Saturday, 16 April 2016

Entitlement to an opinion doesn't necessarily warrant sharing one

Yesterday Apple announced that they had teamed up with a bunch of developers to promote an Earth Day charity in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

This promotion enables Apple customers to support the charity by making purchases across 27 games available on iOS. It's a great initiative because all of the money from these purchases is donated to WWF.

Among those games, is Hearthstone. A game which is also available on other devices and platforms. Blizzard announced the promotion on their Facebook page, and the response from their "loyal fans" has been shameful.

Note that at the time of writing this, these are the Hero skins available for Hearthstone:

Mage: Medivh
Warrior: Magni
Hunter: Alleria
Paladin: Liadrin

The first 3 can be purchased from the Hearthstone store directly from Blizzard for $12.99 AUD.

The Paladin can be earned for free, by playing the World of WarCraft starter edition and leveling a character up to 20.

Obviously Blizzard has plans to release alternate heroes for all of their Hearthstone characters in the future, with each of them able to be purchased and a few promotional heroes on the side from time to time.

As part of this Apple charity promotion, iOS users can choose to purchase an alternate Mage skin from the store (for $4.99 AUD). Doing so allows the proceeds to go straight to WWF, and the iOS customers get a shiny new skin: the Mage, Khadgar.

Why another Mage? Well, it's pretty obvious. If they introduced an alternate skin for a class which didn't already have an alternate skin, and locked it behind a limited time Apple promotion, the internet would literally implode. "Finally Blizzard introduces a Shaman skin, but I don't own an iPhone. WTF BLIZZARD?!?!" etc etc.

So instead of commending Blizzard and Apple for delivering this promotion for a great cause, we get the following:

I guess next time Blizzard should say, 

"No, sorry Apple. We don't want to help you raise money for a good cause. Gamers don't like that."

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Full Circle

A few years have passed since I've used this blog. The last opportunity I had to write something was November 2013 - ironically the opening line was complaining about how life had become too busy to write anymore. I never published the piece. This happens more often than not, actually. At least 70% of the stuff I write, I don't end up publishing. 


Most of the time, I spend hours, days or weeks writing these posts. Upon review, the pace and tone of my writing changes so many times that it's hard to fixate on a specific topic/point during reading. It feels like you're reading something that was written by half a dozen different people because the mood, perspective or influence has passed. 

Anyway. The reason we're revisiting this page is simply because I don't have a better avenue on hand. What I want to share is too much for a Tweet, and although I traditionally would have posted these sorts of announcements on CyberGamer XBox (RIP) - this piece is probably a little too personal.

Lastnight, we announced the addition of Vilesyder and Macka to the Nv CoD roster. This is so exciting to me for a multitude of reasons. I'll endeavour to touch on them in no particular order.

The Nv CoD crew have been struggling for a long time. Since Paraa retired at the end of Black Ops 2, we've been trying to find a 4th that fit the team. Unfortunately the stability of the team spiraled out of control throughout Ghosts and Advanced Warfare. Renzy came on board for a few days, but he didn't feel the chemistry he felt with his previous crew. Maljy stuck with us for a long time, and I really enjoyed having him on board. Beastn also performed extremely well on our roster, and it was a pleasure to have him with us. We regrettably saw the team's captain (Puzz) step down to a sub role due to academic priorities. 

We lost all of these great people over the past few years because no matter how dedicated your core 3 are, you can't succeed with a perpetual sub in your 4th position. I feel sympathetic and apologetic towards players as talented and ambitious as Beastn who truly tried his hardest to bring the Nv roster to new heights. Right place, wrong time I guess.

So I guess what I'm saying is - I'm thrilled to say we finally have a solid roster of 4 dedicated players for the first time in 2 years. I won't sugarcoat it: my expectations haven't been tremendously high for them since the sky started falling. I'm a realist. I understand that it's difficult to perform when you're constantly struggling to practice/scrim without a static body. And funnily enough, they still continued to exceed my expectations from time to time.

I know what you're thinking. I've heard it hundreds of times.

"Why keep them around?"

It's becoming more and more difficult to justify my role in this "industry" as it has grown over the years. My mantra from day 1 has always been to provide opportunities to talented gamers who deserve them. And those are very delicately selected words. My definition of deserving doesn't seem to align with the rest of the eSports world anymore. These days, you only deserve opportunities if you're the best. No-one cares if you're a rude, loud-mouthed, disrespectful piece of shit anymore. If you attract viewers or win tournaments, you're gonna be spoonfed. It's not always about winning to me. It never has been. It's bigger than that. It's about creating ambassadors. Figureheads for future generations to look up to and aspire to. 

I can hardly claim responsibility for more than 5% of it, but mOOnGLaDe is one of these biggest success stories. He's slugged it out and fought down a long and difficult path to get where he is today. Now he's living comfortably in Korea and being paid to broadcast top tier eSports to the world every week. It makes me so happy to see him succeed and it has been so rewarding to have helped him in every way I could. People respect and admire him and he sets a shining example of what we hope to achieve with every single gamer we bring on board.

