Gaming’s an oligarchy; this is no different from sports. There will always be a small group of people that manage to maneuver themselves into positions of power, well-intentioned or otherwise, and will hold on to them for as long as they will, and that’s just how these sorts of things work. While those of you that have been reading here for a while will know that I think esports could benefit from a bit of decentralization, I’m not that much of a wide-eyed idealist to believe that working structures in esports can or should look like a democracy, but they should also not look like a hereditary dictatorship.
The Enemy Territory scene in Europe is going through a bit of an existential crisis lately, one that doesn’t look all that different than the one that the Team Fortress scene went through over here recently. In both cases, the decisions and actions of a single individual touched off a nearly universal sense of ‘WTF’ across their respective scenes, being forced to make concessions because they aren’t Counter-strike. In TF, it was a string of unprincipled actions taken by a particular member of ESEA management. In Enemy Territory, it was the result of a rapid shift from a team size of 6 down to 5. A couple of posts on the Crossfire.nu site allowed some insight into just what happened.
Full disclosure: I find Tosspot to be a narcissistic maniac, whose purpose in esports seems only to feed a terminally overinflated ego, which takes what opportunities come around to throw around what little real (and imagined) weight he has in gaming and readily gobbles them like a fluorescent colored plastic hippo through so many round white pellets. When it’s described that an entire community was forced to change their format and play style simply because Tosspot could have an easier time in life during those LANs he manages every once in a while, it lined up pretty well with my past run-ins with the guy. Now that we have that out of the way…
I think these issues illuminate a theme in gaming that has recurred throughout its history, and seems to be on the uptick again in the post-CGS era growth we’re starting to experience: when unilateral actions are taken that are generally against the will of the communities and games that it will impact, the root problem is an inability on the part of said communities to remove the abusive individual’s decision making powers.
That’s where the situation with ET and the drawn out saga between TF2 and ESEA are absolutely identical, and it runs up against a fundamental principle of community management, and government in general, in a larger sense. When the manager has no accountability towards the community they’re managing, there’s no consequences for mis-management. Thus the manager is more likely to take actions that are in their interest first, regardless of the impact on what or who they’re managing.
Simply put, since Tosspot runs essentially the only prominent ET tournament series left, and he can’t simply be voted off the island and be replaced, leaving the positive things like a regular offline tournment intact; what abuses he decides to take up in the interest of making his life easier will simply have to be put up with. The only solution that exists for both ET and TF2 is to literally step outside all existing community constructs and build something entirely new, from the ground up. “If you don’t like it, then build something yourself” is the distilled retort. What’s left unsaid there is ‘otherwise, stop bitching about getting bent over and learn to like it.’
The lesson that gaming communities have yet to learn is that community constructs – like leagues, tournaments, places of discussion – can only serve the community’s collective interests when those constructs are truly neutral and are not analogous to any one particular individual. Poor choices are always made when the justification is ‘because I said so.’ The best way to minimize the potential for these situations to arise is to not allow people to find themselves in such positions in the first place. Since we’re past that point in this case, the ET community may have to take that proverbial step back before stepping forward again, and tell Tosspot where he can stick his tournament.