Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The State of eSports in Australia

Let's do a temperature check.

Scenes are disjointed. We've got League of Legends, the largest. StarCraft II is still kicking along, many predicted it's bubble effect but it's definitely staying strong. Call of Duty has a big scene. DotA 2 is building, slowly.

Australia's Counter-Strike scene is probably the oldest but following a short wave of PC-FPS titles, like the two latest Battlefields and Call of Duties, it's a little splintered and tired. Team Fortress 2 has one of the greatest and closest communities going and nobody knows about it. The FGC is growing but this article's relevancy might be outside of their scope but let's assume herein that they're in this with the rest of us.

ACL does a good job of getting everyone together. Bigger, more mainstream gatherings like PAX and EB Expo throw us in with the rest of the gamers to show them what the other side of the controller looks like.

Proud days for TA

There's lots of us that have knowledge of multiple scenes, but there's plenty who don't. There's even more who have no idea about any of them, which isn't right when you consider how much of the Australian gaming population are involved in some form of competitive scene.

What about outsiders? What about one StarCraft II player who relocated to Australia to start his tertiary education. His arrival was big news and any team he was to play for would be able to ride his wake and market themselves as the team with the real life Korean.

He was lied to, repeatedly. I'm not well versed enough in what took place, even though I should be. We all should be. He was left with a Vegemite-bitter taste in his mouth and I hope his new team treat him better. But this article isn't about the teams who stretch the truth when listing their sponsors, it's about what our objectives are. That particular team's were so short-sighted that it did nothing for them and took away from those it used.

 KingKong fighting!

A lot of us have had an argument about just how good Australian's are at their games. A big slice will argue that we're no good, never going to make it. If we do well, it'll be a top 5 finish and that's that. Another chunk will take offense and justify our absence from the top of the podiums to anything from population, lack of resources or no team houses.

Which is it?

A fear of commitment. There are lots of gamers in this country that have every chance to live in another country and train together, with the best of the best. Hell, even living together in a house in Australia would be beneficial, and possible. Our gamers are stuck in a cycle that the older among us have gone through and maybe don't realise it's effect.

Myself and most people I know or once ran with have 'retired' from competitive play. We went through High School, playing a tonne, and in our last year, through a gap year and into the first year of University, grinded our hearts out. It paid off, we got pretty good and got recruited to a team. Then real life sets in.

This is where the 'culture' argument gets aired, that Australia's society just isn't as accepting of a pro-gamer lifestyle, and the pressures of the real world, family, career, university, are too much for the competitive gamer and you retire and start writing articles like this. This might be true, but the thought that other countries have a 'more accepting' view of eSports is one hundred percent bullshit. No country is completely accepting of this as a career.

So our players get really good, we support them, until they retire, with no chance to bridge the gap and go overseas and make it. This makes location our biggest obstacle. Nothing else. To travel internationally costs a lot of money, almost too much money to do consistently, and if it's not consistent then there's no point. There is one answer and it is to move our best players overseas and go all-in.

This was meant to be a thing, mansion in Taiwan for our elite

There are a handful of us doing that, right now, StarCraft II players. Petraeus, Fenner & Iaguz are living in America, mOOnGLaDe is living in Korea, commentating and grinding the ladder. Those guys are the ones we should be looking up to, because they have the balls to say 'fuck it, I'm doing it'. It's one thing for a player in South Korea, America or Sweden to move into a team house, because chances are it's a short trip home to see the family once every few weeks, it's a different thing to go to the other side of the world and commit.

There's dozens of punters who will say, 'put me in coach, I'll move overseas in a team house, let's do it', but the truth is they aren't good enough. Most players that are have found an excuse as to why they can't do it, so we're stuck in a cycle of training up school-kids to have them retire after a few overseas trips.

Next time one of us complains about the state of Australia's skill as a whole, whether it's from a top-tier player or a stream monster, realise that there is four of us who have rolled the dice and are putting their gaming career before their big-boy career. These people should be your inspiration.

If Australian competitive gaming is going to continue to be splintered as it is, the least we can do is rally behind those who are giving it all up for a shot. They are more worthy of your attention than those that write articles like this, that talk shit at panels at PAX or EB Expo or those of us that commentate & cos-play.

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