#LetsTalk 2016 – My depression, and how it hurts me

Posted by Matt Demers on

So today’s Bell’s annual #LetsTalk day, which is a promotion to get people talking about depression and mental health. Every time people tweet with the hashtag, Bell makes a donation to Canadian mental health programs.

Basically it’s a giant PR move that a lot of people just happen to believe in; the company’s shitty practices and suspect telecom practices aside, people can’t exactly say no to that kind of deal. However, besides the social media storm, it tends to bring out a ton of blog posts and stories about peoples’ experiences with mental health, like this one.

My depression sucks. It causes a lot of things that are going to sound drastic below, but I can say its severity varies.

My depression keeps me from talking about it, because I’m scared it’s going to affect peoples’ perceptions of me. My depression and anxiety makes me think that I’m not being “hard” enough, and the more I talk about it or seek support in a public forum, the more I’m being dramatic, attention-whore-y or generally unstable.

I’m afraid it’s going to typecast me as someone who can’t handle their shit, and that’s going to prevent me from getting work. I feel like when I do open up to friends, it dominates the conversation to the point where I don’t know how to hang out with someone without it devolving into a bitch-fest on my part.

I don’t want to be that person that can’t have a conversation without complaining about their life, but at the same time, I need support.

My depression tries to keep me from working because I get anxious about what happens if I actually try. Will I fail? Will I just suck? Will I hover around mediocrity forever, never knowing when it’s a good time to quit? This is obviously a self-fulfilling prophecy; if I never try, I never get to see.

My depression causes a fear that I hate so much, but need to confront.

My depression makes me lay in bed in the morning for at least an hour or two when I know I could crank out a blog post in that time. My depression makes me annoyed at myself when I actually time how long something takes to write, and I realize that it’s literally only one hour, compared to the twelve or more I’ll spend putting the writing off.

My depression kills me when people say that I’m talented, or my stuff is awesome. My anxiety puts so much weight into shares, follows, public perception and other metrics that it gets in the way of actually making things. It makes me wonder “if it’s so great, where’s the retweets?” which is kind of a stupid thought.

My depression makes me question if I really want success for the “right” reasons. My depression makes me think I’m simply not doing enough every day.

I want to grow, but I feel like I don’t know how without begging people with bigger followings for help; I don’t want to guilt people into supporting me, and I want to be able to stand on my own merit. I also don’t want to because then they’ll think I’m using them, and I value that friendship (or potential friendship) more than I do the growth.

My depression causes me to push people away when they obviously want to be my friend; I become wary of people and keep distance. My depression causes me to hold grudges, resent other peoples’ success and actively want them to fail.

It makes me wonder if I need to be something I’m not in order to succeed, and if I stay true to my principles I’m doomed to stay poor. My anxiety terrifies me when I think about all the money that’s flowing into eSports, and the possibility that I’m never going to be able to get any of it. My depression makes me wonder if I’ve passed up good opportunities in the past due to fear, uncertainty, and doubt.

There’s obviously a lot more where this came from, but to be honest, I think that I’ve improved over the past two years due to therapy, medication, mindset and growth. I don’t want to paint a picture of someone unstable or broken; I’ve done my best to improve because I want to.

The worst is that so much of this is conflicting with itself: I want to be prominent in my field, but hamstring myself on the way to get there. I resent others’ success while they do so in fields I actively want to get away from. I overthink about even saying “hi” to someone when they probably don’t even care.

Eventually I’d like to get better, but I realize that this kind of thing is a fight that doesn’t finish. It might get easier, but it never goes away. All I can say is that I have the will to fight this problem, even for the time being; I don’t want to go back to when I was worse.

If you know someone who needs support, reach out. If you’re reading this and feel like you need help, don’t be afraid to ask. If you’re in university, there’s a good chance you can get free therapy from your school. If you’re in a major city, there’s a good chance you can Google “Free [city] therapy” and find a help line. There’s 7 cups of tea for just someone who wants to listen. Hell, send me a tweet.

Mental health is something that carries a social stigma, but can be lessened through people not being afraid of opening up and being vulnerable, and other people realizing that’s okay. It’s about embracing empathy and being genuine. If anything, that’s a great place to start if you’re looking to help.

Keep talking.

Esports/The Media

Who benefits? ESPN, TSM, and the great eSports gold rush

Posted by Matt Demers on

Disclosure: I worked at theScore eSports from Jan 2015 to Nov 2015. I worked with Rod Breslau and Tyler Erzberger during my time there, and edited their work. Darin Kwilinski edited my work while I worked at Azubu from April to June 2014. All three now work at ESPN.

