‘Raising the Stakes’ – Taylor

For anyone interesting in E-sports as a developing twenty-first century sport, a new techno-cultural movement and one of the most exciting developments in the gaming industry this book; makes for a timely and important read. Covering the history of e-sports and it’s relatively grassroots existence up until the past 2 – 3 years (in the west at least) Taylor describes how the scene has become professional, carved out its own unique fandom and how the scene exists in the curious position of a sporting activity without bodies in motion (a subject I have written about before). The professionalization of players (and play) and the importance of metagaming are two subject areas that stand out to me as defining an e-sport and they are areas that are covered extensively with interviews and research throughout this book which is a first academic coverage of this techno-cultural movement.

The main criticism I have with the book is that, while timely, informative, well written and enjoyable it completely misses the MOBA genre as if it does not exist. Considering the MOBA genre has now come to dominate the e-sports scene in a previously unimaginable way it is a noteworthy omission. Taylor admits the first draft of her book was written in 2009 which places the book just before the explosion of League of Legends as the dominant E-sport however the book still makes not even the slightest reference to Defence of the Ancients (2004) which was since 2005 and still is a hugely popular e-sporting activity, particularly in South East Asia and China. However this is an omission not uncommon in academic coverage of e-sports (also see Witkowski, 2012) and considering the explosion in popularity the MOBA genre has seen over the past three years in the west, expect this to be a trend that necessarily changes in future academic coverage. The main pre-occupation of Raising the Stakes  is with the popular western titles such as Street Fighter 2 (Capcom, 1991), Counter Strike (1999) and Starcraft (Blizzaard Activision, 1998).

Overall, this book is thoroughly recommended and as E-sports continues to grow into the massively professional and lucrative industry it now is, Taylors contribution to the early history of this scene is essential reading for anyone interested in the ongoing development of this cultural movement.


Full references:

Taylor, T, L. (2012) Raising the Stakes: E-sports and the Professionalization of Computer Gaming, London: MIT Press.

Witkowski, E. (2012) ‘On the Digital Playing Field: How we ‘Do Sport’ with Networked Computer Games’, Games and Culture, September, 2012: vol. 7 no. 5: 349-374.

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