Electronic Sport and New Types of Social Formations
Electronic Sport (e-sport) can be understood as a new form of computer gaming: the institutionalisation of gaming as competitive sports. E-sport relies on structures similar to organised sports such as national teams, clubs, associations, regular broadcasting and media events. Hence, not only the content (the computer games) which unites people within e-sport but also the new form of gaming practiced in an institutionalised, organised and professional way. The focus on social forms provides an adequate entry point into this recent field of research because e-sport understood as a new form of gaming also raises the questions of what social forms are emerging and how they can be conceptualised. Even though e-sport emerged out of the gaming scenario, processes such as institutionalisation and re-territorialisation encourage social forms which overcome the unstable and fractured sociality of post-traditional social forms such as the gaming scenario. Furthermore, these processes aim at acceptance by and integration into society, whereas a scenario as a social form offers members a refuge which is not dependant on official approval by society. Media communication is central to e-sport as it is not only used as infrastructure or reduced to the role of broadcaster but also presented as sport. Hence, from a media and communication perspective e-sport constitutes an interesting research field because it points to emerging social forms which are based on, in and around media communication. The study uses Weber’s vergemeinschaftung concept as an open framework to analyse the emerging social forms. Vergemeinschaftung enables an understanding of social relationships based on affective belonging while taking processuality into account. The research focuses on e-sport events, e-sport clans and e-sport communication. E-sport events are grand finals of national and international competitions which are held offline but broadcasted online. E-sport clans contract gamers and attract fan support. E-sport communication refers to the online communication which provides information and spectacle as well as discussion and reflection. The main research question is: what forms of vergemeinschaftung do esport events, clans and communication provoke? In order to identify these forms the analysis concentrates on practices, meanings and functions as well as internal and external relationships. Qualitative empirical research based on the grounded theory, which is suitable for exploring new phenomena answers the research question as it is adequate. The research aims to reflect on and contribute to previous research concerning new social forms and media and to address broader questions of media and socialisation.