So why keep them around? If these roster issues were happening 2 months after we brought them on board, it might be a different story. But these guys have earned it. They've been loyal to me, and we've built a strong relationship together. They're not just faceless gamers I'm throwing money at in the hopes of making some sort of ROI. They're friends. Family. They've respected me and what I've built, and I owe the same respect to them. Fergz and Claw have been fighting hard to bring this team back up to the top. They've shown maturity, honesty and resilience when most people would have thrown in the towel and found new teams a long time ago.

27 teams have approached me specifically with the intent of replacing the existing Nv CoD roster. Most of these applications happened in the last 6 months. On one hand, it's flattering and uplifting to receive so much attention. But on the other hand - these people are approaching me because they want to inherit the brand and opportunities which their predecessors worked hard to build. It's kinda disrespectful when someone says, "Hey, wanna kick out your current team and bring us on board instead? We'll deliver stronger results." It's especially disrespectful when I take a 2 minute glance at their tweet history and I see rampant unprovoked attacks against other players for their appearance, race, gender and best of all - badmouthing Nv. Results aren't everything.

So that's my justification and I hope that most people can relate to it. As corporate as this industry has become, at the end of the day it all originates with playing games with your mates and having fun. As teams are heartlessly deconstructed and re-assembled all around us, it's important to remember why we all started down this path to begin with. Some people/organisations/whatever have different goals. They want to profit from eSports. Good luck to them, but that's not what we're about.

So on the topic of deserving individuals. Let me tell you an origins story about Nv CoD - and why I'm so excited to (finally!) have Vilesyder on board.

At some point during the Black Ops 2 season, someone raised the idea of expanding Nv. I had never really considered it before. We were a StarCraft team. We never expected to be more than that. But I started researching and observing the Australian CoD community and absorbing as much information as I could. My girlfriend and I even put together a scrappy little roster of friends and entered in some tournaments. We played in ACL Online Rounds and CG Ladders. We won some games, and we had our asses handed to us. It was a fun and educational experience to get a taste competitive Call of Duty. But most importantly, it gave me a lot of perspective. By immersing myself in the competitive scene, I was able to make a more informed decision about who was going to represent the brand. As history dictates, we ended up going with Puzz & co.

But along the way, I had my eye on one team in particular. Cruelty Incarnate. 

By pure co-incidence, every single time my friends and I competed in an ACL Online Round, we got matched up against Vilesyder & Co in the first or second round. And we got utterly stomped. They were so good. But more importantly (to me), they were such good sports about it. They were always friendly and respectful. They were always welcoming and understanding when I was figuring everything out and learning the ropes. And no matter how hard they destroyed us, Vilesyder was always humble after every victory - offering words of encouragement and advice. In the shortest time imaginable, he had solidified himself in my mind as the most polite and respectable person in the Australian Call of Duty community.

I was a regular guest on a weekly StarCraft 2 "talk show" back in the day, and one of the more popular topics of discussion would always be how people behaved at the top level of the industry. Even though it was a StarCraft show, I would frequently reference the outstanding display of sportsmanship by Vilesyder to the other guests. I distinctly recall comparing him to Grubby at one point. I guess I've never really made it a secret that I'm his biggest fan.

So why didn't we choose Vilesyder & co instead of Puzz & co?

Well, for one thing, I'm pretty iffy when it comes to poaching players/teams from other organisations. And although Ci didn't really fit this definition, they were established and well represented. I felt like they were already on a path to success and my biggest concern was that I wouldn't be able to offer anything to match their value. The last thing I wanted to do was take a championship-level team and hold them back. I've always enjoyed seeking out lesser-known players and promoting them from a grassroots level, and I feel like we accomplished that in the end. Puzz, Claw, Fergz, etc built up their own successful brand, and Vilesyder's team went on to come 2nd/3rd in like every tournament, ever. :)

So here we are. 
3 years later. 
The team that we worked hard to build.
And the team that originally convinced me that not everyone in the Australian Call of Duty community wants to bang my mother.
Meeting in the middle with a bright future and my full support.

It's not all sunshine and rainbows yet though. Some members in this new roster have some big personal challenges to defeat before they can fully commit to playing at a competitive level. Study, work, difficult schedules and relocation are some of the obstacles that the squad will need to overcome over the next 6 months. 

But once the dust has settled, I look forward to watching PLT.Nv in the Red and their sister team PLT.MF in the Blue - going head to head in Black Ops 3.

It's a good year to be a spectator. :)

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Inflation We Trust

Today I witnessed an online conversation which sparked some very concerning thoughts. I'm not going to quote anyone or name names, but this is the gist of it. An individual initiates a public discussion about how he would best spend X amount of dollars if he had the opportunity. His choice was eSports, and he projected some loose ideals for public consumption.

There were two angles of reception.

The first - fellow enthusiasts who had different ideas about how they would approach the situation. They engaged the conversation and traded opinions. It was unfounded, but productive discussion.

The second - self-proclaimed veterans of the industry who shut him down pretty hard. His ideas were burned and his suggestions were belittled. He quite clearly didn't have a rounded appreciation for what he wanted to (theoretically) accomplish. He lacked planning and understanding. He wasn't aware of the logistics involved. So apparently that justifies attacking him.