ESPN, the largest sports media company in the world, launched an eSports vertical today. This is obviously a big deal for a number of people, as the opportunity of writing somewhere stable will enable more people to make a living from eSports.

It’s important to note, though, that the writers aren’t the only ones who are going to be looking to get in the company’s good graces; for many eSports teams, ESPN’s entrance marks huge potential to catapult themselves into a whole new audience.

If you’re familiar with enthusiast journalism (like with gaming, comics or film), you know that relationship-building dictates a lot of your success. You need to be able to give reasons for people to visit your site, and in most cases, this comes in the form of exclusives — things you have that no one else does, or things you have first.

A big thorn in any publication’s side is the building and maintaining of relationships so these kind of exclusives can flow freely. In most cases, leaks will be attributed to a nameless source, in order to protect that person from backlash within their company; however, this means your readers’ trust is often only as strong as the length of time since your last mistake.

In eSports, the lack of a players’ union means that leaks and exclusives that may paint people unfavorably can result in a loss of trust, punishment or straight-up blacklisting. If a team can’t find anyone to punish, they might just go after the publication themselves, denying them access to players or statements. I wrote about this in 2013.

ESPN thankfully doesn’t have to worry about any of this, because they’re ESPN.

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Let’s put ourselves in, say, TSM’s shoes here, for a second.

I’m Andy “Reginald” Dinh, owner of Team Solomid. I’ve built up probably the most successful Western brand in League of Legends, had a respectable CS:GO team in the past, and currently sponsor a number of smaller players in other games upon which I make a decent return. However, I’ve realized that I’ve started to hit a bit of a wall.

With the eSports or general “gamer” audience, my brand has become huge. Because I’m at the forefront of many of the games I sponsor, I’ve seen my acquisition of fans plateau. However, there’s only a limited amount of people that I can hope to convert to new fans, as there’s a good chance that anyone who knows eSports knows who we are already.

So, where do I go from there?

What ESPN represents in a new acquisition stream for eSports, as not only will industry fans be checking it out, but legions of new people, as well; if they were on the fence about the hobby’s acceptability or viability, they likely won’t be now. If TSM positions themselves as “the people’s team” in the games that ESPN covers by providing exclusives that place them prominently, new fans will see them as a logical jumping on point.

Ask any new NBA, NFL or football fan: if they’re new to the game, they’re at least going to know who the Lakers, Patriots or Real Madrid are. They know because their players are famous, and the teams have a good shot at either going far in the playoffs, or winning the whole league. They have bandwagons that can fit whole cities inside of them.

While many will look at their local sports teams, there’s only so much heartbreak they can take (ask Torontonians); fans, especially new ones, want to feel like they are part of something special, and there’s no more special feeling in sports than seeing the team that you’re cheering for win the big one. That feeling turns to loyalty. That loyalty turns to money.

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This leaves us with ESPN having substantially more leverage than arguably any other eSports publication before it, because they take the present arrangement of teams usually having larger followings than the people who cover them and flip it back to what large media is used to. Historically, musicians, artists or organizers would want their stories in the news, because the exposure was always worth it.

Due to their mainstream audience, resources and the respectability that comes with being covered by ESPN, the network now has something to offer top-tier eSports teams. Instead of teams producing interviews themselves (which keep the ad dollars and followers generated in-house), there is reason to let someone else in.

From my experience, teams know the current arrangement, and will use it to their advantage; they know that anyone asking for interviews do so because their players will drive traffic. This is why the TSMs, the Cloud9s, the Fnatics and the Evil Geniuses of the world are rarely going to turn down the BBCs, the CNNs and the HBOs: they represent an opportunity to make themselves into a friendly, well-spoken face for the new eSports fan to attach themselves to. The trick is making sure they don’t leave.

I’d like to wish ESPN well with their entrance into eSports journalism, as I hope the organization has the patience to see the vertical grow. While they likely won’t be flawless (no one ever is), they will likely enjoy an advantage that most publications don’t: they’ll be the hot girl without a date to the prom, rather than the ones holding up the wall.

Matt Demers writes about the eSports industry in between losing MMR for BetterDota and experimenting with social media. You can follow him on Twitter, Twitch and YouTube.

“Who Benefits?” is a series of posts looking into different eSports media issues and how the average fan can think more critically about them. Previous posts about Team Ember and Team OG are live.