One of my responsibilities as a kind of editor at Sandbox is managing the overall style and language rules we use in outreach. Recently I was asked: “How do we write the term for [electronic gaming sports]?” I quickly responded, “eSports!” (because it’s what many media outlets use, and it’s what we’ve used before as a result). But when you’re the final word on a subject, you have to be willing to face the possibility you don’t actually know anything at all. So I tried to fact check my own claim, and thankfully, the first search result that popped up was this (fairly old, I know) Daily Dot piece on their own style debate over the term.
Their argument: we don’t randomly capitalize letters in real words that aren’t proper nouns. That’s it. Not a new or groundbreaking point, but it’s never too late to stop perpetuating a mistake. So “eSports” is now nixed from the Sandbox style guide. We’ll still follow client formatting preferences when they exist, but on projects where the question is up to us, “esports” is our new standard.
If I had to make an admission to myself, I think “eSports” came from a place of insecurity. “No, no, it’s a real thing,” it almost shouts. “I know you think games as sport and watchable entertainment is a childish concept, but look! It’s got its own special spelling, which makes it official! And lowercase sports – which we all know are really sports – can still go on being their own thing!” Capitalizing that “s” felt like a way to legitimize the scene while simultaneously safeguarding it against criticism or mockery. But perhaps it accomplished neither.
“Esports.” It’s a word. It’s a real thing. It’s official.