Now here's the thing. The people who attacked him were nowhere to be found 2 years ago. Amongst the wave of enthusiasts who appeared on the radar in 2011, they have since attended some LAN's, commentated some games and even co-ordinated an online event here and there. Somewhere along the line, this translates into, "Spending the last few years growing the scene."

I'm in no position to challenge anyone on what they have or haven't done, but what this DOES highlight is that there is a distinct lack of transparency on the other side of the coin. In previous blogs, I've demonstrated financial transparency as far as teams and events goes. But when it comes to event management, commentators, etc - most of what we know about people and organisations is spread by word of mouth and absorbed via diffusion. The closest thing we have to a "directory" of stakeholders is Liquipedia, for those who take the time to update it.

Look at it this way. If I ask you who some of the more prominent commentators are in the StarCraft community, you'll say - Tasteless, Artosis, Day9, Apollo, Kaelaris, TotalBiscuit, etc, etc, etc.

If you asked me who the prominent commentators are in the League of Legends scene, I'd say... PastryTime and Papa... something? I can't even remember his name. It's not in my scope of interest. The name... MonteCristo also comes to mind. I think he does ProLeague or something. I dunno. The only reason I know of PastryTime is because his name was all over Twitter for like a whole year and I've had a few chats with him here and there.

So now this creates a problem. What if an enthusiast discovers eSports tomorrow, and asks me a bunch of questions on a very broad spectrum. I can't help him. I don't know all the answers, and they're not very well documented either. Finding good quality information in this industry requires a lot of time, networking and research.

So I'd like to fix this problem. Over the next few weeks/months, I'm going to be reaching out to those who have contributed to eSports. Whether it's running tournaments, social media, commentary, whatever. Doesn't matter. I want to touch base with all of you. And I want to build a directory akin to LinkedIn - dedicated to eSports. And if you see someone in the public eye and you're not really sure what role they've played in the industry, you can simply look them up in this directory and see a list of their contributions (note: I deliberately avoided using the word accomplishments, it's so frustratingly far out of context).

For people who read this and would like to take the initiative, feel free to e-mail me via and we can get the ball rolling. Ultimately, I'd like to present YOU to the industry in a very professional and transparent manner. Consider this your opportunity to build an eSports resume. All you need to do is provide me with a list of events & dates, followed by what your involvement was. Here's one of mine off the top of my head, for example:

August 10 - 12, 2012
WCS Australia & Oceania
- Developed a stream schedule & liaised with Blizzard, commentators & the ACLPro production team
- Co-ordinated the bracket and player management
- Stage commentary
- Player equipment & technical assistance
- Social Media (Twitter)
- Co-ordinated 4 qualifying events (ACL Melbourne Nationals, Brisbane Regionals, Melbourne Regionals, Adelaide Regionals)

I don't expect many people to actually read this and take the initiative, so I'll be chasing people down soon enough. All I can ask is that you please co-operate and take the time to provide this information because ultimately, it's for you own benefit and marketability!

Check back soon for updates on the project.

EDIT: Wow, overwhelmingly positive response already. So many emails! Could I please also ask people to submit a photograph? Thanks! <3

Friday, 10 May 2013

Armchair Experts and Sideliners

I don't know when it started happening.

Once upon a time, gamers were openly oblivious to the inner workings of competitive gaming (read: eSports). They didn't want to know, and more importantly, they didn't pretend to know. These days it seems like the smallest incident in eSports can prompt an avalanche of "matter-of-fact" statements from self-important experts. Whether it's a player joining a new team, an event being cancelled or a rumour about a commentator, people are quick to allude to having inside information - but of course, they can't divulge. They're sworn to secrecy on the details. Look at it this way. There are few secrets in eSports. I mean, all the best-kept secrets are leaked and announced far ahead of schedule. Typically if you think you know a secret, there's a very good chance at least 100 other people are in the loop as well.

So anyway. It's getting embarrassing to see how often we see "ROI" and "business model" thrown around these days. I appreciate that there are some gamers out there who are studying a degree in business/marketing... but come on. Really? Does this somehow unlock the mysterious gift to see the operational costs of organisations and people you've never even spoken to?

I guess the worst part is that when people are asked to provide sources, they cite anonymous Reddit comments as "public knowledge", which pretty much goes to show that if you repeat a lie enough times, it will inevitably become a truth.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm not claiming to know shit about anything. I'm as clueless and oblivious as the next guy. The only difference is that I've been around long enough to learn a few things.

Unrelated side note: Just saw this article pop up in my twitter feed. It's a pretty powerful article on sexism and objectification of women in gaming/online culture. We all know about it. We see it every day. But take the time to read and acknowledge the issue for what it's worth.

Migrating back to the point (or somewhere close to it, anyway) - for whatever reason, people have invited me to be part of numerous Skype/Facebook/E-Mail groups between Event Managers and Team Managers. These groups are supposed to provide a unified communication platform for key figures to help progress eSports forwards. Why should 10 smaller organisations run about tripping over eachother with their own hazy objectives when they can work together for the greater good?

