Many of our shortcomings in the South African esports industry are often explained away by statements like, “We’re still small compared to the rest of the world” or, “We’re still growing”. However, according to Devin ‘HellbirD’ Rigotti, this small-time mindset might actually be holding us back.
We’ll be the first to put our hands up and acknowledge that we have been guilty of this kind of thing. Many of our articles last year explained away faults at events with exactly that kind of attitude.
But, the fact of the matter is, when ReDeYe came to South Africa he made some pretty bold statements comparing our scene to that of his native England, a first world country where fibre internet is as readily available as wine in Stellenbosch, with us often coming out on top. So maybe it’s time we stopped finding excuses for our shortcomings and instead start being more critical of our mistakes so we can find the right solutions and plan a way forward.
We’re a big deal now – the Telkom DGL boasted a R1million prize pool last year, while South African athletes who won a gold medal at the 2016 Olympics in Rio were given R500,000 – and it’s time we started acting like it. HellbirD, you’re up.
“There’s something that I want to caution people about. I spoke to somebody a while ago about me as a shoutcaster. And I said to him, ‘What do you think my greatest short-falling is as a shoutcaster?’
And he said: ‘Your biggest problem is that you focus too much on the SA portion of what you do.’
He said that people involved in the Chinese Dota environment or the European or the American – all the big ones – they don’t talk as if they need to be part of something else. They’re not talking about growth or anything like that. They’re focusing on the good that is already there and the highlights.
I think that South Africa has reached a point where we won’t really get bigger and better while we still look at ourselves like: ‘Oh, it’s SA level, and it’s SA production level. These shoutcasters aren’t as good as international ones because they’re not doing this full-time. These players can’t compete with international ones.’
All these are not necessarily excuses, but limitations that we use as a walking stick to try and get through the things we don’t do well enough.
Rather just go, ‘So we’re kind of a big deal now.’ These tournaments we’re having aren’t small. I mean if you take R1million prize pool split over two titles, it’s still a significant prize pool in the European climate. It may not be anywhere near the biggest, but it’s nothing to stick your nose up at.”
The local scene is far too young and fresh to be relying on a crutch, so it’s time to pack away the walking sticks, stop shouting at kids to get off your lawn and get down to business, because the way people will perceive our scene is directly correlated to the way we see ourselves. If we continue to play the role of the plucky underdog doing our best, but willing to accept mistakes, then we’ll never progress beyond that point.
Bravado Gaming’s decision to withdraw from the Telkom DGL Master’s program is an excellent example of what HellbirD is talking about. They dominated the local scene last year, in both CS:GO and Dota 2, and would’ve probably done the same this year but, instead, they are looking to play more tournaments overseas.
Their decision is indicative of the attitude towards the South African scene: You need to go overseas to make it.
And that sucks, but with suckiness comes opportunity.
“I think with that change in mindset it will do a huge amount for SA gaming. But on that tangent, with players leaving the likes of the Bravado camp, we are also going to need people to put up their hands and say, ‘I’m going to be the guy who’s going to replace an international quality offlaner.’
And they need to state it as such: ‘I’m going to be the best, I’m going to be good enough to compete with the best. And be that guy and set those standards.’”
And it’s not just gamers that need to change the way they see the local scene and their role in it. Everyone does, from the shoutcasters, to the tournament organisers, to the plucky magazine websites named after positive pre-game messages.
“We need a shoutcaster to say, ‘Sure, I have these limitations in my personal life, whether it be work or studies or whatever it is, but I’m going to be the guy that people want at the international events.
And of course for the production people and the tournament organisers, it all needs to be the same. We’re not going to be really good for South Africa, we’re going to be good on an international scale. And we’re going to put our hands up to be that person, that organisation, that group that’s going to be the one to bring us a little closer to that.”
Obviously, HellbirD only means metaphorically putting your hand up because the more time we spend with our hands on our keyboards, controllers or whatever else you’re playing with (pun fully intended), the better we’re going to get.
The talent is here and the potential is here, all it will take is some hard work and belief. And listening to the wise words of people like HellbirD. If we do that, and if half of what we’ve heard about the year to come is true, all we need is time.