You Game, YouPorn?
As reported here on EB, Porn megasite YouPorn is now the official sponsor of a Major League Gaming team; Madrid-based group Play2Win will now be known as Team YP and enter tournaments kitted out in a particularly bright shade of hot pink.
There’s a lot of worrying implications here, both involving the sponsorship and the decision making behind it. However the most striking thing about it, to many people at least, is the incredibly poor timing of the announcement.
For the last few months literally dozens of mainstream commentators, many without any real background in gaming, have taken what appears to be genuine glee in raking the hobby and it’s proponents over the coals over the fallout from #Gamergate. Thanks to the vitriol of a committed minority of gamers the entire gaming lifestyle has been labelled misogynistic, sexist, and generally unfriendly towards the fairer sex.
It doesn’t take much of an imagination to picture what sort of headlines those same commentators could ring out of this particular headline.
I’m not trying to argue that Porn is exploitive. These days, American-made pornography is a multi-billion dollar business and for most of the professionals it’s a pretty well paid way to make a living. Add to that a growing amateur market where people literally do this for free, voluntarily, and I think the old arguments about exploitation are pretty much done.
All that being said, it remains a divisive business and one that stirs strong instinctual responses in many people. In this respect it almost doesn’t matter if Porn is sexist or not, enough people believe it is to make YouPorn’s sponsorship controversial. More so in light of the still-tense atmosphere between Gamers and the wider community.
It also goes beyond the recent flare ups around #Gamergate. After all, big gaming competitions haven’t exactly had a spotless reputation when it comes to gender relations.
To take this onto a much grander scale it might be useful to look at another sport that’s recently been rocked by controversy. Can you imagine if, instead of an MLG team, YouPorn had publicly sponsored an NFL Franchise? In particular a team involved in the recent spate of abuse scandals that have plagued the league?
The accusations of sexism and exploitation would be deafening. It doesn’t matter that the two issues aren’t linked; the perception would be enough to hang those involved in the public imagination. More importantly though, the league wouldn’t stand for it and in this case I’m not sure we, both gamers in general and the league Team YP play in, should either.
Ultimately there is something disturbing here, though it isn’t the thought that Team YP’s money is coming from the proceeds of naked men and women. It’s that ultimately, this decision was born out of the perception of a target market that would be eager for the sponsor’s product.
Make no mistake, while the idea of sponsoring a MLG team may have first been floated on YP’s Twitter account, the point will always have been to get new viewers to their site. What made them decide this was the way to do it? Well, I worry that what has attracted them to MLG isn’t customer feedback or any interest in the sport, but the age old stereotype of Gamers as white, adolescent men tied down to their computers who only take a break from WoW to click over to, well, hopefully YouPorn now.
At EB, we’ve talked before about how that stereotype just isn’t true anymore. 48% of Gamers are female, the average gamer is now 31 and the reality is that these days anyone can be a Gamer, whether they’re locked in a basement or relaxing in the penthouse.
Unfortunately, as long as people keep seeing dollar signs in the old stereotype…and others actively fight to preserve it… then we may keep seeing strange bedfellows like these popping up in our hobby.
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