At the end of last year we had a long chat with Miles Regenass, director at nAvTV and marketing manager for MSI Notebooks, we’ve mentioned this before. Basically, he knows his stuff, both about the local esports scene and the things we need to focus on in 2017.
We enjoy talking to Miles because he always has really good insights into the local scene, but, more importantly, he always has ideas about what we as a community should be doing to continue to grow and improve. And that’s what we’re all about.
What we don’t enjoy is the days of transcribing that follow such an in-depth and enlightening conversation, but it’s a sacrifice we’re willing to make for our favourite esports scene. And that’s not something we say to all the esports scenes.
So from the hour and a half long interview, what does Miles think is the single most important thing we need to focus on in 2017?
“We’ve got to look after the teams. Next year my personal goal is to uplift the player environment.”
By next year he means this year, because we chatted to him last year.
“So tournaments where we fly the players, accommodate them, all their hardware is supplied. I think that’s going to be one of the key ways – one of, not the – one of the key ways of just pushing the gameplay to the next level and pushing perceptions of the players.
When you want to get eight teams through three days of gameplay and do your double eliminations and possibly even a best of five final, it’s tough.
At ECL, we did it. Orena at the ESWC qualifiers, they did it. And Masters did it. None of us actually supplied any food or catering for players, and it’s such a basic thing. You’ve got to think, you want these guys to compete at the highest level, but they’re living on junk food, crap burgers and R16 cans of Coke from the concessions in the venue and it’s just not good enough.
These guys need a break area where they can sit down and decompress and talk about strats, not on the street. Somewhere they can just go get a cup of coffee or a cup of tea or a cup of juice. It doesn’t have to be a fancy setup. Maybe like a cookie or an apple.
The thing is, perceptions will change too. When we start treating them in that manner, their perceptions will change, their families, their friends, and then their supporters.”
We’ve eaten that junk food and paid the inflated prices for cans of Coke, or Sprite because obviously Sprite is better than Coke, and it’s not great. By the end of the weekend you feel like you need to go sit on a mountain top and eat nothing but salad for a month just to feel human again.
And that’s just being a spectator. Imagine trying to stay focused and play at your best when you feel like that. We understand that budgets are tight and running an event is expensive. But the well-being of our players needs to be higher on the priority list. At the end of the day it will lead to better games, which means better events.
If nothing changes, the increase in the number of events we’re seeing could end up doing more harm than good to the local scene.
“What we’re going to do is hit this burnout, because we’re not looking after our players. We’re not feeding them and hydrating them at events. We’re not giving them chill areas and we’re going to expect them to transport themselves to, possibly, one live event a month. It’s not sustainable.”
Speaking of better events, let’s talk about one of the biggest issues plaguing local esports events and preventing our players from playing at their peak: Scheduling. We need to get it right. And here’s why.
“Scheduling is so important. We’ve got guys playing until 10/11pm, then they’ve got to travel for an hour to get home and be back on site at 8am. So effectively, when all is said and done, they’re getting about five hours in bed.
And then you want them to be on their best behaviour, you want them to look bright and fresh for the one or two interviews you set up or when they’re on camera. You want them to play brilliant, competitive gameplay and then it doesn’t happen. And then you’re like, ‘This isn’t good enough’. But really, whose responsibility is it?
The teams, it’s their responsibility to show up and play the best games that they can play and then represent their brands and themselves to the media. So everything else falls to everybody else, the sponsors and the event organisers.”
If we want to get to the point where our players are considered professionals and our tournaments are competitive at an international level, then we, event organisers, hosts, sponsors, media, are going to need to operate like professionals. Which means leaving the players with nothing to worry about except playing. That’s what international players expect and it’s something we need to work towards.
Because if you eliminate all the outside distractions and leave the players free to immerse themselves in their game of choice they’re obviously going to get better. Which is what we all want, South African players getting good enough to compete internationally.
“There is a lot of work for everybody to do. The trick is going to be to maintain a level of sustainability within the players and teams. I mean look at Damage Control, those guys all have fulltime jobs, I presume some of them are even married and have kids, and consistently last year they were placing with Aperture and Carbon, third, fourth, second place. And they have no sponsors.
I saw one of them the other day, they were buying hardware at Evetech when I was there, and he said, ‘For sure we’re going to compete next year’.
So the question is, how do we as a community look after teams like that who sacrifice a lot to entertain us and be part of the scene and uplift the level of competition within the scene? They do a lot and the actual return they’re getting, apart from it being social and fun, is very, very low.
Those are the challenges. Hopefully my peers will read this article and will take something from it and try and uplift the environment we create.”
Hopefully your peers read this article because then it means we’re actually doing something right.
We started this article talking about the one thing we need to do this year: Improve the environment for the players. Here we are 1124 words later and clearly there is a lot that needs to be done to achieve that one single thing.
But, as we are continuously reminded, there are so many passionate people always trying to raise the bar for the local esports scene. Just think about how far we came in 2016. We have no doubt we’ll go even further in 2017.