Unfortunately this is all very utopian. In the last 2 years, I've never seen anything productive emerge from these chat groups. As over-used as the phrase is these days, the term "circlejerking" truly does apply in most of these scenarios.

Every time I see someone flashing their title of "Executive Director" or "Chairman" or CEO" in eSports it drives me mad. A very high number of these people aren't even representing physical entities. Me included. Nv is not a registered company. It's just something I created in photoshop last year. Why are people so eager to inflate their own importance in an industry of volunteers?

I recently witnessed an individual who applied for an Assistant Manager (lol titles) role with an international team. He was brought on for a week or so, then dismissed because his attitude/skills/experience were lacking. Within 48 hours, he applied for another team, citing the previous team as his resume. Without question, he was added to the management of one of the worlds' most reputable and successful eSports teams.

Within 12 hours of being added to this new team, he was already badmouthing and acting (overly) condescending to other teams' managers in one of these Skype channels. When veterans of the scene challenged these comments, he rode the coattails of his new-found position to justify his attacks - suggesting that "everyone could learn a lot from him if they just shut up and listened." He went on to credit himself for the success of a player who has been on the team 2 years before he joined.


It's now been over two weeks since I started writing this blog, so my train of thought has derailed significantly. I've deleted a lot of stuff 'cos I wasn't sure where I was going with it. As strange as it may be, the announcement of Greg "IdrA" Fields being released from Evil Geniuses yesterday sparked quite a lot of "relevant" discussion in the aforementioned group chats. Everyone was quick to justify EG's decision by fabricating measurements of "Net Gains" vs "Net Losses" for having IdrA on the team. I highlighted that once someone starts e-mailing your sponsors, your hands are tied. You can only take one course of action, otherwise you risk losing that sponsorship contract. (See the whole Orb scenario. Pitchforks are a powerful entity.)

The responses took me down a very educational path. In a group conversation with over 120 global team managers, the vocal majority had absolutely no idea what they were talking about. The words "I assume" came up a lot. People actually suggested that e-mailing sponsors does nothing at all, because "Sponsors are in touch with the community. They follow tournaments/players very closely and pay attention to what they're investing their money into."

Now before I continue, I just have to say two things.
1) A high number of CheekyDuck supporters sent a LOT of angry e-mails to our (Team Nv's) sponsors. This was a very difficult challenge for us to overcome. It doesn't matter that the allegations were fabricated and retracted.
2) Our sponsors don't go around reading ridiculous drama threads on Reddit and Team Liquid. They operate their business and divide their marketing budget between whatever campaigns might bring the widest exposure. Duh. Everyone knows this. But they sure as hell don't sit around watching streams, reading Reddit and staying 100% informed.

There are exceptions of course. Companies like Tt eSports; with a very obviously defined market; have community managers postured for this purpose. But in most cases, your sponsors won't even be able to tell you the 3 races in StarCraft 2. The guy who signs all the money over from Plantronics sure as hell doesn't understand a damn thing about the game. It's not his job. His job is increasing sales and marketability. So when he receives numerous e-mails saying stuff like, "My friends and I will not support or purchase anything from your company in future. You want to know why? Because you support and sponsor Team Nv which are a bunch of liars, cheaters and thieves. Most of which is their "self-promoting" manager Derek "Dox" Reball. He destroys reputations of other individuals, he lies and does not uphold contracts, and most of all he frauds his team and sponsors of valuable sponsorship money", you can imagine how he might start to reconsider where his money is going. It doesn't matter if it's true or not. The fact is, they're losing prospective sales and something needs to be done about it.

So we can safely assume EG generates about 14 bajillion times more traffic than Team Nv does. Which means 14 bajillion more angry e-mails. This is something sponsors cannot ignore. In my case, you do what you can to defend yourself from the allegations and clarify the situation with the sponsor, and you hope for the best. But sometimes that's not enough. Sometimes you can't convince them to turn a blind eye. It might have worked for me, but it sure as hell didn't work for IdrA. And that's really unfortunate.

Now I don't really want to talk much about the IdrA situation. Everyone has an opinion and none of them really matter. It's his life, his dilemma and none of us are in a position to judge. But I will say this. Repercussions were necessary - yes. I personally feel like removing him from the team was over the top, but on the flipside, this sort of behaviour would not be tolerated in any other professional environment, so it's hard to expect otherwise. If the decision was ultimately EG's, I'd feel a little more comfortable about it. But knowing that they were pushed into it by the community is disappointing.

"We do ourselves a great disservice when we let the bitter opinions of others 
mingle and subvert our own thoughts."
- Dodinsky

So anyway, when you're trying to write a blog in short bursts over the course of multiple weeks, it's pretty difficult to maintain traction. I had a lot I wanted to say about all the self-proclaimed marketing experts in the community, but I honestly think I can wrap it up here. Following on from that group conversation regarding IdrA, sponsors, etc, people started to suggest that sponsors want the most bizarre information from the teams/players they support, such as the Age and Sex distribution of their fans, their spendable income distribution (what), and which of their products are making mothers angry (what).

