Electronic sports (eSports) is competitive video gaming that is coordinated and managed by sporting organizations. While traditional sports have thrived on spectatorship and the intense emotional experiences of fans, there has been limited attention directed towards the emotional aspect of eSports spectatorship. In this paper, we introduce a first contribution to this field, presenting an in-depth, mixed-study investigation of eSports spectatorship and emotional experiences during the 2020 League of Legends’ World Championship. Our investigation is based on an extensive dataset comprising over 40,500 comments from 3,100 spectators posted during the event on the social media platform Reddit. We provide both computational and qualitative analyses of spectators’ experience during the event. The former employs social network-based models and techniques, while the latter includes thematic analysis. Our findings reveal that spectators supporting the same team tend to engage in cohesive discussions, while interactions among those supporting different teams are less prominent. Additionally, we explore various factors that trigger spectators’ emotions during the event, including interactions among fan groups and the local context. The methodology underpinning our investigation is general and enables the study of eSports spectatorship from a heterogeneous perspective.
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