Tuesday, 12 June 2012


I know hardly anyone reads this anyway, but from now on i'll be using Tumblr to post stuff.  It's prettier, and has better functionality, so... yep.  I never got a penny from the ads here anyway.


Sunday, 3 June 2012

That Awkward Moment When...

Your captain in draft bans Shaco.
The four-man premade you got stuck with wants to "try a new meta."
Your team-mate locks in jungle Karthus.
Your team-mate locks in Garen.
Your team-mate insta-locks Twitch or Evelynn.
You realise you're with a four-man premade who don't speak any English.
Enemy Tryndamere is 3/0 after five minutes.
Your team-mate picks Leblanc and the enemy picks AP Sion.
You find out the new champ is shit but you already wasted your one refund.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Dying of Exposure (the SC2 cancer in me)

Hey, it's been a while - almost a month, in fact.

I did go on holiday for a week, but mostly i've given up trying to make myself like SC2.  Not the game itself, you understand, but the itinerary.  I decided to break my silence in order to discuss why i've become so disaffected by the whole thing, so be warned: i'll try to keep the whining to a minimum, but there will likely be some.

When Strarcraft II beta came along and essentially killed-off Warcraft III, i was fairly ambivilent.  WC3 was and still is my favourite esports game of all time, albeit through some heavily rose-tinted glasses now, but SC2 represented a fresh new dawn and a way of uniting esports fans.  Largely, it has lived up to the hype.  From the very beginning it seemed like everyone stepped up a gear and the whole thing became a self-fulfilling prophecy, with tournament organisers and content-creators trying to keep up with and outdo one another.  The sheer amount of content - visual, textual and audio - dwarfed into insignificange that of communities i'd been involved in previously.

It was fantastic in the true sense of the word - almost impossible to take in.  In the beginning, i found myself with tournament streams on in the background almost daily and being disappointed when i couldn't find at least a Zotac or Go4 to listen to while i did other things.  Then GSL started up and my problems were solved.  It's kind of ironic that after years of bad sleeping caused by computer addiction, an esports league actually had me getting up at a reasonable hour to watch MC's nexus-cancels and Nestea's miraculous comebacks.

It seemed like it was too good to be true, but like some genie-filled fairy tale, the moral was that you should be careful what you wish for.  Watching every game every day soon became listening to them in the background while i played WoW and then noticing that, actually, the commentators are mostly terrible and just yell "ohhhhh!" a lot.

Honestly, that's when the cancer began, but it took a long time to become malignant.  People talk about an inner circle jerk in esports nowadays.  I'm fully behind that idea.  SC2 improved a great many things, but at the price of turning the vast majority of the community into sycophantic acolytes of a few, largely undeserving, people.  To slaughter all of SC2's sacred cows would take far too long for a reasonable length blog, but you can probably name most of them if you try hard enough.

As a postmodern man, i realise that at least part of my problem here is undoubtedly jealousy, so perhaps we should move on.

The fact is that the SC2 scene really has felt more and more like a cancer to me for the past few months.  There is so much i hate about it - real, genuine hate - that it's gotten harder and harder to enjoy the good bits.  Originally, this blog was going to be some kind of list of the things i dislike, explained bit-by-bit, but i realised it would take too long and wouldn't really help anything.  Besides, anyone who reads this blog regularly will probably know what most of them are.

So, instead, i've tried to back away from SC2 altogether.  The physical part has been surprisingly easy.  One of SC2's biggest problems is definitely overexposure.  I haven't properly watched an SC2 tournament in months and i realised that i don't even miss it very much.  I didn't force myself, it just sort of happened.  As much as i dislike MLG, their payperview model has actually been pretty beneficial for me: can't watch, won't watch.  I still feel a pang in my stomach when, for example, ESFI is covered with MLG coverage and only a few snippets of Dreamhack, but i suspect that will never go away.