I was so grateful when someone from our own community stepped in and asked the question:

"Does anyone here actually run a sponsored gaming team? What are your experiences in sponsor relations? Or is all of this just theory and speculation?"

Not a single person replied, the conversation dissolved immediately.

Friday, 12 April 2013

eSports doesn't grow on trees

Lastnight my girlfriend & I were on our way to the airport to pick up her parents, and I had a bit of time to think while I was in the car. Among other things, I contemplated the irony writing a blog (at work) about how I sacrificed my career in 2012. Probably not the smartest move. This is one of my biggest challenges though. There isn't enough spare time in each day to make any progress with eSports. My usual work day begins at 6:00AM, and by the time I get home, cook dinner & eat, it's usually somewhere around 9:00PM.

This leaves me with a very limited opportunity to squeeze in any "eSports work" (I put that in quotes because it actually sounds ridiculous, I'll revisit this later). I can either commit 100% of my 'leisure' time, or try and make time during the day. More often than not, whenever you receive an e-mail or a tweet from me, it's because I'm on my lunch break at work, trying to cram in as much as possible.

The struggle is (especially these days) that I care more about eSports than my job. My job is important. It sustains me, my girlfriend, and my team.But all it is to me is a means to an end. It enables my true passion, to a significant detriment. Self-sufficiency and sustainability are very key elements to operating any eSports organisation. Whether you're running teams, events, or even flying solo (ie. Grubby), one capital investment can only take you so far. And when that dries up, you'd better hope that you have -
a) Successfully built a contingency / supplement (ie. Additional sponsors/investors)
b) Unlocked the secret to self-sufficiency.

Now it all sounds very obvious, but let's just focus on (b) again for a second. For someone like Grubby, that eats up a lot of time. You need to find the time to play the game, and continue improving. Despite popular belief, this means a lot of time spent OUT of the game as well. Studying replays, watching streams, discussing theory with like-minded individuals. Then you need to find the time to market yourself. Any sustainable operation needs numbers to spin the wheel. That's why you see Grubby engaging the community so actively. He's like, the ultimate eSports ambassador. But that's not all. Being famous and successful is only two-thirds of the pie. Or cake. I like cake better.

Becoming a brand ambassador is actually really time consuming. You need to source contacts; typically the marketing department of an organisation. Then you send off e-mails with proposals, backed up by lots of impressive stats and figures which demonstrate a convincing ROI. Most the time, you just get ignored. They don't even bother responding to your e-mail. (Well, in my case, anyway. I'll write another separate blog about this later. This is actually the subject that prompted me to start this blog series in the first place.)

When you eventually get through to the lowly marketing guy, he needs to pitch it to his boss, who needs to discuss it with his colleagues, and this whole internal marketing process is completely out of your hands. You just have to hope and pray that the guy trying to sell your "product" to the company knows how to do it right.

So you've successfully convinced this company to adjust their marketing budget to include you/your event/your team. But they're cautious. This is an infantile industry without much of a precedent. They're not gonna commit to a large figure on day 1. You need to start small, ask for a minuscule amount and spend 6-12 months building your rapport with that organisation. You need to report back to them at regular intervals with stats demonstrating your value to them. If you've played your cards right, they're gonna be overwhelmed by the actual value of the sponsorship. And now it's time to actually start reaping the benefits.

So as you can see, there's a lot of "shit kicking" involved as far as establishment goes. You need to (grossly) under-sell yourself to begin with, just to overcome the necessary trust boundaries. And I mean, there's nothing wrong with that, right? If the shoe were on the other foot, would you blindly commit your valuable time/money/resources to someone who might sound promising on paper, but doesn't walk the walk? That's not even business, it's just human nature.

But this is a fundamental process a lot of gamers/organisations are struggling with. There is a lot of greed and self-entitlement in eSports. It's all "Me, me, me" and "Now, now, now." More often than not, we see ambitious ventures of confident individuals/organisations full of promise, only to dissolve within a few months. Because they don't have the foresight or patience to overcome those first few hurdles. People see others around them succeeding and they want a piece of the... cake. They study a 3 month-wide industrial snapshot  and don't understand what separates them from their peers.

A large number of ambitious eSports enthusiasts who popped up in 2011 (and that right there is another blog topic for another time!) decide they want to emulate the success of Evil Geniuses or Major League Gaming. They know what needs to be done, but they expect to move from A to Z in a matter of months. They're oblivious to the years of "shit kicking" (as described earlier) these organisations have already striven through to get where they are. (Let's just choose to ignore the MLG sustainability issue for the time being)

I could write a lot more on the subject but I think for the most part, I'd be unnecessarily delivering the fatal blow to a battered horse. You get my point. It's an exhausting process I've been part of so many times. Everything from online communities and team leagues to WCG and ACL. It's a hard challenge to overcome. It generally requires a ridiculous amount of capital before you even have a product worth sponsoring. And if you played your cards right, you somehow found the time to actually engage prospective partners somewhere along the way. But this is all very Utopian. Because it's hard enough to keep up with the logistics of running an event/team, let-alone carting yourself around the city/country/world to present your product to companies. And you might say, "Well why not just get some help? Why not just pick up a marketing guy to do that for you?"

