longtime freelance writer on the lack of mentorship and growth opportunities in the space
You can’t [spend resources training] a freelancer in esports; at a certain level, that’s the kind of stuff that you have to do for a salaried employee. For freelancers, there’s no onus, really, to train people. There’s not enough time to edit, mentor and train people as an editor, because you need to get the article out. You can’t spend an hour or two hours back-and-forth in an article with someone when the story needs to be out now.
A former esports editor on the type of work they received in exchange for low freelance rates
The kind of content you get certainly reflects the kind of people willing to do that content; it felt like most of my job was micromanaging all the errors that come up there. If you’re working for that low rate, you’re going to be passionate in one shape or another — and I’m not necessarily using passionate in the good sense there, right? Heat can run a bit high. When I first started, there was someone who was clearly getting very frustrated that I wasn’t green lighting every single piece of games [public relations] email they could flip into content, and we had to have a serious discussion about that. There was another individual who just constantly imperiled their own well-being in some sort of crusade to impress us.
A veteran freelance writer on the social inequality present in the games media industry
Everyone that was let go in this wave was either a person of color or transgender. Everyone. There was no white person let go; all the underqualified white dudes who I worked for, who would message me at 3 a.m. and harass me to work off the clock — they got promoted.
A freelancer on the high amount of work that goes unpaid in the space
I went above and beyond when I was there. Part of the reason they let me go was because they were like, “It’s a good financial decision, because what we make back from your guides is not viable for us.” And I’m thinking to myself that I did training off the clock; I did accessibility services, queer [diversity, equity and inclusion] stuff for them. And I did that out of the kindness of my heart, because I’m a person that wants to see teams that I love succeed. But although I was doing a lot of expensive work for free, they were saying it was potentially valuable for them to cut me.
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