This has been a monumental year for South African esports. From MGOs beginning to pay their players real cash-dollar salaries, to the emergence of international trends in the local scene like coaches and gaming houses, and the completion of the very first ESL tournament on the African continent (GLHF: The list could go on and on and on – seriously.), the last 12 months have been nothing short of a rollercoaster of emotions.
This past year also brought with it a plethora (GLHF: Still a great word.) of esports events, most of which were hosted with never-before-seen levels of professionalism. Each one brought something new to the party as event hosts pushed the boundaries of what was expected of esports in South Africa. And, while it may be almost impossible to decide on a favourite, we forced some of South Africa’s biggest esports personalities to choose anyway. We’re hardcore investigative journalists like that.
Like any good fanboys, we’ll focus on the players to start, kicking off with arguably the best Dota 2 player in the country.
Travis ‘Castaway’ Waters – White Rabbit Gaming Dota 2:
“I’d say EGE in Cape Town for DotA 2. It was great to have a Cape Town LAN for the VS Gaming Masters Dota 2 Grand Final, and the event itself was well-run, with a good prize pool as well.”
Now we know what you’re thinking: Obviously Castaway would choose an event that left his team R220,000 richer. But we all know the real reason he chose the VS Gaming Masters Dota 2 LAN is because he got to come back to Cape Town. He’s clearly trying to tell event organisers to host more events in the best city in the world.
But back to the nostalgia of our players. Here’s what one of our most successful local CS:GO stars had to say.
Dimitri ‘Detrony’ Hadjipaschali – Bravado CS:GO:
“I would say it was the Mettlestate Samsung Galaxy CS:GO Championship for me. Not only because we won, but also because it was a highly anticipated event as it was the first one on LAN for the year, and also for a great prize pool. Needless to say, the hospitality for the teams and players was exceptionally luxurious, and the event was also smoothly run and well organised.”
If you were wondering, Bravado secured R350,000 when they beat eNergy eSports in the Mettlestate Championship final. Even if the hospitality wasn’t luxurious, that paycheck would also make us pretty damn happy with the event too. We’re starting to see a recurring theme here: Players like events with big prize pools. And winning.
Everyone loves the idea of getting money for playing video games, but for the players of Sinister5 it’s more than just a dream. As the first South African MGO to pay their players monthly salaries, but not tell anyone because they assumed all the top teams were doing it (GLHF: Bless them.), they certainly broke new ground this year, and we couldn’t resist asking the owner for his two cents on this topic (GLHF: He can pay his players, so he’s got the cents to spare.).
Ivaylo ‘Ivo’ Tzanev – Sinister5 MGO owner:
“I would say the VS Gaming Dota 2 Grand Final at EGE was our favorite. It was well organised with good production value, and everyone loves a live audience.”
Everyone does love a live audience, and the audience at the VS Gaming LAN finals was nothing short of exceptional. Some people have grumbled that Dota 2 doesn’t get enough support, but when fans were asked to come out and support the LAN finals they came in numbers and brought bucket loads of energy. Coincidentally, that’s two votes for Cape Town, and both Ivo and Castaway mention the excited crowds and well-oiled events. All jokes aside, maybe people really should starting hosting more events down in the Mother City.
Next up is one of the pioneering lads over at ACGL, Nick Holden, who not only brought us multiple respites from the relentless focus on a certain two titles (GLHF: Rhymes with Shmota and Shmee-Ess.), but also took the event entertainment game to a whole new f*kken level (GLHF: Sorry kids, Jack Parow’s words, not ours.).
Nick Holden – ACGL Co-director:
“We’ve been lucky to be a part of several amazing events this year; from the Kaiser Chiefs Esports Tournament to the first ever Esports event alongside the City of Cape Town, and everything in-between – 2017 has been an amazing year for ACGL.
My personal favourite would have to be the Injustice 2 South African Cup.
It was great to work alongside such professional individuals and we really can’t wait to do it all again. Not only did we take great pride in how the event ran during the qualifiers, but that grand finale – hot damn! It was amazing!