Well, there are a lot of challenges right there. How can you be sure that your product is being marketed adequately? You can't just go to an external marketing organisation and trust them to sell "eSports". The industry/product is so young and un-developed that it's very hard to sell without intimate knowledge. I mean, look at the plethora of marketing organisations who have attempted to pick up eSports events and run with them. TLS/WCG, anyone? And besides, you've invested so much of your own time and money into it. You're gonna be protective of it. You're not gonna let anyone else represent it. Another problem is nobody does anything for free. I mean, back in my day, everyone was a volunteer. These days, you see people wanting to be paid for fucking everything. A few days ago I heard that PastryTime (Australian League of Legends commentator) is now charging for his services. I haven't actually chased up confirmation, so if this is incorrect, I apologise. But if it's true, then this is a perfect example of the wrong way to proceed in this industry.

It's perfectly acceptable to be compensated for your time and work in the real world. However, in an industry so deep in the red like this, it's just greedy. I understand that he's a big star, and deserves to be paid. But hey, so do thousands of other volunteers in the industry. If someone OFFERS to pay you for your services, then by all means, be my guest. But don't actively expect people to pay a ridiculous fee for you to sit at your computer and talk about a video game. It's selfish. Hell, it's disrespectful to the industry. People like DJWheat provided such a service to the industry at a detriment to himself long before the modern generation of eSports had touched a keyboard.

So anyway, back to my point. In over 10 years, I've rarely come across a reliable volunteer. The ambition and passion people people demonstrate tends to evaporate pretty quickly when they discover how unrewarding eSports can be. And can you blame them? You have players and commentators garnering fans & praise left and right, while the guy behind the scenes isn't even acknowledged. I gave the following example on a SEA Podcast a few weeks ago. Do you know who Metallica is? Of course you do. Do you know James Hetfield? Probably. (He's the Metallica front-man.)

Now answer me this. Do you know who Metallica's manager is? Who their agent is? Who co-ordinates their travel and itinerary? Yeah. Now the difference is, these people stick around because they're getting paid; they're not volunteers. In eSports, the same model doesn't hold up. The other frustrating part is that MOST people get involved with eSports because they want the (perceived) fame and glamour. It's something they can do from the comfort of their bedroom (for the most part) and reap validation.

Volunteers are a dying breed in eSports, especially as commentators/personalities/players become more and more successful. So whilst the industry appears to be developing, it's actually taking two steps forward, and one step back. I know that's a very general statement, but it's mostly true across the board. There are bound to be exceptions across the industry, but not necessarily within StarCraft.

Anywho, I've gone on a bit of a tangent. These are all blog topics I'm happy to cover at a later date. If we travel back in time 3 or 4 paragraphs, I was highlighting the fact that even if you do manage to kick the mandatory shit, it's hard to ensure you've ticked all the right boxes along the way to obtain that mythical sustainability. I might need to expand on this further in a future blog because:

1) This single topic has become ridiculously long. I'm actually really bad at staying on topic when writing. I'll often branch out in twenty different tangents, then have to do a shit load of editing.
2) I have to go and pick up the Nv guys from the airport in less than an hour, and I'll be heading to sleep after dropping them off at their hotel. I don't want to hold off on publishing this blog for another day because I've got more to say. If I did that, I'd never release anything.

So I'll just leave it there for now, and share with you - the shit kicking journey of Nv. I just want to preface by saying that I could have managed this budget much, much better. But hey, it was my money so I was comfortable with trading affordability for luxury. I'm less inclined to do this with other peoples' money though. Also note that my own flights & accommodation were never factored into the team budget. This was at my own expense.

ACL Sydney 2012
FLIGHTS - Pinder, deth, Dox - $501
FLIGHTS - mOOnGLaDe - $255
FLIGHTS - YoonYJ - $185

APL Sydney Showmatch 2012
FLIGHTS - mOOnGLaDe - $230

ACL Melbourne 2012
FLIGHTS - mOOnGLaDe, Dox, Livibee - $814
FLIGHTS - YoonYJ - $273
FLIGHTS - Rossi - $246
ACCOMMODATION - 3x 2BDR - $1,431

IEM Cologne 2012
FLIGHTS - mOOnGLaDe - $1,695

EB Expo 2012 (Olympic Park is very expensive)
FLIGHTS - mOOnGLaDe, JazBas, Dox - $1,218
ACCOMMODATION - 3x 2BDR - $2,986

IEM Guangzhou 2012 (This event was cancelled, still haven't received refund from ESL)
FLIGHTS - mOOnGLaDe - $1,370

MLG Dallas 2012
FLIGHTS - Rossi, deth, Dox, mOOnGLaDe, YoonYJ - $7,795
ACCOMMODATION - 3x 3BDR - $3,225

MISC 2012
Hoodies, web hosting, taxi's, consumables, event entry fees etc - $2,600

