Where are the eSport fans?
Despite being such a relatively new sporting community, the eSports world seems filled with drama locally. There are always accusation of this, that and the next thing, and every other article I see includes all kinds of crazy allegation. But where are the defenders? Where are the fans who will stand by their teams?
The latest controversies
This article had two catalysts. The first was this editorial by our local shout casting celebrity, Congo Kyle. In it, he looks at the Bravado Brawl and criticizes certain teams and players for not taking part. He uses the example of Energy eSports although implies that there were others – he says how great the tournament was to get exposure as well as practice against international teams.
While in principal I agree with him, I contacted Energy eSports and was informed that there were some general communication issues on both sides. They conceded that they should have hounded the organizers for exact times, but also said that they were under the impression that most of the games would be on Saturday and Sunday. In the end, they only found out exact times on Friday afternoon, by which time some of their players had already committed to other engagements for that evening.
I’m not going to blame Congo Kyle for calling these players out on a public forum – he obviously was upset and wanted for South Africa to do better at these events. However, I do think it’s important to understand that while gamers are fully expected to make sacrifices for their game, they need to know when those sacrifices are meant to take place. Neither side was really at fault in this, so we might not want to run around pointing fingers.
The second catalyst was this piece from Berzerk Gaming about a recent ban in the premier league of the DGL for Call of Duty: Ghosts. The ban was apparently based on someone cheating, and the writer points to the competitive and cutthroat nature of MultiGaming Organizations (MGOs) as the source of this problem – he argues that we need a cultural shift in gaming to prevent players from feeling forced to cheat in order to gain success at the DGL.
I contacted our friends at the DGL to ask them what had happened so that I could report to all of you. Upon looking into it, they informed me that there was most likely a false positive from Valve Anti-Cheat (VAC) resulting in a ban. The DGL automatically bans anyone with a VAC ban, but once it is resolved, the player/team would be fully re-instated.
So both of these events were storms in a teacup, but I noticed that the comments almost universally blamed the players, the MGOs and eSports in general – where were the people to defend it?
Where is the Suarez factor?
For those who do or don’t follow football, there was some controversy this week when Liverpool’s Uruguayan player, Suarez, seemed to bite another player. Some were calling for bans against Suarez, while Liverpool fans came out to defend their player – even though in this context he was actually playing for another team. On a similar note, I support the New York Knicks for basketball – I know they are awful at times, but I still support them no matter what. It’s been so many years since I actually watched the NBA that I have no idea who the players are, but I still support my team regardless.
eSports in South Africa is lacking in this area. Where were the fans to come out and defend their favorite players or teams? Why don’t we see people who spectated these events coming out in defense of South African eSports? Unfortunately, the answer is quite a sad one.
Losing the benefit of the doubt
We have written here before about the toxic nature of many competitive eSports. We’ve covered issues of racism, sexism, poor sportsmanship and generally unethical behavior. It appears to happen at all levels, across all platforms and games. There are videos that circulate the web of our local eSports pros hurling expletives at other players during LAN events, and it seems that on a regular basis I am informed of some or other trespass in eSports.
I doubt that we are the only country with this problem in eSports, and traditional sports often have just as much controversy. Perhaps it is a good sign that we are so outraged by it, then. Perhaps it means that as fans we hold our eSports athletes to a higher standard than other spectators do. However, this also means that when we hear negative things about eSports, we are inclined to just believe the worst. Rather than defend the players or teams, we shrug and write it off as yet another failing in our local eSports.
Where do we go from here?
The only way forward is truly to just support these events. To learn about the players and root for them based on something esoteric that makes you like them. I can’t tell you why I love Dendi so much and therefore support Na’Vi – maybe it’s because he’s quirky and funny, or maybe it’s because he’s the best solo-mid player in Dota – whatever the reason, I will root for Na’Vi regardless of how well they perform at The International. Who will you be supporting when the DGL finals roll around? Are you rooting for Energy eSports because you love that logo, or perhaps you want to egg on the rivalry between Bravado Blue and Bravado Emotion. Maybe you’re keen to find an underdog to support. Whatever it is, I think it’s high time that we started to rally behind specific teams or organizations – perhaps then their players will hold themselves to higher standards.