Saturday, 10 December 2011

A Word on Independence

Something that's always amused me is the way that some people on the lower end of the esports ladder try to get up a few rungs.  Plenty have tried to criticise others in the impotent hope that someone will remove the criticised from their position (usually another writer, commentator or website) and replace them with the critic and plenty more will do it in future.  I have seen dozens of these in my time, and have probably been guilty of doing it myself.  Usually, they are around 18 years old and are the same kind of person who thinks that leaving "clever" comments on other people's articles or forums is a high calling in life.  Usually, they grow out of it and/or disappear into the ether.

And, so, by that token, we have esportsetc, a website which I had never heard of until they decided to attack ESFI World.  As targets go, ESFI is an interesting one.  We're not so big as to frighten off critics, but we're just about big enough to be seen as worth the effort.  We're definitely up-and-coming, though, and our place in the collective esports conciousness appears to be growing.

So what exactly has drawn the furore of this pair of angry young men?  ESFI's claim of independence, apparently, which is sort of vaguely mentioned on the 'about' page - hardly something we rub in people's faces.  Never the less, esportsetc took umbrage with this claim and decided it might boost their hits if they attacked us.

First up, they decided to go after the fact that we have an advert for Complexity on our home page.  Fair enough, it's pretty hard to be unbiased while advertising one of the major teams in esports.  Except, uh, wait... we don't have an advert for Complexity, we have an advert for Creative which happens to have a picture of Complexity's Jason Lake.  Independence in journalism is fairly important, but so is basic fact-checking.  On top of that, the fact that Cadred yesterday published an article with an advert to donate to a team IN THE ARTICLE was somehow overlooked by these guardians of proper journalism.

Alright, so that didn't quite work out.  How about the fact that a lot of ESFI's staff work elsewhere in esports as well?  Okay, you got us.  Well, you got us, and just about every single esports media outlet there.  Not only did esportsetc plainly ignore dozens of other such discrepancies, they didn't even get a complete list of the ones at ESFI.  I'm kinda miffed that my prior work at SK, ESL, GotFrag and Clanbase went unnoticed, for example.  And not just me, there are plenty of others on the ESFI staff who have worked for other esports entities that were strangely omitted.  That's some pretty excellent research - top notch journalism!

Also, this just in: esports writers don't suddenly appear from nowhere!  As amazing as it may seem, almost every esports writer I can name has worked for some team or league at one time or another.  On esports etc's own 'about' page, the head honcho is described as "working in e-sports," but he doesn't feel the need to disclose where exactly... meanwhile, he publishes a "news story" which decries the fact that ESFI doesn't diclose the same information.  Something about glass houses?

I could go on.  The fact is that even traditional media is not remotely objective.  Maybe we should do a bit more to make our other interests clear, but ESFI absolutely is not the only entity in this position.  Rakaka - the site that etc modelled themselves on - has staff from a variety of other places, and their big boss man is one of the main figures behind Dreamhack.  Hell, one of the heads of played as a standin for mTw; how can he write impartially about them ever again?  I guess that when you're so busy writing poorly thought-out attacks you probably don't have time to do any research or criticise more than one site.

And, look, even if ESFI is somewhat biased (actual evidence of this, in articles, is oddly absent from these attacks, by the way), it's surely better to have a somewhat objective news outlet than to rely on team sites and league sites, isn't it?  The way esports works, that is the only alternative.  SK did a pretty good job of being impartial, but it was never ideal - the same goes for Team Liquid.  I'm sure that esportsetc don't think that that alternative is better, so one can only assume that this is a cheap stunt to try and get hits by attacking a site which is actually relevant.  I wouldn't mind, but don't have the nerve to go harping on about standards of journalism if you're just going to attack another site with badly-researched, factually innaccurate nonsense.  Oh, and you spelt "truly" wrong on your 'about' page.

But then again, maybe we should be flattered that we're worthy of such an attack.

Friday, 2 December 2011

In Defense of Commentators

Any regular readers of my blog will automatically assume from this title that i'm about to embark on a sarcastic rant about how shitty esports casters are.  Well, sorry to disappoint you...

It's true, i do think that the vast, vast majoriy of esports commentators are overrated, talentless and noisy, but more and more i've realised that a lot of my disdain is based on things that aren't really their fault.  Watching the Casting Archon fall to pieces from exhaustion at Dreamhack made me almost feel sorry for people paid to talk about computer games for a living.  No, but seriously, 14 hours a day is as close to hard work as esports can be and I do have some sympathy.

More than that, though, I've realised that leagues just leave these guys out to dry all too often.  These guys aren't raconteurs, and they sure as hell aren't stand-up comedians, but MLG and GSL in particular just leave them to fill in the gaps between matches.  It's not really any surprise that their their pre/post-game banter is so infuriatingly tedious - as fascinating as Starcraft is, there is only so much you can say about an average game.

The opening ten minutes of the NASL finals (ignoring the HoN, because, really...) brought this home in the perfect way.  Gretorp is erm... (I'm trying to be generous to casters here, help me out) but watching him and Orb do Gollum impressions to fill the dead air was probably the nadir of esports commentary, and that's among some really stiff competition.  I couldn't believe what I was watching, and sure, you'd hope they could come up with something better, but the blame surely lies with NASL for putting them out there with no help.

NASL isn't the only league that puts its commentators in such a difficult position, it was merely the most recent and most horrific example.  These organisations have come on leaps and bounds in the past 18 months, but in terms of production value, they really need to step up their game.  Filling the between-game void is a problem that only IPL has really addressed.  GSL has tried in the past with the player bios they used to air, but more need to follow and improve upon IGN's lead.  Hearing about Catspajamas' gaming history - however highly I rate him as a caster - really only exacerbates the problem.  Still, it's better than nothing, and alongside the Top 10 countdowns, it's a decent platform for leagues to build on.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Why I Haven't Published an Article in Months

Dear ESFI,

It's not that I don't want to write articles for your site, it's just that the League of Legends desktop icon is so much prettier than the Word icon.

Sincerest apologies