Gaming community: The pros and the plebs

By Ian Chee - on 29 Mar 2015, 11:00am

The Major All Stars at Stadium Malawati in Shah Alam last week was an eye opener, in more ways than one. In a more literal sense, three days of darkness really took its toll when I got back to the realm of light on Monday. In the more metaphorical sense – which is the crux of this column – it has made me see two sides of two coins: the gaming community and the pro-gamer community. This time, do bear with me as this is going to be a long one.

Let me begin with the more relatable one: the gaming community. The amateur gamers, the event organizers, the sponsors. The grassroots, as it were. The guys that make things happen. And I’m going to start off on this note: we can be really toxic.

Let’s look at some of the results of Day 1 from the public’s point of view. And to find all that, you have your usual Reddit, but actually you need not look further than Major All Stars’ own Facebook page. You see all manner of toxicity here, from our usual self-pessimism to Internet memes. The sarcasm that has been associated with our ‘Malaysia Boleh’ line is as obvious as ever. In fact, it would be a challenge to make that line more sarcastic sounding than the people on Facebook have done. Every clichéd insult has been used, and every manner of flaming can be found here.

Many people have already said this, but the community has to work together to bring up the local gaming scene. The organizers of Major All Stars agree with this. eSM agrees with this. But at this point, I wonder how far can the reliance of our community go in bringing up our local e-sports scene if we are this toxic about it? No doubt, Day 1 was riddled with more than mere hiccups, but there is not as much praise for the comeback on Day 2 and Day 3 combined, compared to the scorn the public are publicly giving the organizers. Of course, the guys of Fallout Gaming don’t blame the public, and they acknowledge that the smoothness of Day 2 and 3 do not make up for the postponement of almost the entirety of Day 1, but as someone who is not directly involved, I wonder if the public is capable of empathy at all.

Two of the four co-founders of Fallout Gaming, Francis Goh and Adrian Gaffor.

I’ve had an extensive chat with two of Fallout Gaming’s co-founders, and from what they’ve told me, they know now quite well what went wrong. They were also able to take the harshness of the public as they strived to keep the rest of the tournament issue-free. I asked them what they think of the public reaction and if they found them too harsh, and I was taken aback a little by the response I got. They said that the public will think what it wants and will react so as well, and it is up to them, or any organizers of any such tournaments, to do things properly in the future that the public will not have any reason to rage, flame, scorn and insult.

And that’s true - in today’s world of 1-picosecond attention span and instant gratification, we are just as quick to anger as we are to boredom. It has become quite difficult to appreciate the time and effort that has been put behind making the things that gratifies us, as we ourselves are less inclined to invest time and effort to gratify others, even ourselves at times. As a result, give someone a reason to be annoyed and you can be sure that single reason will be used to grow that annoyance into anger, disappointment and distrust. And when none are available, there will be no reason for criticism other than for the sake of being an irrational, nitpicking (insert classy insult here).

And I like the approach of Fallout Gaming. The guys recognize that thought policing isn’t the way – I thought it was the only way at some point, given how toxic we can be and how incurable we seem to be – and that, if there is someone who is going to be the one leading the change in our community’s culture, it would be in each and every one of us. We have to ourselves not be toxic so that we do not spread our toxicity to others. We need to try and understand a problem before we complain about it, instead of just seeing the first one and go immediately harping on it to relieve ourselves of our daily stresses (apparently putting people down works wonders in stress relief). Who knows? Maybe they just find Fallout Gaming’s trying to do something about our e-sports scene insulting to their sitting at home and doing nothing about something they apparently care about. Maybe they find that actually trying and failing is offensive to their not trying and not succeeding. If that is the case, then I would like to – on the behalf of every supporting person of our e-sports community – be offended by their being offended, even if under most circumstances, I couldn’t care less.

And who are these people that I am taking offense on behalf of? The people who actually provide more than merely discouraging words. The people who were supportive of the organizers of the Major All Stars, the people who actually sent private messages to them, telling them not to give up and to give their all for Day 2 and 3, the people who actually bothered to offer kind words after their harsh ones. I would offer to take offense on behalf on another group of people, but I know they would not have any of that. These are the organizers themselves, who pulled an all-nighter to get things right for the community, the ground crew who got to made the things the organizers needed happen, and the sponsors who decided not to quit on the organizers, but instead offered encouragement and help in salvaging the tourney and getting it to conclude relatively smoothly and successfully.

Right. Now that I’m done with our plebian community, let’s move on to the pro community. Or, if it’s all a bit much for you, here’s an intermission in the form of a podcast by Zyori, one of the casters from Beyond the Summit, on Malaysia and the Major All Stars.

Now… how do I start this without making every team fan hate me…? Nope, there’s no way of getting around this, so here goes.

See, I’m a Dota 2 fan. What I’m not is a Dota 2 TEAM fan. Most of my Dota 2-playing friends are both, few are like me. In the same way, I’m a football fan and not a football club fan. That’s why whenever there is a game, I cheer for any team that scores or makes an amazing play, instead of just those by a specific team like most so-called football “fans” out there. But I digress.

