Breaking into the international scene – it’s what every esports professional in this country is trying to do on some level, whether they’re players, casters, coaches, managers, hosts or even writers. (GLHF: Not us though. As you would have seen from our last article, we already have a global presence.). But the ones who’ve received the most attention so far are those who have taken the biggest steps to commit their time, energy and even physical locations to the objective.
It seems there are at least three ways to do this: White Rabbit Gaming’s route of gathering up their players and throwing them into a gaming house in Joburg (GLHF: Or any other city, like, you know, Cape Town. Just bring your own water.); Bravado’s method of packing their team into a plane and shipping them off to the US for six months plus another six months; or Anthony ‘scant’ Hodgson’s way of taking himself off to Southeast Asia (SEA) to make an international name for himself.
Which begs the question: Why SEA?
“I was living in Manila, Philippines, while I was coaching Mineski and then HappyFeet. In my casting work I specialised a lot in the region and as a result that’s where I first started getting coaching offers.”
For those who don’t know, Mineski and HappyFeet are two of the best Dota 2 teams in the Philippines. When scant joined Mineski in 2016, he was brought in to help them prepare for the upcoming Boston Major, and they said they hired him because he would “give [their] team the necessary boost it needs to reach the next level in time for the upcoming Major Qualifiers.”
(GLHF: Do we actually need to follow that up with anything, or can we just let that sink in?)
In the spirit of enabling others to follow in scant’s success, growing the SA esports industry and encouraging budding pros to take the leap into the great abyss of international gaming, we’ve put together a few key Filipino takeaways to help make your decision easier.
Don’t break the bank
While you’re dreaming about being recruited by an international top-tier team, let’s get some details on one of the glaring benefits of choosing to live in SEA: It’s pretty damn cheap.
“The cost of living is definitely cheaper in the Philippines than in South Africa. I didn’t pay for my own rent or internet for most of the time I was there so I’m not that well positioned to compare those. Accommodation is a bit complicated because it’s like the most densely populated city in the world so even though rent is cheap apartments are smaller so you might not experience it as cheaper.
R10,000 a month should easily cover rent and internet for a pretty nice place, though it might require a little room-sharing (likely three rooms).
Food is very cheap, about 50% cheaper. Unless you’re going to restaurants and fast food a lot – then it’s more or less the same. Transport is the cheapest thing – easily 5x cheaper than here for basically any form of transport.”
Pick your spawn zone
While the cost of living the esports life in the Philippines may be something every rent payer in South Africa dreams about, the reliability of home internet may remind players a little bit too much of home.
“The home internet situation is not great, and if you don’t get fiber it’s quite unreliable. It’s very easy and cheap to use internet cafes. But if you’re in an area that can get fiber I think it’s pretty affordable and very reliable with good speeds. This is part of why almost all of the big Dota teams in the Philippines are based in Quezon City.”
Manila is cheap. Quezon City has good internet and all the pros. Got it? Good.
Get in the game
We’re sadly extremely isolated down here in South Africa, relegated to the tip of Africa with thousands of kilometres and outdated copper cables between us and the European scene. Sure, it’s not great, but this unfortunate geographical constraint has lead to the creation of some highly-competitive domestic leagues.
But scant found during his time in the Philippines that domestic leagues are essentially a South Africanism. We’re forced to create these domestic leagues because there simply is no one else near us to play against. Not so for the Philippines.
“There isn’t really a ‘domestic league’ as such. That’s a pretty South African thing, I think. There are so many international events that you’ll mostly just be playing qualifiers.
You’d probably also enter some local tier two or three cups to start with. If you impress people in pubs you can get into the tier one or two scrim groups quickly.”
Swerve around language barriers
Bravado’s decision to go the States does come with a few drawbacks (GLHF: *cough* Trump *cough*), but a clear benefit is not having to learn a new language. A valid concern of moving to regions outside of SA, the US or the UK would be the language barrier involved. But scant claims it’s not quite as big a barrier as it might seem.
“Everyone in the Philippines speaks English, owing to the fact that the country was most recently annexed by the US (GLHF: Meaning it was official US soil – maybe this is not too dissimilar to Bravado’s move after all.). It does vary, and some players aren’t that fluent, but everyone is fluent enough that you’ll be able to navigate your way through the country very easily.
This doesn’t apply to all of SEA. Some countries like Malaysia or Singapore would also be easy in terms of English, while others like Thailand or Indonesia wouldn’t.”
More of a speed bump, then. Probably something a little Google Translate could fix for you if you really needed.
Talk about Dota with everyone (simply because you can)
One of the biggest problems with trying to make it as an esports professional in South Africa is that very few people actually understand what you’re talking about (GLHF: Similar to trying to explain to someone that you love watching other people play computer games.).
An important factor that contributes to the viability of an esports career in a country like the Philippines is the fact that a lot more people not only know about gaming, but are followers of the industry in some way or another.
“Again it’s gonna vary by country and for this question I only really know Phillipines well. It’s very well known there, though maybe not quite mainstream yet. It is getting coverage in most of the local news outlets, though not all the time.
I raised Dota as a topic with every Uber driver I had (average 1-2 per day, it’s very cheap) and they all either played or knew someone who played.”
Here’s a challenge for you: Try talking about Dota, CS:GO, PUBG, CoD, Battlefield or any other competitive game with the next Uber driver you meet (GLHF: Send us a Facebook message if the conversation actually goes anywhere, we could always do with more people to interview.).
Make the move
All things considered, scant had quite a successful time in Southeast Asia. But this guide isn’t about scant, really. It’s about you. So, more importantly, would he recommend others follow in his footsteps?
“I have already recommended to some local players and teams that they should move to the Philippines, and I think some will make the move soon if things work out.
It’s a good destination because you don’t need a visa (until it becomes work), it’s cheap, people speak english, everyone is friendly and especially welcoming to foreigners, and there are a lot of openings in certain positions (especially support and leadership roles).”
Well, there you have it. If nothing else floats your esports boat, the cost of living in the Philippines definitely should.
If we compare the R10,000 scant estimated for a three bedroom house in Manila (with room sharing) to the amount Bravado are paying to live in the States (GLHF: We’re willing to guess it’s a tad higher.) and the rent WRG is paying for a house in Joburg for five or six people (GLHF: Joburg people – does R20,000 sound fair?), the financials should talk absolute sense on their own. Throw in the cheaper food and the much cheaper transport, and you’ve got a tasty and affordable Filipino esports cocktail.
The choice is now yours: Uproot your life for a few months or years to advance your career, or try your hand at making it big globally from the comfort of these borders.
Whatever you decide, let scant be your guide.