This article has a simple argument, so there’s no point beating around the bush, I’m just going to state it off the top: Tinder is an esport.
Yes, that Tinder. The app for hookups and/or dating, depending on the age of the interlocutor to whom you are trying to explain the phenomenon. For our purposes, there is no other one. Anyhow, that Tinder is an esport.
I mean this mainly in a discursive sense: In recent years dating, like Dota 2, has become something you talk about as much as something you do. Metagaming, in the traditional sense, has referred to a player going outside the strictly codified rules of a game to achieve some goal. But this is meta in another sense, let’s call it meta-gaming: a game whose play is not always its central activity. It is, in effect, a form of sociability.
This, I think, gets at some of the awkwardness of esports: is it a thing you do or a thing you talk about? In practice, the answer is something to the effect of “a little bit of both,” with your voice trailing off at the end, but that’s not exactly a satisfying answer. In a design sense, one would want to optimize these experiences for a particular sort of user, but the median or idealized user is far from clear. Is the activity or the viewer incidental? The slight frisson of entertainment one gets from either Tinder or esport comes from that tension, but the tension is not self-evidently sustainable.
There’s a scene in The West Wing’s first season wherein the president asks his chief speechwriter if he’d like to finish their game of basketball or write his obituary. The joke, which does not benefit from being explained (sorry), is that the socially acceptable answer isn’t the honest one. Insofar as Tinder is a form of sociability, it is largely one that people can talk about—an anecdote-generating engine—even more than they actually engage in. This may be the primary use case, even if that’s not what it’s built for. Esports, similarly, is a conversation engine built atop a different form of infrastructure. Its coverage is challenged by this reality of meta-gaming; the locus of action is not entirely clear.