essays and pithy thoughts

Competitive TF2's endgame in North America

in glhf

Community-run outfits exist for my favorite shooter to date, Team Fortress, in both Europe and South America. And while I’m aware that the European entity, the ETF2L, has gone through its fair share of turbulence, everyone there seems to realize that some problems are going to arise from time to time, and they’ve built an organization that’s best equipped to handle abuses not only from teams and players, but from administrators as well. They also seem to realize that they could have it far worse; they could be playing over on my side of the Atlantic.

This week, frustrations boiled over yet again towards ESEA’s categorically unacceptable mismanagement of TF2, and particularly towards one admin’s abrasive approach towards paying members of their service. It seems that a slowly contracting TF2 community has finally reached a size in which everyone can agree they’ve had enough. Unfortunately, it’s not reached a size in which real change can be enacted, the sort of recalibration that would put the scene on course for a rebound.

I stopped reading the TF2 boards on Gotfrag a few weeks ago, when it decended into a madness of locked threads and was moved to the defunct ‘Prime’ section of the site, and was returned some days later to even more new threads containing a link to some stupid shit on YouTube than before. I did return there last evening in an attempt to find out how the management of My Gaming Edge got the balls to assume that the community at large has issued them a mandate to assume control over the future direction of the game. I guess a thread with that sentiment as the original post, that had also received +50 frags (because those mean something) constitutes that.

Yesterday evening, I organized a meeting between folks I had been discussing TF2 with over the past few months, and MGE staff. I had been meeting with Zakrill, Flame, and Extine to find a realistic gameplan for spurring growth within the competitive scene again. I reached out to the folks at ETF2L for thoughts, maybe some guidance, and to discuss the potential for a more regimented form of the international friendlies we had seen pop up here and there over the summer. We were in agreement that the best way to set TF2 on a course for long term growth was two-fold: establish a proper non-profit association for the game, and provide that association the tools and connections it needed so that it could make competitive play free for competitiors, and actually pay out to more than just the top two or three teams in the game. We felt (or at the least I did) that we had a workable plan to do just that. While we’d been lacking lately the time necessary to implement this plan more fully, we felt that the plan had no real expiration date as long as there were still a few teams left kicking.

I thought I organized, in this meeting, what would be a constructive dialog towards how we could put a real foundation under TF2. I was mistaken; in reality I had setup the opening press conference for the MGE League. It became apparent to me within 30 seconds that any effort I made to argue for organizing in a manner consistent with every other sport in existence would be futile – ‘This is going to be an MGE League, not an NATF2 league, I have it all figured out…’ is more or less how it opened – and I made no excuse about not wasting any further time listening to CB pontificate about propping up ESEA: the sequel.

The mistake being made here is a mis-diagnosis of the problem. The problem isn’t lpkane himself – no, it’s far more fundamental than that. The problem is that there’s nothing to be done to remove him from the position he holds in relation to the game, aside from completely restructuring everything. MGE is now going about doing just that. But setting up a new league that looks exactly the same as the one you plan to replace, with just different people at the top, solves nothing. It just removes power from one entity with fixed management and shifts it to a new entity with fixed management. It doesn’t matter how benevolent that management may be; if there’s no means of replacing those people at the top if and when they become assholes and start abusing their position, then the game is just as screwed as it was before.

And like Lewis Black’s defining bit in ‘The End of the Universe,’ this is it, this is TF2’s Starbucks across the street from a Starbucks. Instead of seizing on the opportunity to put TF2 in the States on a sustainable, positive trajectory that would set the goals and needs of the more casual competitor in line with the aspirations of the more serious players, MGE has decided it would be better if they instead monopolized the game.

As for me, I think I’ll get a coffee.