* The accommodation notes above won't make sense, I haven't specified how many nights they're for. Sometimes they're 3 nights, sometimes they're 5. Just roll with it.
** I could have saved a LOT of money if I really wanted to. For example, we didn't need to stay at Olympic Park for EB Expo. We could have stayed in the suburbs and caught trains/taxi's in. But I value the comfort of the players, and being able to stay at the venue is very important. I maintained a reasonable balance for flights though.
*** All of this came out of my own pocket. I was reimbursed $2,500 by GAMECOM, and they paid for Andy's trip to IEM Poland.
**** As a result of this capital investment, GAMECOM has provided us with an EXTREMELY generous deal for our 2nd year.
***** 15/04 EDIT: I copy/pasted the whole list from a spreadsheet which lists all of my expenditure for 2012. In the spreadsheet, there is an additional column which didn't make it into this blog. I just need to make it 100% clear that Livibee paid me back ($282) for the flight to/from ACL Melbourne in 2012. Apparently this confusion has caused a lot of drama.

Gotta head to the airport now. Shall write again tomorrow.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013


Paleontology or palaeontology (pron.: /ˌplɪɒnˈtɒləi/) is the scientific study of prehistoric life

Sounds like a reasonably accurate approach to an "About Me" section, right? Heh.

If you already know who I am, feel free to skip this whole section and move on to the next blog. Otherwise, this might help shed some light on why I feel entitled to an opinion among this swirling ocean of differing views.

Well, truth be told. I'm not that old. By societal measurements, anyway. But when you've been actively pursuing something for 13 years of your life and watched as 3 generations of enthusiasts come & go, you can't help but feel weathered. 

I'm 28 years old. Making reasonable progress towards 29. At this rate, I anticipate a safe arrival. 

In 1999, a 14 year old who went by the online ID of "VVoLF", discovered competitive gaming. It was this niche phenomenon which existed almost exclusively in South Korea, as teenagers and young adults would face off on a stage wearing 70's-esque space suits in a game of StarCraft. I wanted to know more, but information was difficult to come by. These were the days before Reddit, TeamLiquid, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and even Google. My Altavista searches didn't yield tremendous results. 

It was around this time that I discovered my passion for graphic & web design. I was always looking for excuses to put web sites together, so I created a site called "SCABC" - The StarCraft Australian Community. The focus of this site was nothing more than social. We provided an avenue for StarCraft players to hang out and discuss this game they were all passionate about.

One thing lead to another, and with the release of the Brood War expansion pack, I naturally migrated the community to a new site - the BWABC. The infamous "Aus-1" private server was established somewhere amongst all this, and BWABC quickly became the stepping stone to Aus-1, where the very best of BWABC would aspire to face the likes of clans like DaG, MT, crap and many more.

The next year happened very, very quickly. Somewhere along the line, I met Joel / Fester, who noticed I'd been running a lot of tournaments at BWABC. He asked me to come on board with the WCGC - the World Cyber Games Challenge, which was a kind of "dry run" at running a "Cyber-Olympics" event. It wasn't advertised very much because they just wanted to do a practice run. My role was to develop competitive rule sets and brackets for the StarCraft events because there was no precedent for this sort of thing. I interacted with the community to ensure we used the proper maps, and developed the fairest format/bracket.

It was a huge hit. 1 year later, we launched the first official World Cyber Games event. All throughout the year I was bouncing back and forth between high school and flying around the country for events. As soon as I finished school, I packed a suitcase and flew to Sydney, so that I could work more on WCG via iStarZone HQ. I discovered that running an event of this magnitude was practically a full-time job. Even in the off-season, there was so much to do. Web design, articles, asset management & preparation. Sponsor & peripheral acquisition, and lots of content, planning, blah blah blah. I spent my 9 to 5 working in the office downstairs working on WCG, and then I'd work the graveyard shift in the internet cafe upstairs. I honestly don't remember sleeping much. I don't recall being tired either. Man, I miss my youth.

Anyway. I moved on to WarCraft 3 when it was released, and co-founded two incredibly successful websites - (now and (no longer online). The former was where I met so many awesome people such as JacziE, Bunny, KidArticA, DemusliM and so many more who went on to work at Blizzard, SK Gaming and become professional gamers. was also founded at the same time.

I took it upon myself to build a competitive scene for WarCraft 3 in Australia, and co-ordinated numerous national & international championships such as WCG, ACON4, ACON5, CPL, ESWC, the Blizzard Worldwide Invitational, IHS Games and countless smaller online & offline tournaments. I also ran numerous events & coverage for Halo and Counter-Strike on behalf of CBN Media, Pantheon eSports Sydney Gamers League & iStarZone.

From 2005 onwards, there weren't many opportunities for competitive gamers in Australia. "eSports" (as it had started being labelled) was starting to dry up. A lot of companies had invested a lot of money and through the process of trial & error, they weren't satisfied with the ROI. Not to mention the global economy was on it's way straight to hell. By the time 2008 arrived, the only events I was operating were DotA tournaments for a bunch of high school kids at a local LAN cafe. We'd gone full circle.

I accepted that the short-lived trend of eSports had all but fizzled out, and eagerly anticipated the release of StarCraft 2 with all my fingers and toes crossed. In 2010, we saw an immense resurgence in the global eSports scene - bigger than ever before. Opportunities were as boundless as ever. It was time to start fresh with a new generation of gamers, a new title, and a new ID.

