Monday, 25 October 2010

SK Gaming ain't what it used to be

Warning: this shit is longer than most of what i usually write, even in my main column.

So, here's an interesting statistic for you, boys and girls. In a month where SK and myself finally agreed to end our tempestuous relationship, i still have the highest average hit count per article for the month.

I don't mean to toot my own horn - it's not like eight posts in 25 days is something to be proud of - but it perfectly shows the concept of quality over quantity, something SK Gaming seems to have completely moved away from. I guess there's two roads a coverage site can go down. One is massing news, however trivial. 1,000 people reading five news posts is the same as 5,000 reading one column at the end of the day. In the same way, having 15 teams that win a tournament each is ostensibly the same as five teams that win three tournaments each.

But is it really the same?

I know, for example, that bds thinks SK picking up a Source team is the dumbest thing they ever did. There was a time when SK represented quality over quantity in terms of teams as well as website content, but that time is long gone. Currently, on all fronts, SK is like a clusterfuck of undirected ideas and it is a pretty crappy place to try and be creative.

Indulge me for a moment as we go down Memory Lane, back to early 2008. Carmac was still fairly new as Editor in Chief, and i was his first new recruit. Honestly, i rarely visited the SK site before i joined but it was clear that GotFrag was on a downward spiral. More importantly, Carmac's enthusiasm was infectious and my time working under him was probably my most creative period in esports. I was still enrolled in a journalism course at University and he brought a bit of the professionalism i hoped for to esports coverage that it so distinctly lacked (and still does, by the way).

Without wanting to sound churlish, he was inspirational. He wrote opinionated columns and encouraged us to do the same. He gave columnists a personality by encouraging us to use our own pictures. On top of that, it felt safer to be voicing opinions in public when you knew others were doing the same. Oh, yeah, and his 1on1 videos were pretty good too.

But Carmac obviously wasn't a guy to settle in one job, and we were given Malystryx. Presumably, his promotion was based purely on the fact that he had been at SK the longest. When he left SK a few months later, that policy was quickly scrapped. Maly's tenure wasn't an unmitigated disaster, but it was badly timed. I never really got on well with Lawrence - call it a personality clash - so i don't feel like i should say too much about his time in charge, but he was EIC when SK's slip into decline began. Feeling within the previously happy crew was at a low point thanks to the communication issues and the pressure of covering tournaments (if you've never worked in esports at coverage, you really can't understand what it's like to cover a Chinese event, for example). Although immo and Binteh didn't actually leave until Duncan took over, the wheels of their departure were definitely set in motion before then.

Since that time, SK simply has not been the same place it once was. I can't honestly remember exactly when bds left, and i didn't actually have much interaction with him myself, but it was around the same time Duncan came along. It's no coincidence that SK has picked up seemingly random games since bds' departure. Even before he left it seems clear, in retrospect, that he had little to do with the running of the company towards the end.

Maybe one day i'll write about the Halo team's debacle...

Ironically, it was actually towards the end of Carmac's reign that i made The Zechs Files a weekly column. But there's no irony, and certainly no coincidence that it became less and less frequent in the time since Duncan took over. Since Carmac left i used my own picture less often too, and eventually removed it altogether. Just as it was comfortable to write opinion pieces while others were doing it, so too it was more difficult to do it alone. It's not like anyone from the upper echelons ever offered me support. The only time you heard from them was generally indirectly through Tim, after you'd done something wrong.

About three times over the past year i have been threatened with being sacked for not writing enough news. On the most recent occasion i just accepted it - despite having clearly told Duncan that i was in Spain on holiday, and thusly unable to work. Whether Duncan bothered to tell Tim, or exactly whose responsibility it was, is currently unknown to me. Communication and clarity of roles has never been a strong suite in esports, but this is especially true in SK nowadays.

I digress. After the other two threats, i promised to buckle down and work harder. For a brief time after each incident i did just that and forced out some of my poorest columns. It was genuinely comical to me to see Tim post "nice read!" on my first column after each "disagreement." In his defence, Tim is a nice guy, seemingly put into a bad situation by spineless people too afraid to do their own dirty work. I suppose every company has to have someone like that, but if SK had so much organisation in the rest of their business, it wouldn't be in such a shambles.

As for Duncan himself, the guy in a new-writing machine in a very real sense. My interactions with him have been few, but he seems to have the personality of a machine. Well, that's not quite fair, i have had one or two laughs with him, but only one or two. He is, however, a very hard work, and for all his manifold failings as an actual Editor-in-Chief, you have to respect someone who can average 100 pieces per month. He already has nearly double my post count in about half the time (though, i must point out, my average hits are over 2k higher - quality over quantity) and is just days away from having the record of most news of any writer SK has ever had (currently held by gosey, if you care).

