For South African gaming to take the next step, local pro gamers and teams need to realise they have the potential to be celebrities. By that we don’t mean the popping bottles, throwing hundreds, asking Mark Zuckerberg on Twitter if he’ll give you $1 million type of celebrities.
We mean the type of celebrities that have the power to influence trends and buying power. The type of celebrities that are marketable and brands want to invest in. Because as we have said before, when more brands start investing in the local eSports scene, that’s when it will really start to take off.
Last week Miles ‘B4d R0b0t’ Regenass chatted to us about exactly this topic, taking South African eSports to the next level. Thankfully for us, and local gamers, Miles stuck around to gives us all some advice on how exactly we go about doing that. Because it’s going to take a lot of work and certainly more than the, “Hey, just, ah, go out there and be a bit more famous” pep talk you would get from us.
The first thing that Miles wants us all to realise about being an eSports celebrity is that looks are not important. As he said last week, you are not interesting because of how you look, you are interesting because of what you can do.
“For me, one of my favourite stories is that League of Legends player Imaqtpie. He is not a good looking guy. He played for Dignitas and had a huge following. Now he’s quit playing competitive and he has one of the biggest League of Legends streams. He’s carried on engaging with his fans and supporters and he’s generating revenue just by streaming.”
“He’s just this really great character, and he was a brilliant player. Now he’s just an amazing entertainer. He’s really good with his supporters and his stream numbers are crazy.
I think that’s what a lot of guys and girls in South Africa who compete need to do. They need to look at themselves and go, ‘It’s not really about how I look. It’s about who I am’ and actively try and promote themselves. I think that’s a very un-South African thing to do. I think for Americans it comes really easily, it’s part of their culture to be quite loud and boastful, but it kind of goes hand in hand with the Instagram, selfie generation.
The sooner the competitive teams in South Africa realise this, and actually start trying to promote themselves as players and as teams, not just as a brand and as competitors, but as interesting people, the quicker we will have more supporters. Because everybody is like, ‘We need sponsors, and we need money’, but why would a sponsor want to sponsor something that doesn’t have thousands and thousands of followers?
Our biggest problem right now is that we think that if all the teams got sponsorship, then we would get all the supporters, but it doesn’t actually work that way. Teams need to generate supporters and generate interest in themselves.
We’re missing the desire for these competitors to become stars. They personally don’t feel like it’s something they want to do and they don’t want to work on it.”
If you just take a look through the Twitter accounts of local gamers and local Multi Gaming Organisations (MGOs), you’ll see the lack of effort going into self-promotion. And what is out there is often just letting you know when they’re playing, or retweeting someone else’s tweet. It’s not personal. It’s not interesting. Some of them haven’t said anything in months. They’re not giving local gamers a reason to take an interest in them.
Some of the top players and teams in the country have only a few hundred followers. Compare that to the followings of top teams and players internationally and you’ll get an idea of just how far behind the international scene we are. It’s a few hundred vs. a few hundred thousand.
But that’s not to say we’re all lacking the desire to grow our brands and develop celebrity power, we just don’t put in the work. Miles is trying to change that with MSI’s sponsorship of Aperture Gaming.
“These guys are our ambassadors. The return we get from investing in them is that they need to help promote the brand. I personally like that type of interaction, I think it’s money well spent. It’s more personal.”
It takes a lot of effort, but Miles believes it’s worth it. He’s actively working to grow the Aperture Gaming brand, and thereby the MSI brand in South Africa. He’s getting people interested in the team, building a community around them, and that is going to give them power. Power that will attract other brands.
“Here’s the honest truth. Right now, marketing and advertising in the world is in this massive flux. And it’s been going on for the last 15 to 20 years with the demise of TV commercial budgets, the demise of print advertising, and the rise of internet advertising. And now the prevalence of adblock. What you offer a brand is: you are their ambassador, you represent them, and you push their messaging into your community.
I wonder how many local gamers actually have Instagram accounts. If you go on Instagram, there are girls in bikinis, and they spend their whole day just taking pictures of themselves in bikinis. Every now and then they’ll promote some food supplement or skin care thing. But they’re generating money because they have followers. What they’re telling the brand is, ‘I’ve got 20 000 followers. For so many thousand dollars I’ll do some photos with your brand and I’ll tell all my followers to consider using your brand.’ It’s that simple.
But that takes work. Those girls and those guys on Instagram are active everyday trying to collect more followers. I don’t think we have one gamer in this country, and I stand to be corrected, that wakes up every day and says, ‘How do I get more Twitter followers?’ Because they just want to increase their aim or their headshot skill, or understand the meta of Dota more.
So what would I say to a young gamer? What do you offer? You. You are what you offer. Your ability to deliver a message to all your friends and your followers. And how do you increase your worth? Go after more followers, whether it’s your Snapchat, your Instagram, or Twitter, or all of them. There is methodology. You can go online and understand it.
Go after it. Spend time every day. Put an hour aside to work on your social. Your friends are going to give you shit, but who actually cares? Because five years from now most of them won’t actually even be around and you’ll still be trying, and you’ll have 30 000 followers, and you’ll have brands interested in who you are and what you say.”
And that’s it. That’s what it’s going to take. If we want the local gaming scene to continue to grow, if we want more of our players and teams to get sponsored, if we want to be able to make careers out of gaming, we need to put in the effort. No one is going to do it for us.
Start small, get on social media. Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, whatever you prefer. Start creating content, it doesn’t have to be video, it can a picture or a written post. Show people your insane plays, your terrible plays, your friend’s outrageous in-game comments. Give us behind the scenes info about tournaments and events. Tell us about that one time you were in a 1v1 against Aran ‘Sonic’ Groesbeek and you pawned that noob. Just kidding, he’s ridiculous.
Just don’t tell us what you’re having for breakfast, or show us pictures of your dinner.