During the Wings of Liberty beta , I threw a few hundred dollars around to help generate competitive interest for Australians. This trend continued throughout the launch of the game as I offered my time and money up to numerous organisations in an attempt to plant the seeds of competitive gaming in Australia once more. Throughout the first year, I was running/covering events for CyberGamer, Team iCHOR (my old WarCraft 3 team), SC2SEA and WCG. Jumping back on board with WCG 10 years after I first started working for them was heartwarming at first. I quickly discovered that the company operating it was like so many before them though. Inexperience, disconnected and unprepared. Another WCG trainwreck ensued, but I did everything I could to make it as positive as possible for everyone involved.

I actually just wrote an enormous paragraph about some incidents that have occurred, before I realised I was going on one hell of a tangent. This is supposed to be a mundane history lesson, so I'll re-visit that stuff in a later blog.

In 2010, I ran the Invitational tournament, which was 100% online. I was running it between two separate computers in two different rooms in my house. The whole thing was basically me running back and forth between rooms taking map vetos, inviting and hosting games. I used my housemate's account & PC to run half the event, whilst using my own for the rest. It's kinda funny 'cos my housemate received a shout-out for helping to run the event on the official page. He was ecstatic, and he had no idea what he was being thanked for. Seriously, look it up. His name was "Beepy", in memory of the robot who dies in Nier (spoiler alert).

In 2011, I operated my own event: Dox Cup. Nothing too exciting, just a SEA event to remind & reward people that there was a reason to continue playing the game in the off seasons, and to gauge interest in participation. I threw in $500 of my own money and it was a pretty fun event. Later in the year, I got on board with co-ordinating my 4th Invitational. This one was hosted offline, at an internet cafe in Sydney. I had the pleasure of meeting my long-time friend JacziE, and one of the Blizzard_au guys named Nick O'Shae. He's really cool. At the end of 2011, I hosted my ultimate experiment: Dox Cup #2. $2,500 from my own pocket, a sweet list of international participants going head to head with the best in South East Asia. The event was cool and all, and the games were great. I showcased Maynarde to the world for the brilliant commentator I knew he could be. But the point was really missed, and the money was wasted. I was prepared to host a 3rd Dox Cup in 2012 with an even bigger prize pool, and offline components, but after seeing how hard this failed to meet my expectations, I was hesitant. (I'll go into detail in another blog)

I got on board with the ACL, formerly known as the "Australian Console League", to bring StarCraft to a new level of prestige in Australia. After operating their 2012 circuit on the Gold Coast, Sydney and Melbourne along with a dozen or so online & offline qualifiers, it became apparent that I couldn't keep up. My professional life was suffering because I wasn't able to commit to ACL 100%. I kept taking days off work so that I could manage and prepare these events. I decided to run the GameSpot Pro-Am, and after the World Championship Series, I announced I'd be parting ways with ACL. It was time to focus on my job and get my professional life in order.

I took one last day off for EB Expo, as I had agreed to be a guest speaker on the GameSpot eSports panel & help out at the GAMECOM booth. That was the last straw though. I arrived back in the office the day after EB Expo and discovered that I'd been fired. My $112K/a career (which I'd spent 6 years building) was down the drain. More on this in another blog later.

Two weeks after EB Expo, I took my StarCraft 2 team to MLG Dallas for the experience of a life time.

Now it's 2013, and I have a lot of stories to tell, lessons to share and mistakes to admit.


I know what you're thinking.

"eSports Dinosaur? What the hell?"

I was trying to come up with a title for the blog. I'm not a huge fan of unnecessarily dressing up a product. It's just a blog written by one irrelevant individual, nothing fancy, nothing special, nothing glamorous. It is what it is.

I tend to spend a lot of my time venting frustration in whatever direction is convenient. Sometimes it'll be towards a group of friends on Skype, who don't really care for what I'm rambling about. Sometimes it'll be my girlfriend, who is great for conversation, but ultimately all she can do is empathise and agree that sometimes, things are simply wrong in the world no matter how right you want them to be. Sometimes I'll even conduct an entire conversation within my own head (most commonly on the train to and from work) whereby I anticipate all of the possible responses and solutions to my own concerns, and follow them wherever they might lead. Y'know, it didn't seem very weird before. But now that it's in text... that's a pretty strange thing to do.

Anyway, psychological evaluations aside, I have a few objectives with this blog. Here they are, in no particular order. I do suspect that over time, I'll end up adding more things to the lists. Because I freakin' love lists.

1) To share these thoughts, concerns & ideas with a wider audience. Although I doubt the reader base will be particularly wide.
2) To elaborate on the issues I regularly raise on Twitter, Podcasts and whatever other avenues I frequent, and constructively document the resolution path to each one.
3) To hear what you have to say. Am I right in thinking we are facing some simple, fundamentally damaging issues? Or am I seeing things the wrong way?
4) To express thoughts and feelings on people, organisations and topics I haven't felt comfortable airing in other public avenues.

Join me on this journey and hopefully we both learn something!