Thursday 29 January 2015

What does it take to be a truly professional eSports athlete?

Sitting in the shade of a stadium in Parow watching athletes pound their way around the track, and footballers all resplendent in their blue-and-white kit practice their daily drills, I sit and wonder where eSports in South Africa is going wrong to be so far behind the international competition.

The football team that I am watching specializes in preparing players for overseas clubs. The athletes that are training in the blazing African sun, are all of international standard.

Theses sports also have the same disadvantages that eSports has, perhaps even more so. At least in eSports, gamers can play more often, at less cost, that our physical athletes who have to travel vast distances, experience body-sapping fatigue when crossing time-zones and experience acid build-up due to long periods of being seated – all of which negatively affect the performance of the athlete.

The eSports athlete is luckier, thanks to the MSSA and to MWEB, the cyber athlete can play against top class competition from their hometown.

So what then does it take?

Looking at the athletes training it seems as though our eSports fall down in the following areas:
  1. Lack of proper coaching. Playing a game is not training. A training session must be properly structured and coaching sessions should be well structured. It is not enough to just practice, as practice does not make perfect, only perfect practice makes perfect!
  2. Discipline. This is really part of a greater mind-set. It is not just being able to follow the rules of the game, the rules of the event, any contract which the gamer has signed, but also includes self-discipline. The gamer has to be aware that he/she is playing in an environment that is in itself a society and must therefore comply with the dictates of such society.
  3. Pride. The gamer should show the same amount of pride in his/her achievements and choice of sport as any other athlete. This pride will spill over into every aspect of the gamer as it will be reflected not only in his/her appearance but also in his/her commitment to training as well as his/her attendance of events, as well as the way in which the gamer generally behaves.
  4. Commitment. Commitment to any sport is paramount when creating a champion. It is the athletes commitment in terms of money, time and attitude that separates the 'wheat' from the 'chaff'. Athletes in the physical sports spend thousands of their own to pay for coaching, travel, entry fees, etc. Only when an athlete has reached the highest possible level do athletes then look for sponsorships. However, in South Africa, most gamers seem to think they deserve sponsorships – even though they have not achieved anything! As a result, most sponsorships are second rate and do nothing for development.
  5. Professionalism. A gamer does not need to be paid in order to be professional. Professionalism, more than anything, is a state of mind. It is when the gamers are truly competent that they are professional.
  6. Dedication. Often the true competitor will be able to take a knock, and then get right up again. It is not the score that sorts the winners from the losers, but the dedication of the few who continually keep on getting up and pushing themselves to greater heights.

I believe that when our gamers address the seven points above, or gaming will be on par with any other nation.

Wednesday 21 January 2015

The 7th IeSF eSports World Championships

International e-Sports Federation (IeSF) has announced that IeSF selected the primary official games to be played in the 7th e-Sports World Championships 2015 which is being held at Łódź, Poland. The primary official games are Counter-Strike Global Offensive (CS:GO) and DOTA 2 developed from Valve Corporation. 
43 National Federations of IeSF conducted the “Title Polling” for the 7th e-Sports World Championship 2015, regarding their current status of game and e-Sports from December, 2014 to early of January, 2015. Based on the result of the Title Polling Survey, IeSF Board has selected 2 games – CS:GO and DOTA 2, and decided to open the participation to all people regardless of gender, age or disabilities. These two games were mostly recommended by IeSF National Federations as the official game titles. The negotiation of DOTA 2 and CS:GO were finalized with Valve Corporation. 
DOTA 2 was one of the official game titles of the 6th e-Sports World Championship BAKU 2014. “NEWBEE”, the champion of “2014 The International” participated in the DOTA 2 competition as a representing team of China. The team provoked interests of all e-Sports fans by winning the 1st place in the competition. On the other hand, CS:GO was first selected as the official title for e-Sports World Championship with recommendation of most National Federations. CS:GO is the most popular game in Poland, the host country of the 7th e-Sports World Championship, so the host city, Łódź, Poland, also recommended CS:GO as the official game title. 

IeSF will select additional individual games after negotiation with Game Developers and make the 2nd announcement for all official and demonstration game titles in February, 2015.

Friday 16 January 2015

Are sponsors limiting the growth of eSports?

To date clans cluster around sponsors like hounds around the master who throws scraps to the baying pack to placate the insatiable demand.

All the scraps do is temporarily satiate the hunger pangs which quickly return and leave no real respite.

So does the current sponsorship of eSports. 

Clans sell their brands for little and the sponsorship thus received does little to promote growth of gaming in terms of the number of gamers, standard of gaming or even the long-term financial sustainability of gaming.
As a result the sponsors too feel they are under siege. As the clans yelp around the sponsors for sponsorship, the sponsors are acutely aware of the transient nature of the clans.

In business, any company that has not been in existence for at least ten years is considered to have a high rate of failing. Yet, it is only the clubs based at schools and universities have survived for more than ten years with very few exceptions.
Sponsors are also more than aware that most, if not all, clans have no legal status and are often nothing more that individuals operating as Sole-traders. 

The opportunity for sponsors to thus claim any sponsorship as social development in order to win much needed BEE points is thus negated, and the sponsors themselves are aware that such sponsorships should be treated by those clans as income in the hands of the owners of such clans.

