It was a very sad day for us when Mythic Gaming announced they would be shutting down. We, along with much of the South African esports scene, had become very fond of the ambitious MGO and their fairy tale story and there are many lessons we can learn from their journey.
With Nicholas ‘PHAZED’ Kuhn at the helm, they seemed to have this messy esports business figured out and were on track to becoming a permanent feature on our computer screens. But despite doing so much right, there was no happily ever after for Mythic Gaming.
Shortly after the door closing announcement we asked Nick if he’d be willing to chat to us about what he learned while managing an MGO for a year. We were hoping for a few insights to share. What we got was a gift of knowledge that quite literally cost him a year of his life to obtain, given selflessly in order to help the South African esports scene do better.
Everything from here on out are Nick’s thoughts and opinions, we can’t take credit for them, but we’re very happy to give him a platform to share them with you.
It’s too much for one article, so this is part one.
Starting any MGO with the aims and ambitions to compete at (or even attempt to reach) the top levels of South African esports requires a ton of planning, foundation work and a thorough understanding of the esports industry both locally and internationally.
I can’t really say whether starting Mythic was any more-or-less difficult than expected, as I feel the launch of Mythic went exactly as expected. I spent roughly a year planning the launch of Mythic Gaming, what the philosophy behind Mythic would be, the teams and titles that we would support and finally how the management structure would work.
As an organisation, we always maintained a timeline of how and when events would unfold (especially when it came to announcing the organisation and our rosters). Which is critical when starting your MGO.
I am privileged enough to have had quite a vast range of experience within the local esports industry which assisted me in the planning of Mythic Gaming. The experience I gained throughout the years was a result from competing in various Call of Duty titles, assisting VS Gaming (then Do Gaming League) as a CoD Committee Member, Administering the ‘Altitude Fight Night’ CS:GO Invitational and assisting in the management of Altitude Gaming in 2015.
This experience allowed me to really understand the local esports industry and how I felt was the best way to announce Mythic Gaming.
At the beginning I wish I had known the impact that roster volatility had on organisations, teams and individual players, as well as the amount of time and effort required to qualify for an invitational league (without receiving a direct invitation). Although, I feel that the latter drives the roster volatility, especially for teams attempting to break into the top tier of local gaming.
Balancing work, life and an MGO:
If you’re serious about running an MGO that will attempt to break into the top tier of MGOs in the local esports industry then it’s a ton of work, too much for one person, which affects your life balance.
I was fortunate enough to have the daily assistance of Dirk Ottersbach (Chief Gaming Officer of Mythic Gaming) and Joshua Moulton (Graphic Designer for Mythic Gaming) as well as additional assistance from Arthur Whitehead (Video Editor) and Christopher “Sargon” House (Journalist) which made it easier to run the MGO.
Any well run and maintained MGO will have a lot of work done behind the scenes, all of which requires substantive planning and time.
These range from planning your social media coverage for the week (player news, tournament progress, match results and general organisation updates), to sponsorship proposals/meetings, and to having frequent meetings with your players or managers to ensure that their needs are being met and that any issues are addressed and rectified.
The above especially impacts your life balance as the local gaming scene isn’t established enough for this to be done during working hours as most ‘managers’ already work full time.
As any management position, I learned a lot in managing people, expectations and deadlines.
The struggle is real:
Teams are provided with opportunities; however, it is not realistic that these teams can capitalise on them and as such, the assistance that they receive isn’t enough.
To understand why this is so, one must understand what opportunities the teams outside the top tier of SA esports have. Which can be summed up as follows:
- Online ladders (VS Gaming, Orena and ESEA)
- Online qualifiers (VS Gaming, Orena, ESL Africa, Mettlestate and Mega8)
- LAN events specifically designed for these teams (VS Gaming Championships, previously DGC, and Mettlestate Matrix Warehouse Challenge).
Teams clearly do have the opportunity to try qualify for the main events and have various ladders in which they can compete against the top teams (albeit online), however these almost always overlap, which results in teams having to choose which events to play in.
What’s the reason for the overlaps? The top-tier SA teams are free to play in the qualifier or invitational tournament in those times. While there isn’t anything wrong with this, as one can argue that the other teams had a chance to qualify, you cannot argue that the system gives these teams a fair chance to succeed. Especially when your team can be seen as a threat and players are poached or attempted to be poached which unwinds all the progress made.
The only guaranteed event that these teams can work towards is the VS Gaming Championship events, which requires the teams to play almost the entire year to try and attend, and this is just for one small scale event – when compared to the others.
If teams are serious about qualifying for the top events then they will try and play all the qualifiers or other leagues which often adds an extra two evenings of tournament play into their schedule outside of any practice.
This then results in four nights spent in just qualifying for an event – this excludes any time for practice or relaxing. This stunts the team development as a top-tier team would have one or two scheduled matches a week and has a lot more time to sit and practice or have down time to ensure that stress and frustration levels are minimised, a privilege that the lower teams do not have.
If a team fails to qualify for an event, often they will disband and months of work would have been for nothing. Or on the other side, if an opportunity opened up due to roster changes in the top-tier sides (read as: Masters or invited teams) then they will take that opportunity because they get a guaranteed seed to an event and don’t have to ‘waste time’ playing qualifiers.
From an organisation perspective, the various qualifiers and online leagues do allow you to have a ton of content to feature and grow your fan base. You will be on the back foot when compared to the top, but that is to be expected. Tournaments are starting to pay for travel and accommodation so funding should be freed up, depending on what you qualify for and the results of your various qualifiers.
To be honest, I don’t have any regrets. It was an extremely hard decision to close our doors as the entire management team are very passionate about esports. We operated in a way that identified ourselves as a very strong MGO with a great, interactive fan base and looking back on the experience we all learned a lot, grew our passions and received a lot of enjoyment.
There will always be things that make you think ‘what-if,’ however I don’t regret anything and I know for a fact that none of the other members of our management team regret anything. Funnily enough this was actually a question I asked the management team when we were discussing whether we would close Mythic or not.
To be continued…
We’ll be back with Nick next week to get his thoughts on what it really takes to reach the top of South African esports.
P.S. That’s the first article we’ve ever published that contains no jokes or inappropriate word play. How mature are we?