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.

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