Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Facts? Bah, i run a team, who needs facts?

Strap yourselves in kids, this is a long ride.  I make no promises about the quality or coherence of this, since i wrote it in about an hour this morning.  Still, i think the points are valid, and there is even more to criticise from the mentioned article but it was getting a bit long, even for my own self-indulgence.

It’s not often that I get annoyed about esports media but… okay, that’s a lie, but the latest piece from IGN’s esports division would make a saint swear.  At least, a saint who knew about esports.  So let’s break it down, quote by uninformed quote.

What prevents the publication of eSports contracts is the lack of collective bargaining between players unions, ownership and the leagues in which players play.

What is this collective bargaining supposed to be; a bunch of players going with their friend to the contract negotiations?  A player’s union would be great, but is probably a long way away and the leagues have no say in this whatsoever.  The likes of GSL and IPL could ban players or teams who renege on their contractual responsibilities, but the chances of that are slime.  Imagine if IPL were put in a position where Idra was breaking the terms of his contract with EG.  Can you really imagine IGN removing one of their star names from the league?  Ideally: yes, realistically: no.

There are many positives to publicizing team contracts. The greatest benefit is the resultant transparency. If the salary and duration of player contracts become public knowledge, it would change the landscape of competitive gaming completely.

This kind of happened in WC3, and basically caused the death of MYM and the shrinking of SK because players felt they deserved higher wages.  There isn’t enough money to go around to pay every half-decent player while the elite would be able to demand far more.  Of course, people so embedded in the SC2 bubble can’t be expected to know that things happen in other esports games, right?

Players violate the terms of their contract all the time, and the general public has no idea.

Yep, fine.  This is a reason for more transparency but lets not forget that teams do the same thing.  There is a noticeable bias in this article, ignoring the fact that teams are also culpable when they enter into a contract.  I suppose this is understandable coming from a team owner but it is important to remember the numerous historical examples of players complaining about not being paid or not receiving prize money.

The biggest benefit of publically accessible contracts would be a universal free agency period. If StarCraft II had a free agency period between December and January when contracts were set to expire and there were not many tournaments, it would be a great opportunity for new teams to form super teams and become power players in the scene. Currently, major paradigm shifts are not possible as teams have to wait throughout the year for numerous player contracts to expire and sign players one at a time.

Holy long sentence, Batman!

Firstly, “super teams” are notoriously bad for competition, as anyone who actually knows about sports would be able to tell you.  Look at Man United’s domination of the Premier League, or Barca and Real’s lockdown on the Spanish league.

Even more ignorance: players can be bought out of a contract.  I’m fairly sure this is true in any line of employment, but it is definitely true in sports and esports (SK bought Delpan’s contract from Fnatic, for example).  This is where transfer fees come from in the first place!  I can’t even believe this mind-boggling lack of knowledge was allowed past the editors: a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

To clarify: “major paradigm shifts” are perfectly possible now.  It simply requires a new team with deep pockets to come along and buy the contracts of a bunch of star players – like MYM did in WC3.  The fact that a team owner isn’t aware of this is, frankly, baffling.

Now, granted, the idea of artificially levelling the playing field via a draft period is very American.  I can understand why a baseball fan would support the idea.  But putting every player’s contract up for bidding at an arbitrary point in time (esports leagues run year round, so there is no real “off season” like in traditional sports) would not solve the super team problem.  It would merely create a cycle where the most successful team would be able to outbid other teams for the best players, therefore becoming the most successful team for the new season, therefore having the most money by next season.

The issue of contracts has literally nothing to do with whether or not they are public.  It has everything to do with the ability to enforce them.  Sure, the more vain players might feel bad if his fans know he isn’t honouring his contract, but most players won’t give a shit.  I feel like the author is being unbelievably naïve if he thinks that players will fulfil their stipulated roles just because a bunch of nerds know about them.

Realistically, the problem is a lack of a central governing body.  The reason “free agency” wouldn’t work is because leagues view each other as competitors and there is no unified off-season.  Who is going to organise this draft, for starters?  It works in Baseball because of the MLB.  Similarly, the lack of a governing body means that contracts are very difficult to enforce.  Sure, a legally binding contract can be taken to court but it is usually only beneficial for a player who is seeking unpaid wages.  A team who take a player to court are unlikely to come out ahead unless they have been caused loss of earnings by a player – a pretty unlikely scenario.

Again, this ties into the lack of unification.  Imagine the hypothetical Idra/EG scenario from earlier.  Lets say that IPL does ban Idra from the current season for failing to fulfil his contracts.  NASL now sees a chance to one-up their competitor in terms of star power and allows him to continue playing.  Now IPL have taken the moral high ground but realistically they have just hurt themselves by losing one of their most famous players.

Only under a unified governing body can contracts really mean anything in sport.  The real reason contracts work in other sports is because player punishments are handed out by a body which controls every competition in that country, or even the world, in extreme cases.

Ironically, IGN staff should be well aware of a third option: leagues tying players into contracts directly.  Since CGS was basically a failed precursor to IPL, run by the same media empire, surely they should know about this alternative.  Of course, that league failed miserably, and when a couple of Brazilian players got banned for attending a CS 1.6 LAN that wasn’t run by CGS they simply returned to playing 1.6 in the multitude of other leagues.

This time around, IPL has tried to integrate itself into the community, rather than assimilate the community like CGS did.  But the fact that people who apparently have no idea about esports’ history are allowed to write articles like this for their website is deeply ironic.  Contracts are part of the “legitimizing esports” pie, but a larger part of it is hiring people who can actually do their job.  Or, at least, hiring people who have some idea what they’re talking about.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

This was posted on TL? REALLY?!

