Despite South Africa’s many technical drawbacks, we’ve still managed to produce one or two international eSports stars. We spoke to one of our best exports, analyst and caster Anthony ‘scant’ Hodgson about the state of the local Dota 2 scene.
If you follow scant on Twitter or have watched any of his casting you’ll know that he has a lot to say about Dota 2. If you don’t follow him on Twitter or have never seen him cast, you’re about to find out that he has a lot to say about Dota 2. We interviewed him for one article about the local scene and we’ve ended up with three. This is part one.
It’s been less than six months since scant played in a South African LAN event, but already he’s noticed an increase in the prize pools of local tournaments. And not just the Telkom DGL Masters, but the smaller tournaments too. This makes him optimistic about the growth of Dota 2 in 2016.
“2015 was a year for Counter-Strike in South Africa, but it looks like a decision was made by several key organisers that both Dota 2 and Counter-Strike are going to be pushed this year so that’s fantastic.”
As someone who has competed in the South African Dota scene for many years, most notably with Bravado Gaming, and is now covering international events, scant is uniquely positioned to give us insights into how the local scene compares to the rest of the world.
“When I started playing Dota 10 years ago you’d be lucky if a tournament had any prizes and the idea of sponsors covering travel to a LAN was almost ridiculous. Now teams being sponsored at least in terms of flights and accommodation for local tournaments has become fairly standard for several teams.
So it depends on your perspective: South African Dota is nothing compared to the international scene, but it’s maybe even further away from itself a decade ago, which is probably a positive sign.”
So let’s place the South African Dota scene on the well-known Ryan Reynolds scale that we just invented. A few years ago we were Green Lantern. No one was happy and no one wanted anything to do with it. The international scene is currently sitting at Deadpool. People can’t get enough of it and eagerly await the next instalment. Currently the local scene is sitting somewhere around Van Wilder or Ryan Reynolds’ being funny in Blade 3. We’re entertaining to watch and people are taking interest. But we’re no box office sensation. A few things still need to happen before we can reach our full ass-whipping potential.
“I still think something the scene could really benefit from is a team actually making an impact on the international scene. That would attract much more outside attention to our teams, players and events and would provide an opportunity to start becoming more integrated in the international scene.
However there’s loads of obstacles to that, and it’s a cycle that reinforces itself. You need to play against top opposition to improve, but you rarely get the chances to play against them if you’re South African. You also need top level LAN experience, and again you rarely get that as a South African.”
We need to start playing with the other kids on the playground. Got it. Don’t be too much like Deadpool then. On a serious note, if we want to be able to play against teams from across the globe we need to improve a few things.
Firstly, our internet speed. You can’t compete at the top levels of eSports with the 200ms pings we get to European servers. So if we could get our internet from “the speed we drive to work or university in the morning” to “the speed we drive home to play games in the evening” that would go a long way to making us more competitive internationally. Hopefully the rollout of fibre will begin to sort that out.
Another thing that would help immensely would be if old president JZ would stop casually massacring the rand every few weeks. Travelling to Europe or America is ridiculously expensive for South Africans. And while we do have more sponsors jumping to get involved in eSports, convincing them to pay for teams to travel overseas is only going to get harder if the rand continues to fall.
“Ultimately it’s not just attention the scene needs but money too, though the two are often related. It’s a good sign that more money is coming in this year, but at the same time there’s still no organisations close to paying teams salaries. So there’s really no South African Dota players who can even consider Dota as an actual career yet.”
So unfortunately no one is making enough money to add security upgrades to their house any time soon, but we are making progress. Teams are working hard to raise the level of competition. Telkom and, more recently, Vodacom are doing their bit to reward players with increasing prize pools. We have more tournaments than ever before. And pretty much every ISP in the country is rolling out fibre. We call that progress.
At the moment, local companies are trying to decide if they should be investing in eSports. Pretty soon they’ll be desperate not to be left out. Here at Good Luck Have Fun, we dream of a day when every local eSports star will be able to have their own fire-pool. Without having to break the Constitution to get it.