Response to SBS opinion article

As a reader of Elle Hardy’s article, it would raise fears of a forthcoming apocalypse all due to eSports players rolling out of their bucket chairs and waddling forth in a violent rage driven by feelings of isolation and persistent virginity.

As a father of a player, I can tell you that the expressed opinion runs for the negative and fails to actually seek to engage a community that is large in population, vocal, professional and ambitious. They are, in fact, the complete opposite of what was presented in the article.

I attended my first event with my son who was playing last year. We travelled to Sydney from Townsville and met in person for the first time his team. They did not need introductions as their talk in game and during the breaks had already established a camaraderie that is comparable to a football team. I know this as I have been taking him to play rugby league for years. His team, like some others had a female player, and due to the overt toxic masculinity that always seems to get blamed in games, Trish was the captain of the team.

The players are not shrinking violets, they base their opinions on your skills and passion, and are enthusiastic and dedicated semi-professionals, who would love to go further in the games they play.

By far, the greatest element that I picked up was how well the teams interacted in a tournament setting. A number of the players, who have been fortunate enough to travel the world to play the game were constantly engaging with new players when they found out who was the face behind the gamer tag. When a headset or controller wouldn’t work, assistance came from everywhere to help every player continue as far as their skills would let them. They want to play you at your best and see what you have got.

A second and probably more encouraging element was how the event was run. ESL Australia, A group of players who turned into solution providers, for coordinating the broadcasting of events like this, to the world. They had built the stages, integrated more electronics than a regional television station and managed the competition on a budget that was easily less than what the SBS Christmas party costs and they were the same team that brought Intel Extreme Masters (IEM) Sydney to the world and knocked it out of the park. The gaming industry spawned ESL Australia, but they made it equal to any event being presented anywhere.

Your article makes it feel like those who game, sit alone in a dark room, with no contact and missing all of the nourishing interactions that the hollow call for going to the pub every night for bad conversations and bad decisions. Presenting the players just like some pathetic character from a John Hughes film from the eighties. Stereotypes are not cool, I would have thought that SBS would be aware of this.

And this is where the key component of the article breaks down. That teams practice for 12-14 hours a day is pulled straight from an article written in 2009 about the StarCraft team houses in South Korea. It is impossible to play at the highest level for that length of time and the teams in Australia do not do this each day or every week. It also does not match the modern game pace and as such is redundant. Some of the top teams will boot camp for a couple of weeks prior. In that they will play the game, break to discuss tactics, socialise and do social media (they all live on Twitter) and guess what. They get to play for prize money that can reach into the millions.

A few hard weeks to lock down a season of competition for this opportunity, makes those days seem to be worthwhile. Whichever game they play, they face global competition and for this to take its rightful place in the offered sports that people watch, then they will do it. The dedication of the players is reflected in their performances. The best seem to do it easier because they have practised harder. Teams in every sport do this type of training when it comes to the finals and so do these players.

For the last year I have watched hours of all major Australian sports. In almost every game I have seen players physically injured and with some player being destined to never return to the playing field. I have also watched hours of the teams playing eSports in Call of Duty, CSGO and League of Legends. Streamed on Twitch, you can see the best players in the world play these games at a level that to the knowledgeable audience, brings cheers from every corner of the globe.

Zero injuries, zero questionable decisions from refs. Zero riots, fights or destruction and a nice array of zeros on the pay checks that equal those of equivalent Australian based sports. The play is enthralling for the educated audience and it is also extremely watchable as each game mode is conveniently perfectly designed for television.

It is just a shame that the same ratings system that puts Saving Private Ryan on our screens at 9pm excludes the ability to broadcast games with significantly less blood and gore to a wider audience.

Traditional sports are buying into the teams because they can see the real audience numbers that platforms like MLG (Major League Gaming), Twitch and YouTube are gaining. More people are watching the Grand Finals of DOTA2, League of Legends, CSGO, Overwatch, Rocket League and Call of Duty than any of those teams’ respective games and it makes for an easy business decision for them to venture forth into eSports. Variations to the games enable the games to “stay fresh” so that audiences are not watching the same game being replayed. The tactics of the teams, the individual skills of the players and the involvement in constantly high levels of competition make eSports a major player in the future viewing market.

Globally, this development has been years in the making. Whereas the original market was almost self-contained to the gaming community, we are seeing that the gaming organisations in the US and Europe are getting more and more “traditional” sponsors such as Chipotle, Turtle wax and KFC. Once seen only on club jerseys, they have taken aggressive early steps into a very popular market. As this style of sponsorship rides the success of the eyes on screen numbers that the NRL or Union would kill for, it will allow for the market in Australia to have advertising dollars head towards teams and individuals to enable them to go to full time professional.

Just as your friend who knocks around in second grade rugby league believes that he has what is needed to go to the NRL, numbers excellent players, who are currently not full time, may get this opportunity as the eSports market grows. Given that the number of eyes on screens is already an inviting option for marketeers, it should not be long before we see Australian players making a reasonable living as professionals.

To pigeon hole the sport in Australia without considering the global market and stage of development was a major error in this article. To lump the bad imagery of players being unable to make a living out of a relatively new sport is also erroneous. None of the players I know were contacted about this article and nor was the industry that is also growing these sports.

Australia has players in most of the mentioned games, placed in the top ten teams consistently. Albert Nassif can be proud of his eSports organisation MindFreak that went down to the wire two weeks ago against the top two teams in the world for Call of Duty. The team has played and made Australian fans proud of their achievements. He currently has players in Alberta, Canada for a Rainbow Six Siege tournament this weekend and players pushing for greater glory in other platforms.

Nick Bobir is rightly, equally proud of his teams representing his organisation Tainted Minds. With several other organisations either in start-up or competing every weekend, Australia has a strong, competitive, developing gaming scene with players who are nothing like the poorly chosen fiction presented yesterday.

Australia has players in top teams including Renegades for CSGO and individuals in eSports such as the eRacing league. Those players are realising their dreams.

With games and tournaments around the world, the Australian eSports Gaming environment is growing up, it is time for the legacy media to embrace and encourage it, or they will be left behind.