Geopolitics in Esports: an analysis of esports' approaches to political neutrality in relation to the war in Ukraine.

Thumbnail Image
Issue Date
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
This research investigates the relationship between esports and geopolitics. Previous studies have shown that international sports are intrinsically political, irrespective of claims to neutrality that are often voiced. For the rapidly growing field of competitive video gaming, however, such research is lacking. This study investigates esports’ relationship with (geo)politics in the context of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. A qualitative approach has been adopted, consisting of a combination of desk research of news articles, official statements and opinionated pieces and semi-structured interviews with several esports professionals. The analysis of the acquired data shows that esports’ response to the invasion of Ukraine and its manoeuvring of neutrality differed from traditional sports. The main factors causing this differentiation are esports’ corporate governance and stakeholder structures, the respected position of individual esports players and a relative lack of attention by political actors for esports. Moreover, it is shown that the war has impacted Ukrainian and Russian esports directly, while esports outside of those areas has only been hit indirectly. Based on these results, several recommendations are made, highlighting the relevancy of esports to other fields, providing new directions for future research and reflecting on the future of (geo)politics in the esports industry.
Faculteit der Managementwetenschappen