It’s essentially every gamer’s wildest fantasy: Living in a house full of other esports enthusiasts, where everyone understands that online games can’t be paused. But for esports pros, gaming house life is even more valuable than not being nagged to empty the dishwasher all the time – it allows teams to bond and gel on all-new levels.
The concept of gaming houses is new to the South African esports scene, so naturally there’s a lot to be learned from the first MGO to do it, White Rabbit Gaming. We managed to get over our jealousy long enough to catch up with Nicholas ‘Schlinks’ Dammert about what it’s like to literally be living the dream.
“Since WRG were the first in the local scene to venture into the whole idea of gaming houses, I was really excited for this new adventure. Initially I thought it would be quite hard to adjust to the new living circumstances and the change of scenery (Capetonian for life). I expected most of my days to be quite repetitive and restricted, but nevertheless would enjoy the tough grind.
It turned out to be extremely liberating. Outside of team obligations (practices, tournaments) you’re in control of whatever you want to do. On off days you could go read a book, watch series or spend your time visiting new places and experiencing new things. Although it took some time to get used to, the gaming house started to feel like a second home and the change of scenery was hardly noticeable.”
A man after our own hearts – #capetown4lyf. We had to try hard to not make the rest of the interview about how great Cape Town is. Fortunately for you, our self control is excellent. (GLHF: It’s actually terrible, you guys got lucky.)
When gaming is such a massive part of your life, it must be, as Schlinks says, “extremely liberating” to be able to just focus on what you do best. It allows the players to dive right into the competitive side.
“The grind was really fun. When we’re motivated and every one of us are all playing tons of Dota, matching into each other (in solo queue) or against one another, there’s really high spirits in the team (special shoutout to Castaway’s mid Techies vs my offlane Dazzle in ranked).
Most importantly, every time we managed to achieve a good result against a notable team or placed high in online international tournaments we could all celebrate our achievements together.”
Instead of whooping and hollering over Discord or TeamSpeak, these guys get to walk right up to each other after an online win, high five, tap a few bums, hug it out in a manly fashion and crack a beer in appreciation – adopting the best elements of traditional team sports.
But when you’re living in a gaming house, are you allowed to do anything other than game, eat, sleep, repeat? Are you even allowed to eat and sleep?
“It all depends on whether Dota 2 is getting any local action. While us Dota players are fortunately able to practice on international servers with only minor drawbacks, it’s fairly difficult to maintain a hyper-competitive mindset all the time – it all depends on the competitive climate.
Basically, if there aren’t many international qualifiers or local tournaments being held, us WRG players take a more mellow approach and prefer to play solo queue or relax. But don’t be fooled – we practice a damn load and intensely when we are in that competitive mindset.
On a good day I would play for about 8 hours (practice/solo queue) – taking breaks to walk to the local convenience store and spending some time with the boys while we cook/eat dinner. On lazy days I would watch series all day and order take-out.
As surprising as it may seem, we do tend to go out a fair bit. I believe it’s important to get that little break from the surreal life of full-time gaming and enjoy the time we spend out of the house. We tend to usually walk to the shop around lunch time every day and some of the WRG guys go gymming every few days. Depending on the mood, we also spontaneously visit the casino and have some good nights out around Joburg. Good times.”
It all sounds too good to be true, but Schlinks assures us it was all very real. And yes, we’re nerdgasming over here too.
While there were obvious benefits, there were a few bugs that needed patching too, which is to be expected when you put five highly-competitive individuals in such close quarters for too long. But even those issues were resolved by the magic of the gaming house.
“The positives were very clear. Our performance in-game and communication improved significantly over the competitive Dota season (locally and internationally). The only negative I could point out is the clashes amongst players, but as of late these issues have been rectified via open communication between players and the support we offer one another.
You learn a lot about your teammates once you spend upwards of 75% of your time with them for months at a time. Thankfully we all get along really well and I have come to respect each of them. As time passes it’s typical that some personal issues or clashes ensue, but they’re generally very small-scale and we resolve the swiftly and maturely (while others in the team prefer to box it out – no kidding. Kicking too).”
For those of you who don’t stalk local esports players like we do, Schlinks moved back home to Cape Town a few weeks ago. Given the success of the whole experience, this left a couple of onlookers speculating about his future at WRG. But fear not, he ain’t goin’ nowhere. Except for, like, back to Joburg. Poor guy.
“As many people know, the Dota 2 competitive scene in South Africa has largely been on hold for the latter part of the year. Internationally however, the Dota 2 competitive scene has completely restructured and now works in qualifier ‘blocks’ (periods of which many qualifiers are held).
Once these blocks were finished, I felt the majority of my days were lazy days. I figured I needed a break from the mild pressure of practicing and flew back home to Cape Town – where I am seriously contemplating my Dota 2 career for the upcoming year. However, the move back is only temporary and as soon as things spice up in the local Dota 2 scene I’ll be on the next flight back to the gaming house.”
The benefits of gaming houses are clear, with one of the top Dota players in the country vouching for their efficacy. But are they vital for team growth and progression?
“While they’re a great benefit to any team that would utilise them correctly, I don’t think they’re necessary for that next level.
The current situation is that esports in SA has – for the most part – been circulating around itself with regards to playstyles, strategies and general competitiveness. The level of competitiveness in SA has been maximised and we need to look overseas in order to expand.
Thus, for us to reach the next level of competitiveness we would need to have achieved reputable results in international events (‘putting SA on the map’) and in order to get good results teams need to be exposed to these international teams’ level of competitiveness.”
The gaming house life has certainly helped WRG improve as a team. They have the freedom to train as much as they like, their communication skills are getting almost as good as their Dota skills, and they’ve got the international results to show for it. So, while not vital to the scene, gaming houses do seem to play a part in getting us some international exposure.
We’ll leave you today with Schlinks’ answer to our ultimatum: Gaming house and no salary, or salary and no gaming house?
“I’d definitely choose both options – a luxurious gaming house as well as a hefty salary.”
Nope, that’s not how ultimatums work, bro.
“If I had to choose, my answer would be the salary. The reason being: While a gaming house helps in most aspects of gaming, I think the main objective of a gaming house can primarily be achieved by a bootcamp before a tournament. On the other hand, a salary changes the game entirely.
If salaries were mainstream it would stabilise the competitive scene in many ways. More players would find themselves in an adequate financial state from gaming revenue. This will result in growth amongst the entire competitive scene as we see less players leaving the scene, more players entering the competitive sphere, fewer players jumping ship and switching to other teams and overall less emphasis on trying to place first at every event.
The point of less pressure on placing first alone encourages practice amongst teams on a local scale and I think we will see the scene expand at a rapid rate – both in mentality about practicing (thus competitiveness) and the pure number growth.”
There you have it MGO owners. If you’re thinking about renting a house for your teams, rather consider putting that money towards stable salaries for the players. But if you’re feeling generous, get them a nice little house too. Preferably in Cape Town.