I think Clint (better known as Zombie) was in his element after it was all said and done, sipping on some Black Label and watching Jack Parow and Fokofpolisiekar unleash their tunes to the 2000 live spectators. He is a big rock head and the pairing of arguably two of his favourite things, being rock and esports, was a match made in heaven.
It was great learning more about the intricacies of the fighting scene and commenting on the matches alongside Rob Forbes. It has to be said we have some really talented people out there in our fighting community and the Injustice 2 South African Cup gave them a great opportunity to shine.”
Jack Parow, Fokof, Kaiser Chiefs, Rob Forbes – if anyone needs to know how to provide audience entertainment, the ACGL directors can give you a masterclass in merriment.
But events don’t just need great players, competitive teams, trailblazing organisers, and gripping entertainment (GLHF: Are we sucking up too much?). Without the wordsy ways of MCs, panel hosts, commentators, guest experts and general banter slingers, most tournaments would fall flat on their virtual faces.
“I’m a little bit biased on this one, but my favourite local esports event for 2017 was the Valkyrie Challenge. It was an event pretty close to my heart and something I’d been told for months wouldn’t be a success. I marketed that idea to so many brands and potential sponsors – only to get turned down as they argued there was no ROI.
Despite all the ’nos’ I kept pushing and, with the help of Evetech and Mettlestate, we made it a reality. The event ended up getting more coverage than I could possibly have imagined. It was on most mainstream media, including TV, radio and online. Bookings to watch live were filled up within hours and the turnout was incredible. It also gave me a deep feeling of satisfaction to give 10 players the opportunity to play at LAN – many of them never had. It wasn’t the biggest event but the support from the community was mind blowing and even now I get asked about it in interviews and from the community.
It is also pretty damn exciting that since then we’ve had four female teams compete in WESG qualifiers and one of them is going to China to compete – which was the goal from the beginning.
So yeah, that one was definitely my favourite, even if it was the hardest to pull off.”
Sam has always advocated the role of women in gaming and tech, and her contribution to the overall strength of the South African gaming community is beyond measure. Esports is not always about bright lights and big numbers, there are other ways to make an impact on the development of the industry, and the Valkyrie Challenge is a prime example of this. So we can maybe let it slide that she chose her own event. Maybe. Okay, fine, we’ll let it slide.
Last, but not least, we bring you an opinion from the man with an unhealthy attachment to his cranial covering, the man with a dome shiny enough to start a veldfire in the depths of winter, the man who can’t make up his mind: axtremes.
Michael ‘axtremes’ Harmse – caster, host, interviewer, hat guy:
“For sheer scale, spectacle and production value once it got going, ESL Africa Season 2 Finals at rAge has to be the winner. The NAG Podcast (full disclosure: I’m the esports host) audience seemed to agree as it was voted the winner of best esports event for our 2017 awards show by quite a large margin. I can see where the fans are coming from. The viewing experience at home was absolutely top drawer.
As an audience member at the venue the general experience was great too. That said, while the mothership stage and the overall live production was certainly a sight to behold, it was not too dissimilar to what other tournament organisers have done before.
For the live experience, I do want to give Mettlestate a shoutout based on the quality of the multiple smaller events they’ve successfully run this year. The Valkyrie Challenge, Join the Legion and the Maverick Challenge were a breath of fresh air after their huge entrance to the scene earlier this year with the Samsung Galaxy Championship.
Mettlestate always go to great lengths to ensure that the spectator experience for those attending the events are superb. There’s always plenty to do aside from the matches, excellent refreshments (the food at Valkyrie Challenge – OMW!) and a generally polished experience. It always makes for a great day out and makes their events particularly unique.”
Ax previously mentioned how worried he was about his hat gaining sentience and taking over his mind in true Voldemort-Quirrell fashion, and his indecision in his response seems to be the beginning of the end (GLHF: You had a good run, friend.).
If anything, 2017 showed us that esports is about more than just view counters and big flashy screens. Every event brought something remarkable to the party, and it shows in the diversity of responses we received for this article.
Oh and, if you’re keeping score, you’ll clearly notice that esports was the winner at the end of the day.