Where am i going with all this?  Good question.  I guess it helps to explain why my content output since i left SK has been so minimal.  I have felt more and more smothered by the Starcraft II community.  It's largely in my head, i realise that, but when all i want to do is slate beloved public figures, it's probably best for my health if i keep it away from caster-worshipping forum commentators.  That part is pretty easy, since they won't look much further than the TL forums (if that sounds bitter, well, yep).  I don't intend to stop writing about esports - on the contrary, i applied for a job with Cadred (please vote for me, by the way).  I will probably even write about SC2 again in the future, but i need to break it down into smaller pieces so i can find the good parts again.

Sorry if this blog reads a bit schizophrenically, but it's quite appropriate.  My issues with writing about SC2 feel so massive and hard to truly grasp that a rambling, stream-of-conciousness piece with little or no direction is somewhat cathartic.  Maybe i should've just gone with the list method after all.

Saturday, 31 March 2012


Without trying to brag, one thing i've always prided myself on is my ability to disagree with someone without having to automatically dislike them or insult them.  Being able to see two sides of a story is important to a journalist, but it is something that i've always felt should be important to any intelligent person.

Not so, says the internet.

Ever since my columns on SK got me some amount of noteriety, this is something i've tried to come to terms with.  The general principal goes something like this: "i don't agree with what you wrote, ergo you're a fucking idiot."  To me, that's always seemed kind of... unfair.

When i had a little dig at DJWheat for being a bit self-righteous a while ago, i was at pains to explain how i respect his contribution to esports.  I was probably bending the truth slightly since i'm no huge fan of his, but you have to have some respect for a person who's been relevant in esports for so long.  Did he bother to do me the same courtesy in his criticism?  Of course not.  He accused me of "throwing him under the bus for years."  I guess those "news" posts (and i use the term very loosely) i made on SK advertising his Lo3 show really offended him, since i never mentioned him in any of my other content.

Thatt might seem like just one small, unimportant anecdote, but this post was actually inspired by Lurppis running his mouth on a subject of which he is clearly ignorant.  When the pillars of our community (Lord, save us!) can be so narrow minded, it sets a pretty poor example for everyone else.  There will always be trolls; the annonymity of the internet is well enough discussed that i don't need to bother going into that.  But if people who are  respected in the community can show a bit of perspective and maturity, we might at least minimise the number of people who think it's okay to lack those qualities.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Dog Bites man

Drama today, as fights broke out all over the internet.  Members of one esports community, feeling threatened by another, larger, esports community made numerous ill-informed ranting forum posts.


Friday, 9 March 2012

Another Cool Quote

This was take from someone's forum signature a long time ago... on WCReplays i think:

"The difference between a lucky noob and a pro, is that a lucky noob gets out of situations a pro would never get into."

A Useful Cosbyism

Why i think mainstream is a bad direction for esports to go in is difficult to explain - mostly because it get angry and confused.  But i think this is a fairly good attempt at explaining it, by the one and only Bill Cosby (posted by Aaron Forscythe of Wizards of the Coast):

"I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody."

Wednesday, 7 March 2012


Okay, so, i decided i should watch one of the seeming millions of esports panel shows.  The Executives seemed like it could be interesting, and so far - apart from Slasher's life story - it has been.  But now they're talking about independence and objectivity in journalism... on a show hosted by the manager of Complexity, on Complexity's Twitch channel.  Ho hum.

They're making some good points, but i just felt the need to point out the irony in case anyone missed it.

Carry on.

Monday, 5 March 2012

So, about this Idra IEM thing

It's very, very difficult to have sympathy for Idra.  Despite being a middling professional gamer, his stream earns him more money that pretty much anyone else in the business.  He acts like an asshole and people love him for it - one of the quirks of being in an industry targetted at 14-25 year olds.  So, when he complains about the hotel in Hannover not being very good you'll forgive me if i don't shed too many tears.

But whether he's a pampered individual or the start of something more worrisome, he does kind of have a point.  It's difficult for me to criticise ESL, i must admit, but their umbilical attachment to CeBIT has been an issue for many years.  The celebrity culture attached to SC2 has simply brought it into sharper focus, and a lot of the new esports crowd obviously weren't aware of it until now.  Well, at least Idra has brought it to their attention, i suppose.

