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. :)

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