At the Daily Dot’s “20 Under 20” series, see a profile of Sonic Fox, also appearing below. Their article came out with perfect timing after this one was completed and scheduled.
Of all the ways to promote the furry community at large, this may be one of the most unique attempts yet: Fur-eSports. This creatively named group looks to be “An eSports team for Furries, by Furries,” according to its Twitter account.
For those who do not know, the term eSports generally refers to competitive gaming. Many furry conventions hold gaming tournaments and some have even been reported on by their communities. eSports however, is something much larger than that. For games like League of Legends, grand finals matches can bring in over 14 Million viewers and fill entire stadiums to watch a match. Even on the smaller end of eSports events can be huge. The tournament Evolution 2016, one of the longest running fighting game tournaments of all time, plans to have its grand finals at the Mandalay Bay Events Center: a 12,000 seat entertainment complex that has hosted Katy Perry, UFC Fights, and even the Latin GRAMMY Awards.
Are there enough furries to support a large team for these kinds of events? 51% of U.S. households own a dedicated game console. 42% play video games at least three hours a week according to the Entertainment Software Association. It should come as no surprise that many of these people would also be among the fandom.
In fact, one of the most prominent Mortal Kombat X players is openly a furry and even wears furry attire while competing at events:
cR | SonicFox has been Evo champion for three games including Injustice: Gods Among Us and Mortal Kombat. He currently boasts 15.k followers on Twitter and is sponsored by Critical Reaction, making it his career to play video games. Last year at Evolution 2015 he competed in front of over 190,000 viewers watching online and thousands more at the event.
With so many viewers tuning in and seeing a furry win an event, could furries in eSports do big things to gain acceptance and respect for the community?
eSports journalist SabreWolf (and recently joined member of Fur-eSports) thinks so. “Respect for the orgazination will in turn provide more respect for furries and fur-culture.” he told us. “Even just seeing a bunch of FeS [Fur-eSports] members competing in tournaments will break down the barrier some other people have with their perception of furries.”
It seems not only could it help with outside perspectives, but for those people within the community looking for camaraderie and support. According to the application form to join the team, one of its goals is to be “a group of furries working together as a crew of sorts so we can all meet fellow fuzzy, scaley, feathery, (you get the picture) gamers and improve our skills.”
Wheeler, co-founder of Fur-eSports, discussed the future goals for the team with us. “To start, we are offering furries a place where they can meet others in the fandom and gain promotion and coaching from some professional furries in the field of eSports. In time we hope to help players by keeping their team organized, finding events to enter and teams to practice against, and eventually fully fund players to go to events. The other co-founder wants to see FeS do great things, but in my eyes personally, as long as it’s a safe haven for furry gamers to just be themselves and have fun playing the games they love, I’ve accomplished what I’ve set out to do. “
Sabrewolf confirmed it as a positive place to be. “I’ve really enjoyed the friendliness and atmosphere within the server and simply gaining more people to enjoy talking with.” he said. “It also feels lovely to be more open with you know just being a furry and the community aspect almost strengthens your pride with it. FeS definitely offers something different, warmer and more personal than other organizations for us. With time, development and growth we could easily build each other up and become something really big and cool.”
One of the challenges to face would be finding companies to sponsor the team.
Usually large companies step in and help provide funding for teams so they can fund their players in exchange for advertisement of their brands. Streaming services like Twitch, Hitbox.tv, and MLG sometimes sponsor teams, so they only stream on their channels while other companies require advertisements for their products or for players to use their products. With the unfortunate stigma surround furries in some circles, it may prove difficult to find similar sponsorships for the team.
However there is always the possibility of finding sponsorship simply within the furry community itself.
Services like FURSTREAM could be used over traditional services as an example. There is also the potential for companies that publish furry fictions to join in with promotion for books they publish, in exchange for sponsorship. Art websites like Weasyl, FurAffinity, or newly growing FurryNetwork could sponsor the team in exchange for featuring art and artists exclusively on their platforms.
There is also the value of WTF to consider. Some companies may dive in to support the team anyways, in order to use “the weird factor” to promote themselves. This must have proven powerful as them team recently acquired its first sponsor in NoScopeGlasses, a company that makes gaming glasses.
The Fur-eSports team itself is already growing quite quickly. The Twitter account was almost at 100 followers less than 24 hours after it existed, and has received over 90 applications for furs wanting to join the team and compete in several titles. Leaders of the Splatoon community have shown support as the team attempts to form a team there. The Smash 4 team is already sporting at least 20 furs who want to train together and represent the brand.
— Fur-eSports (@Fur_eSports) February 8, 2016
“I enjoy seeing everyone talk and have fun with each other, and I’m still sort of amazed at how quickly we’ve grown from the small group that started it.” said Wingnut, the artist who drew the Fur-eSports logo. “We already have a lot of skilled people and it’s only going to go up from there. I imagine there will still be a lot of controversy over furries in the community. It would be hard to get rid of that, but I think FeS has the potential to alleviate that.“
“My fellow co-founder and I are both furries and play Smash Bros.” Wheeler told us. “We were just joking around one day and I said ‘a lot of furries play smash/video games, what if there was a group/team just for them?’ The idea just kind-of stuck, and the work began to happen.” So far the team seems off to a good start.
The team is currently recruiting players in an effort to strengthen the team. Could furries potentially dominate in the world of gaming and bring more eyes positively to the scene? Only time will tell, but this effort looks like an interesting place to start.