[ This post in response to this article by Cameron ‘fams’ Carson titled ‘Esports Full of Holes,’ originally posted on the fnatic website. Its suggested you read that first. ]
The implosion of the gaming scene has already happened, set in motion by the establishment of the CGS in 2006, and pushed past the point of no return by the recent global economic collapse as well as a gross decline in the quality of the gaming community in general. Good news is that I think the implosion is behind us and that the field is wide open to build a new scene structure that focuses on sustainable growth in pro gaming over the quick buck. The bad news is that the field is wide open for the next Angel Munoz to come in with a giant wad of cash and fuck things up again. As was said in Cameron’s post linked above, organizations in competitive gaming trend towards monopolistic behavior as opposed to cooperative, a point I’ve brought up time and time again.
There is an underlying problem with the way the scene has progressed to this point that has been it’s Achilles’ heel, in my opinion; the inherently national/global nature of competitive gaming is in actuality holding it back from developing in a manner that is sustainable and profitable for the teams. Most teams in gaming, even the most influential teams, have their players spread out across a nation, sometimes across several nations, with their only claim to a locality being that of a domain name for their website. This is a serious problem and is possibly the biggest gap that exists between professional gaming and professional team sports. Whats the main factor in building a fanbase? Locallity! If the biggest name teams don’t have anyplace in the world that they can call home, a place to get involved with an actual real live community directly, how is gaming ever going to build a fanbase any larger than the people participating in the scene over the internet? How will this thing of ours make the transition from internet underground to mainstream awareness?
Regional gaming leagues are the way forward. Yup, you heard me. Screw the international tournaments with the bright lights and big stages and hired models for photo ops and all that garbage. Gaming was never in a proper state to warrant that kind of treatment in the first place. The way forward is back to the roots (and even a step further): locally based teams playing other locally based teams in local lan centers, gaining local fan bases.
Think farm system double-A baseball; that’s the kind of model that will form a solid base on which professional gaming can make a comeback. The absolute beauty in this approach is that it takes no large sums of cash, it doesn’t rely on television exposure, it doesn’t even need to be one large coordinated effort nation-wide. All it takes for the next revolution in pro gaming to start is for a handful of gamers to get up off their asses and do something.
It’s time for the tough love portion of this column: its not acceptable to merely sit there and whine about the dismal state of the scene, and bitch about how the prize money is all gone, and pine after the days that gamers were contracted to play on a TV series – those days are GONE. Give them up. Also gone are the days where a new gaming league is going to up and fill the monstrous gap left behind by the CPL, WSVG, ESWC, and CGS. It’s going to be up to us to figure out a way to make this work. In the end, we’re going to be much better off for it too, as the gaming community actually has the room to build something that benefits the teams first above all else.
This is a golden opportunity but it requires a lot more cooperation between teams than this scene is accustomed to. It’s also going to require abandoning conventional notions regarding what comprises a league. Realize that for-profit corporations can never be capable of running a league that serves the interests of teams! In his post, Cameron clearly exhibits an understanding of the need for a sanctioning body in order to promote stability within the scene, however that will never come about from forces outside the scene, it can only exist out of the collective will of cooperative teams.
I’m going to leave this post here, as I’ve already gone on far too long and fear my point could get lost. :) Tomorrow’s post: what exactly the regional gaming league looks like, how it can operate profitably, and why it makes sense as the best possible way forward for gaming.