"Maybe there is a lesson to be learned here, now that we are facing ESPORTS growth in the west. Maybe. It is, at the very least, a good reminder of how fragile these scenes are. All of these men dreamed of making video games their career and none of them were able to do it, all becoming the boring kinds of middle aged men their teenage selves hated and feared."

Not only is this a fairly entertaining (if lengthy) read, but it's nice to see something other than blind, mindless optimism on Team Liquid for a change.  However, i'm fairly sure that's one of the harbingers of the apocolypse.


Thursday, 21 July 2011

EG in Staff Stealing Shock!

It became apparent today that the much respected Team EG has been stealing staff from other organisations.  In the Wild West era of esports in which we live, signing staff from another website is unregulated, which leads to what the football world calls "tapping up."  This refers to the concept of talking to someone who is currently working for another company, trying to convince him/her to join yours.

But Team EG overstepped the mark by finally recruiting Marcus  "DJWheat" Graham.  Rumours of him joining EG have been rife since he commentated on everything they have ever done.  He was also spotted alongside many of the Evil Geniuses staff  during events on countless occassions.

The other guy from One More Game, SirScoots (also of, er, EG) said "tune into LO3 where we'll announce which episode of Weapon of Choice we will use to make this news public."

Meanwhile, DJWheat felt betrayed by the move.  "You raise a caster from scratch, even before esports begun in 2010, and then he betrays you.  My move to EG feels like a slap in my own face." 

Monday, 11 July 2011

Esports Entertainment (TM)

I finally finished a column for ESFI World that should be going online within the next 24 hours.  Finally!  Writer's block is a bitch.  But being one of the few writers in esports who has actually studied journalism (toot, toot!), i like to keep my columns to a word limit.  That means there are things i have to trim, or just cut entirely, which was part of the reason i made this blog in the first place.  With that in mind, today we're going to talk about tits.

When i was ten or 11, i watched WWF, as it was still called, because i enjoyed it and because i didn't know any better.  By the time i was 13, i watched it because of Trish Stratus and Torrie Wilson and, especially, because of Chocolate Pudding matches and Gravy Bowl matches.  Now that i'm almost 26, i obviously don't watch it at all, but this weekend i did watch NASL.

It would be hypocritical of me to criticise NASL for using attractive women as interviewers.  I'm a guy, i like to look at attractive women, and yes, InControl's girlfriend is hot.  But the fact that Anna and her friend were the most useless interviewers i've ever seen (and i've seen a lot of terrible interviews) made the whole spectacle very unedifying.  At least that Korean woman from GSL appears to have a clue (not that I speak Korean, so i could be wrong).  I can't decide whether it's better or worse than just having half-dressed women standing around á la CGS.  On the one hand, at least Anna and Co. were contributing something, rather than being pure eye candy.  But on the other, someone with experience or a modicum of talent could have done the same thing with bimbos still fulfilling their main task.

Just to be clear, though.  I'm not implying that esports is going the way of WWF: a faux-sport for kids and mentally-backwards adults.  But the fact that NASL felt the need to bring along some T 'n' A is pretty worrying.  It gives me the impression that they lack confidence in their product - for want of a better term.  As if people wouldn't want to just watch some awesome SC2 action.  Or, worse still, maybe they roped-in InControl's girlfriend and her friend because they worked for free and NASL's supposed financial problems are worse than expected.  Either way, it was pretty cringe-worthy to watch Mrs. Excellent this weekend.  Cringe-worthy and slightly arousing.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Commentary Pro tips

Here are some pearls of wisdom for aspiring SC2 commentators, coming from a vastly experienced guy who casted two games with Special Endrey once.

WC3 players: If one of the players you are commenting on happens to be an ex-WC3 player, don't forget to mention that he has excellent mincro.  People on the internet are stupid and have very shorty memories, so they will likely have forgotten the last time you mentioned that a WC3 player has good micro.  Point it out even if they don't have particularly great micro, because how could they possibly be good at the game without having great micro, right?

All players are excellent: Never forget to mention that every player you commentate on is very good.  Just because you're commenting on the best league in the strongest esports country in the world doesn't mean that calling the players "very good" is redundant.  Even if you're discussing the first round of an open tournament, there's 50/50 chance that Meg@Sn!per.X is "very good," right?

Leery/Weary/Wary: Despite these words meaning completely different things, to a commentator they are 100% interchangable, especially if you are Day9.

Vocabulary: Are you the type of person who thinks long words are hard to say?  Do you not really know very many words to begin with?  Good news: esports commentary is definitely for you!  Long words take up too much time - precious time which could be spent yelling "ohhhhhhh!"  People can already see what's going on on-screen, why would they want you to talk about the game?

Monday, 4 July 2011

Independence day for you, International WTF day for me

Ever since last week's announcement by ESL that they will be swapping Quake for LoL in the upcoming IEM season, i've been struggling to put my thoughts into a word document.  It's a complicated situation from my perspective, and every time i tried to write it end up kinda schizophrenic and confused.

So after a week of frustrating confusion, I hoped for some nice simple news to try and get back into column-writing this week.  Then suddenly, the league that most intelligent people bitch about more than any other (MLG, in case you didn't catch the reference) is streaming Quake games today.  WTF IS HAPPENING?!

Next they'll be ditching the extended series and playing real games at their tournaments instead of Console shooters.  Okay, maybe not.