Saturday, 26 November 2011

Why MLG's Flawed Format is Important

Slowly but surely, my blog roll is growing.  I find that a lot of the stuff you can't read about on Team Liquid or any other major esports site gets quietly discussed elsewhere.  They're so much more inspiring than the usual "Player X wins Tournament Y, wasn't everything amazing?!"  This particular entry in my blog was inspired Marc Onforio of FXO.  I'm a bit late to the party, but it seems he caught a bit of flak for criticising MLG's abomination of a tournament format.

Sometimes you wonder if people are beyond help; how anyone except MLG can defend the MLG format is beyond me.  But since I was thinking of writing a blog about why I'm so hard on MLG, this is actually perfect timing.

Ever since I got involved with esports, I wanted it to live up to its name and be an actual sport.  Legitimacy is everything, as far as I'm concerned.  But what MLG appears to want is a show.  Sporting integrity be damned if 200,000 people tune in to the livestream appears to be their modus operandi.  Now, all the little psuedo-economists that come out of the woodwork for this kind of debate will hasten to point out that stream numbers are necessary in order to turn a profit.  Well, that's alright then, is it?  If the only thing people are interested in is making money there is basically no argument to be had.  It's a bit like trying to debate  with staunch christians: if your only answer is "God did it" we aren't going to get anywhere.

I get it, okay.  Making money is necessary.  But if it comes at the cost of turning esports into WWE, the price is too high.

So how does all this affect the format?  I flip-flop between two stances on the MLG system.  Firstly, it could just be an honest mistake, poorly thought out.  Secondly, it could be a cynical effort to protect the stars.  Naniwa was a God-send for MLG earlier this year, when he won a tournament after coming all the way from the open bracket.  In the eys of someone with poor logic, he proved that the system worked, because the creme rose to the top.  Never mind the fact that he had to win more than twice the number of games that his opponent did in order tog et there.  But in a deliciously ironic twist, he finished 2nd at last week's seasonal finals with a so-so record of 7-6.  If the sytem worked, 7-6 would not net you $25,000.  As Marc pointed out, Nestea went 20-5 and made nothing.  I don't see how anyone can reasonably argue that the MLG system isn't flawed.

I don't want to talk too much about the extended series - I think everyone knows how dumb that is by now - but it's another brick in the imbalanced wall.  People argue that winning should give you an advantage later in the season/tournament.  Well, maybe, but isn't getting to the next round of the tournament advantageous enough?  Simply avoiding the lower bracket or straight up elimination has always been a big enough advantage for other sporting events; "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" springs to mind.

MLG often appears obsessed with numbers: stream numbers, live attendance figures etc.  Well, take a look at the numbers Marc posted last weekend and try to defend them.  MLG's tournament format is undeniably imbalanced and unfair.  Even the vaguely sensible arguments attempt to justify the imbalance, rather than deny it ("it's what the fans want" - I did say vaguely sensible).

With all the positive changes in prize money expected next year, I sincerely hope that they have a real good look at the tournament structure.

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