The problem is that ESL's model pretty much dictates that they have to be at CeBIT.  Why is being attached to one of the biggest computer expos a problem?  Well, Hannover is a pretty unassuming town, as anyone who has been there will tell you.  When something like CeBIT rolls into town they don't really have room for the thousands of extra people.  It's traditional that people rent out their spare bedrooms and hostels do a roaring trade.  The two times i attended, i stayed in what was surely a former brothel and some kind of ex-Hitler Youth camp, both of which were upwards of 30 minutes from the event.

I didn't mind overmuch, but it's obviously far from ideal.  What makes it worse is that IEM isn't the only show in town any more.  For a couple of years they only had to compete with MLG and nobody really complained too much because there already wasn't much money to go round and WoW players sure as hell didn't have the presence that SC2's stars do.  Much as i dislike MLG, they seem to have stepped up their game on this front (too much, in Boxer's case).  ESL hasn't, and, while they remain attached to CeBIT, can't.

The danger of pampering players is a real one - just look at other sports.  But there is a middle ground to be found, and it's in everyone's best interests if players look forward to a tournament, rather than dreading it.

Friday, 24 February 2012

What is The Point of Esports Journalism?

The perceived purpose of general journalism is to inform and educate people about the news.  For sports coverage, the goal is largely the same but with obviously different subject matter.  You might assume that esports journalism should be the same, and it should.

So why do we so often receive evangelical pieces about how awesome esports is, aimed at an apathetic or straight-up antagonistic audience?  In the past ten years i have seen dozens of such pieces - i even read some of them - and they all seem to serve the same purpose: look how awesome competitive gaming is.  The latest attempt from Slasher (a serial offender) is no different and has so far been met with the same level of "meh" that all the rest have been.

Lets be clear: Slasher is generally a good guy, and his heart is in the right place.  Getting a "real job" with a mainstream gaming website is something he should be rightfully proud of.  But he of all people should know that preaching to the mainstream audience is waste of time and effort on several levels.  Firstly, they don't care.  Look at the comments:

"No. Sorry. I've tried watching people play videogames on TV before and it is lame"

"I don't know anyone, anywhere, who watches the matches, the ones I have watched are boring..."

Secondly, trying to spread the good news about esports might seem like a venerable goal, but when do we get to the point where we say fuck it: they don't want us and we don't need them?  For me, that came a long time ago.  We absolutely don't need them.  Why not concentrate on improving what we have?  Instead of looking out to a hostile world, why not try looking inwards and fixing the problems we already have?  That makes a lot more sense to me.

Slasher has been around as long as i can remember; he should know all of this.   If i didn't know better i might even think he was just doing it for the paycheck (they are highly sought after in esports journalism, that wasn't a dig).  If he genuinely thinks he can convert people to some kind of esports crusade, well, more fool him.  I just hope his next article for Gamespot isn't so horrendously fluffy.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Hypewatch Returns

I guess it's been a while, hopefully this one speaks for itself:

"However, rather than go through extensive fanfare we will simply announce them one at a time: Thursday, Friday and Saturday."

Thank-you Complexity, for not making extensive fanfare over the course of sev... uh, wait, what?

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

No crowd, no journalists, no viewers?

I went to bed late last night wondering if maybe i do want the MLG thing to succeed after all.  As much as i can't afford to pay for it, a sustainable income is something that esports has needed for many years.  If this works, might it be an important step forward - albeit with a few necessary adjustments (i.e. the price).  Then again, other leagues have done just fine without pay-per-view.  Look at ESL and IPL, for example.

Then, i started rewatching Batman Begins and went to sleep.

Then, i woke up and saw this poll:

If people follow through with this (and that 2,300 is quite a large sample by esports standards), MLG might very well regret their decision, regardless of what i think.  Are people finally wising up to the fact that MLG is nothing but spin and flashing lights?  More likely they're just put off by the high price, but sometimes the ends justify the means.

The post mentioned in the second poll can be found here.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Pay Per View: All-in

Leave it to Affentod to summarise MLG's decision to go pay-per-view so succinctly.