So back to the point: I’m a Dota 2 fan that doesn’t favor any particular team. That all changed during the Major All Stars. And I’ll tell you why, along with how the pro community can be as unfriendly as the plebian community, though nowhere near as toxic.

You see, most of the teams there have been around and about for quite a bit. They are stars in their own right. Some players more so than others, but you get the point. And when you’re a celebrity, you can expect to be mobbed by rabid fans for photos, autographs or for a simple handshake. And that can get to you. You’d get tired with dealing with all these physically, even if they do perk you up mentally. And when you have something important to do, like playing an important game for your team or casting an international match, you’d want to keep enough energy to do those things, and you wouldn't want to use up too much by gratifying your fans. If you’ve listened to the podcast by Zyori, you’ll get what I mean.

So yes, sometimes, you don’t want to have to deal with your fans. And I get it (actually, no, not really), but at the very least, do it properly without giving people the wrong impression. I wasn’t sticking around the casters much, so I don’t know how they’ve been treating their fans, but from Zyori’s multiple quotes from fans, I’m guessing the Beyond the Summit guys have been treating their fans properly, which is great. As for the gamer teams though, things were a bit polarized.

Let’s start with the negative end of the magnet. And on this end we have, unfortunately, Team Empire. Yes, I understand, they’re a busy bunch, and the team manager has a lot going on what with him being the interpreter for the entire team. That said, is it too much to ask to be a little friendlier to the fans that approach you outside of your designated signing sessions? Is it also so hard to free up less than five minutes of your time for your team’s post victory interview that the MC Ivan does after every match? As it appeared, I guess fans would stand a better chance getting an autograph, a handshake and a few photos from a sleuth of bears than from Team Empire. On Sunday, I even heard whispers that everyone wanted Invictus Gaming (IG) to win, simply because Team Empire was so unfriendly. I cannot personally verify this, but I can understand where the sentiment is coming from.

At least they were friendly and approachable during their signing session.

The other teams sort of fall in the middle. While they are fairly approachable, I didn’t see that many people actually approaching them, and this makes me feel bad for our local teams, Invasion and Redemption. I don’t know about them, but I find the idea of fighting for your country and having your own countrymen cheer for your opponents instead of you quite heartrending. And so I have decided to place them in the middle, simply because they haven’t quite had that chance to show how well they deal with their fans and, by extension, handle their own PR.

Moving towards the positive end is IG. While the entire team stays hidden back stage most of the time, ChuaN does head out from time to time for his own personal signing sessions and photo ops, keeping IG fans happy. He did make a few quips on how people are so supportive of him even though he’s a Malaysian, but is playing for a Chinese team against other Malaysians, which sort of raises his popularity and boosts IG’s PR rating.

And on the positive extreme of things, we have Ninjas in Pyjamas. I mentioned earlier on this second half that the Major All Stars has made me a Dota 2 team fan, and the team in question is Ninjas in Pyjamas, which I shall now just abbreviate as NiP. Now, NiP has been around the block, making a name for themselves since the Counter Strike 1.6 days, continuing today with Global Offensive. The Dota 2 division of NiP, however, is actually very new. Officially, the team was formed in early 2015, but team captain Simon “Hansken” Haag has told me that they actually got together sometime in August last year. However you look at it, the Dota 2 team of NiP is extremely young.

Anyway, some would argue that such a new team would, of course, have less experience in dealing with fans, some of which are quite rabid and rowdy. Established teams like Na’Vi and Empire may be the way they are because they’ve had enough of fans who can’t act like civilized human beings, but that’s a tad unfair for the other fans who are well mannered. Perhaps in NiP’s inexperience in dealing with this sort of thing, they are extremely friendly to everyone. While they don’t go out of their way to reach out to the fans, they are extremely accommodating in granting photo ops and autographs whenever and wherever the fans come across them, save when they’re resting between games, of course. In fact, I can quite confidently say that NiP was the crowd favorite throughout the Major All Stars, and simply because they don’t exhibit the slightest sign of what a friend of mine calls the ‘Diva Syndrome’.

And then there's the team manager, a star herself in a way. As Zyori puts it, "the tall, blonde Scandinavian manager." Yes, tall blonde girls are pretty much unicorns here in Malaysia.

And so there you have it. I am now a NiP Dota 2 fanboy. And not because they were good – which they were, considering the age of the team and how far they got in the Major All Stars – but simply because they are a humble, down-to-earth bunch of people.

And on that bombshell, adieu to y’all

P.S.: I’d also like to take this opportunity to give a shout-out to Marie “Jeez” Kristine, the manager for team NiP for actually getting back to me after I asked for a follow-up interview with the team. She could’ve just said “I’ll check with the players first” and then vanish without a trace – which is the reaction I usually get and still have trouble getting used to – so infinite thanks for not doing that. Also, shout-out to team NiP for being awesome. Stay friendly, guys. 

Ian Chee

Ian Chee / Writer

Having given up his dreams of playing games for a living, he has gone for the next best thing: writing about them for a living. Or at least, whenever given the chance. Quite clearly a Japanophile, it's a wonder why he doesn't yet speak the language, although that might have something to do with the fact that he doesn't speak much in general.