I must, out the gate, attribute this insight to my colleague Jeremy (@tehpennycook). We were discussing our plans to poke our heads in at MLG DC in the week before the event, and found our viewpoints to be quite similar on the whole thing. It sounded like he was lining up some interesting story lines for the All Tech Considered blog, but I think it was largely derailed due to some medical issues that cropped up for him over the weekend. Anyway, the big thing that stuck out in my mind from these conversations was his use of ‘pro-am’ to describe these events. I think it’s dead on, and cuts to the heart of the critical identity issue I see in MLG.

MLG is the largest pro-am circuit this side of the Atlantic.

There’s a lot of growing up the circuit needs to do to be considered actually professional. A shift needs to be made from attracting more competitors as the main money maker to attracting more fans. A shift needs to be made from making players shoulder the expenses of competition, and players need to be recognized as the people who are actually producing the product worth selling. A shift needs to be made from making teams live from event to event, and get a real salaried structure in place for team games. (It’s the one thing that the CGS actually did properly.)

This is not to say that the MLG in it’s current form is necessarily bad for gaming. But if a pro-am tournament circuit is still our leading lady in a little while, that prognosis may change. Team sports need stability and, save for a maybe a handful of teams, MLG doesn’t provide it.