But sadly, SK's personality and charm has all but disappeared. Where once there were the best esports opinion pieces on the internet there is now just copy-paste-edit news you can read from another dozen sites. Granted, there are many, many more of them, but look at the number of comments and the amount of hype they generate. SK is now completely devoid of originality and creativity in much the way GotFrag is and i fear the former is heading in the same direction as the latter.

I'll leave you, for now, with another interesting observation. I once worked for Clanbase as a Eurocup and Nations Cup admin, back when it was in its pomp. Shortly after, i left to work for ESL as a CSCL admin and Clanbase more-or-less died off as a real powerhouse in esports. Then i left CSCL to become a writer for Team AMD Gamer; CSCL proceeded to die. I then successfully applied for a job at GotFrag and TAG went under thanks to some baffingly stupid management. Briefly after GotFrag was bought by MLG, i left and joined SK. Look at GotFrag now - a joke, a shadow of its former self. And so now i leave SK to pastures new...



  1. Great article Zechs, interesting perspective and thoughts.

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  3. Interesting article but it also leaves a sour taste in my mouth. Make no mistake you're a fantastic writer and gave a lot to SK but you can't just mention all the negatives of the organization because you happen to be leaving.

    You're also one of the VERY few journalists to make a monetary profit off writing, so that is something that should be mentioned.

    I would agree Duncan is robotic at times and can be very brash, as I have had quite a few disagreements with him myself: but I would go on the record to say his knowledge of eSports, in particular Counter-Strike & Quake is quite possibly unmatched. Whether or not he pumps out articles at a ridiculous rate (bringing up your quality vs. quantity comment) - he produces some of the BEST unique, feature, eSports articles ever written.

    It should be kept in mind that SK is not a website like EG where they just cover their own team - it's a universal coverage hub, so it is is BOUND to have mass amounts of articles posted that cite other sites, that's the nature of SK, it has always been that way.

    Considering where you're moving to (a site which regurgitates information just as much if not more than SK - which I'm sure will be announced soon) and definitely has MUCH less original content I wouldn't necessarily bash that aspect of SK's coverage.

    I wish ya the best Zech's I have a lot of respect for you as a writer but I find these blogs a little sensationalist so I had to comment.

    And remember.. the grass isn't always greener on the other side of the fence. ;)

    Note: I am a current journalist for SK (Hydrolis) I am not trying to hide that in the slightest.

  4. sk lost all of its teamspirit, fun and teamwork when duncan joined, simple as that, noone bothered being on irc anymore, no fun no nothing

    now its pretty much dead anyway, at least the coverage part, not wanna say since i left but thats the way it is

    btw maly wasnt promoted because he was there the longest, i was/still am one of the longest members :p
    i turned it down once when chris/iantje/nick left, might be because of that

    apart from that im never visiting sk anymore for news or coverage, just to write information in the cs group...

  5. No one will ever ever be able to replace immo unless its with an army of midgets ready to lick ass for a mousepad. I don't think SK realised the work he put in until he left.

    And yes, immo leaving had an impact on the website. At least, I don't check anymore for up-to-date scores. The matches usually are updated late, updated wrongly, commented on by the own updater with unprofessional comments or simply not there at all.


    "Considering where you're moving to (a site which regurgitates information just as much if not more than SK - which I'm sure will be announced soon) and definitely has MUCH less original content I wouldn't necessarily bash that aspect of SK's coverage. "

    The site he is moving to also has a totally different aim for audience which perhaps doesn't require robotic or passionless writing. As for unique content, I can't deny there is less, but picking up zechs is a right step towards that. As for SK, losing zechs is losing the last passionate writer there which gave your readers emotions, not just facts. Anybody can look up facts if they have the time and are payed full time for it.

  6. I didn't mean for this to become a flame war between MYM and SK - to be honest i didn't expect as many people to read this. I just wanted to vent my frustrations at the manner in which i felt i was unfairly treated in the end.

    Overall SK was good to me, but i feel like the last month especially was like an abusive relationship. They treated me like shit, but honestly i didn't fulfil my responsibilities either.

    Still, in the real world, being sacked often means a redundancy payment or paid leave. In esports, it means the company tries to give you LESS money than you normally earn (which isn't much to begin with).

  7. nah, no flame war at all, I'm just explaining why in my eyes SK has lost value, in particular, like you describe yourself, with quantity over quality.

    As for the points Taylor raises about MYM, I agree with them so nothing to flame about really :P

  8. Good post. To be honest, I thought some of your opinions on the Warcraft 3 pieces were shit (excuse my French) but your command of the language was always something I admired (and was very impressed by), as a reader.

    I'm glad you came out with this, SK seems to have buried itself, I tried to offer help to Duncan too I believe but the glory days were fast fleeting.

    Good luck for the future. Where are you headed off to?