Also, many of the sponsors are aware that many gamers will in fact not buy their products. Gamers are without doubt a very discerning breed when it comes to technology and will favour picking-and-choosing what they need to build up their 'rigs' rather than just buying a finished product.
The types of sponsorships received thus do little for long-term development. While it is nice for a clan to secure hardware for their top clan, such a sponsorship does little to promote gaming and the profitability of the sponsor itself.
And therein lies the rub!
Unless sponsors can see that by sponsoring eSports that they will do more business, it remains more profitable for sponsors to sponsor football, rugby, and/or cricket.
Everybody in eSports thus has a duty to ensure that the sponsors can and will do better.
This does not mean that everybody must run out and quickly start purchasing computers, screens and the such.
Instead, every gamer must help to make it possible for prospective sponsors to substantially increase sales.
One of the ways to do this is to simply tap into NATIONAL LOTTERY FUNDING (NDLTF).
Of course there are criteria that have to be followed in order to do this, but it can be done!
Any club affiliated to the MSSA can apply for up to R200,000.00 per annum. The monies can be spent on equipment, kit, travel and entry fees, but only if:
  • a. the club is affiliated to the recognized national federation, and
  • b. has at least three year's audited financial statements.
Through participating in the NDLTF in this way, gamers will be able to unlock substantial amounts which will benefit sponsors and sponsored alike.

The money received will be spent on purchasing new equipment, which will increase the amount of sales and will further encourage companies to commit larger amounts to sponsoring both clans and events.
The growth can thus be exponential as more and more money will be spent in the computer industry.
Remember that approximately R400 million is earmarked every year for sport – it is foolish not to take advantage of this gilded invitation.

By following this course of action, gamers will have taken the initiative in controlling the destiny of eSports in South Africa to become the masters of their own fate.

Tuesday 13 January 2015

SA Team Trials

The MSSA has put up the following on their facebook page:
Hot news:

If you play Dota 2 or CounterStrike GO, dust off your keyboards, flex your fingers, and get ready.

The IeSF has just advised members that Dota 2 and CounterStrike GO will both be played at the IeSF's 2015 World Championships.

The above is indeed good news!

Indeed this is good news!

CounterStrike is hugely popular in Europe and now at last South Africa can select an official MWEB sponsored Protea team to officially take on the best in the world.

But, just who will that team be?

The MSSA's very fair policy of qualification is simple. Players that finish in the top three positions (or the top twenty percent, whichever is greater) allows a number of players to qualify for the prestigious National Team Trials.

Added to the fact that all events held by the MSSA during a calendar year prior to the event count for delivering qualifiers, it means that there should be many gamers from which to choose. That means if Trials are to be held on 1 June 2015, then all the championships within the period 1 June 2014 to 1 June 2015 count for qualification purposes. In other words, 2014 Eastern Cape, 2014 KwaZulu, 2014 Western Cape, 2014 Free State, 2014 Limpopo, 2015 North West, 2014 Gauteng, 2015 Mpumalanga Provincial Championships, as well as the S A National LAN Championships, any Regional Championships within the period and the on-line championships would count for qualification purposes.

In other words a minimum of 25 teams would qualify for trials!

2015 is going to be a fun year!

Wednesday 7 January 2015

Putting SA on the eSports map

Without doubt no other organization in South Africa has done quite as much as Mind Sports South Africa  (MSSA) to put South Africa on the eSports gaming map.

"Really!", do I hear you exclaim?

"Yes, really!" I reply.

Let's look at the facts.

The MSSA sent teams across overseas as follows:

Team Sponsors
6th IeSF World Championships – Baku MWEB
IeSF Test Match vs Namibia MWEB
IeSF Test Match vs Finland MWEB
IeSF Test Match vs Egypt MWEB
IeSF World Championships - Bucharest MWEB, ROCCAT
DreamHack - Bucharest MWEB, GIGABYTE
IeSF Trination Match vs Denmark & Israel MWEB, ROCCAT
IeSF Test Match vs Mexico MWEB, ROCCAT
IeSF Test Match vs Romania MWEB, ROCCAT
IeSF LAN Test Match vs Romania (SCII) - Jhb Megarom, Internet Solutions, AMD
ESL's Nation's Cup GIGABYTE
IeSF World Championships - Cheonan GIGABYTE
ESL's Nation's Cup GIGABYTE
IeSF World Championships - Andong Blizzard
IeSMOD World Championships - JeJu Blizzard
LG Mobile World Championships – New York LG
World Cyber Games – San Fransisco SAMSUNG
IeSF World Championships - Daegu Blizzard, ASUS
LAN Test Match vs Namibia - Windhoek ASUS
LG Mobile World Championships – New York LG
World Cyber Games – Chendu SAMSUNG
DreamHack - Denmark ASUS, Incredible Connection
IeSF World Championships - Taebeck ASUS, Incredible Connection
Hyundai FIFA '09 Challenge Hyundai, ASUS, Incredible Connection
African Continental Championships - Jhb MSSA, ACER
World Cyber Games - Seattle SAMSUNG
Asian Championships - Taiwan EA
WCG – Busan Exactmobile, First National Bank

Of course none would have been possible without the sponsors as indicated. However, where the MSSA is mentioned in the sponsors column, it should be noted that these events were entirely self-funded by the MSSA.

The cost and effort of getting teams overseas is truly monumental and the dedication shown by the MSSA is truly admirable.

It is no wonder that South Africa is now ranked 13th in the world.

Thus despite anybody else's protestations, the only body that has really tried to get South Africans into serious on-line competition is - the MSSA