Work, play, and precariousness: An overview of the labour ecosystem of esports

Johnson, Mark R. and Woodcock, Jamie (2021). Work, play, and precariousness: An overview of the labour ecosystem of esports. Media, Culture & Society, 43(8) pp. 1449–1465.



Professionalised competitive digital gaming or ‘esports’ has grown to a point where millions of dollars are being awarded in competitions watched globally by tens of millions of viewers. Previous analyses of the phenomenon have examined the role(s) of labour in esports performed by various actors – players, tournament organisers, sponsors, game developers – but these have yet to be unified into a ‘big picture’ of esports labour, especially when considering the relationships between the labour performed by different esports actors. In this paper we therefore present a comprehensive overview of the labour that different actors within the emerging Esports ecosystem perform, and how they intersect and influence each other in order to contribute to the existence of this highly contemporary phenomenon. In doing so we show that the rapid growth of Esports has created new labour processes and forms of work, transformed existing ones, yielded new career options, and tremendous profits to be made by a range of involved actors. Esports’ emerging position as a major global industry both within gaming and within contemporary media more broadly demands close attention to its work, its workers, and who is winning and losing in this dynamic media space.

Viewing alternatives

Download history


Public Attention

Altmetrics from Altmetric

Number of Citations

Citations from Dimensions

Item Actions