It's a secret that everyone with even the slightest insider knowledge knows: MLG is not what it's cracked up to be, financially speaking.  But rather than risk libel action or discuss things i don't pretend to fully understand, i'm going to run some simple numbers.

You see, MLG's pay-per-view scheme might have been inevitable, it might be controversial, but it certainly is not a reasonable investment for someone like me.  $20 for a single event works out at about £12.75 GBP.  For the same amount, i can subscribe to five Sky Sports channels for a month.  Even if i just want to watch football, that's just obviously better value for money.  If you want to claim MLG is a one-off showcase event, well, firstly, i think that's a flawed system to begin with but that's another issue.  Secondly, is it a big enough showcase event to be worth the money?  Having seen every MLG event since they started the PC Circuit with WoW, i'm insulted by own question.  It would take a significant improvement in production values and commentator quality to be worthwhile (part of me just blanches at the thought of paying $20 to listen to Tastosis yell "Ohhhhh!" a lot).

Okay, maybe comparing it to something as well established as Sky Sports isn't fair.  Lets look at something closer to home: GSL.  For $24.99 i can watch an entire season, with arguably better players and far more matches, spread across an entire month.  For $5 more than MLG is charging for a single weekend, i can watch a whole month of high level Starcraft?  There will be people who are willing and able to pay for both, sure, but that's not the point.  At least GSL lets my broke-ass watch bad quality for free, MLG won't even let me do that at their Winter Arena.

Even if i had the money to spare, MLG has placed itself a long way down my list of priorities.  If i was going to put my money into esports it would be as far from MLG as i could put it.  This is yet another gamble, and eventually MLG will surely run out of chips.  If they don't pull this off - and previous form isn't great - the backlash that is so deserved might finally begin.  The hype will be seen for what it is.  Where are the non-American events that were not quite promised, Sundance?  Where is the GotFrag revival that was not quite promised?  MLG might really be going all-in with this, and if consumer uptake isn't good enough, the cost of the event could break the bank.

Monday, 30 January 2012

A Brief History of Being Foreign

There have been quite a few articles recently discussing the in and outs of Koreans joining foreign teams.  Fine, whatever, it's a reasonably interesting phenomenon.  But the idea that it's new is, frankly, baffling.  Maybe it's just another symptom of the fact that 90% of the SC2 scene only got into esports in the past 18 months, but esports has had players on non-domestic teams for as long as I can remember and probably even before that.

Back when in 2001 when i first got interested in online gaming, 4k (or Infinity-eSports, depending on what day of the week it was) was the British team to follow.  They represented us better than any team since (excluding CS: Source because, well. who cares) and even managed some solid tournament placings.  Oh, yeah, and back then, they had a Dutch player called Kwak.  Yep, way back in 2001, before SC2 was even a hype video with a "Soon (TM)" deadline, a British team fielded a non-British player.

This carried on throughout Counter-Strike history, with Norwegians on American teams, Dutch and Austrian players on German teams and several other foreigners on the 4k team to mention but a few.  A handful of players, such as Lurppis, even made long-term moves across the globe to be with their team-mates, something that most Korean SC2 players on foreign teams have yet to do.

In my own favourite esports scene, Warcraft III, Koreans playing for European teams was even more prevelant.  It worked perfectly well for years, until MYM decided to go and fuck it all up, but that's another story.  In fact, it was probably more common for a WC3 player to be a foreign team than it was for him to be on one from his own country.  Did the great Grubby ever play for a Dutch team after he made a name for himself?  Nope.  Only a small number of countries could support a team with enough talent to make it worthwhile and so most players were attached to a 4k, an MYM or an SK.  The top Koreans were even slated as "mercernaries," especially the SK ones, because they moved to more lucrative foreign contracts when it became clear that the game hadn't really taken off in Korea.

The fact is, players being on a foreign team is nothing new.  By all means write about it and discuss its merits and its weaknesses, but please do just the tiniest bit of research and realise that the concept is as old as esports, let alone sports in general.