Thursday, March 6, 2008

the problem with professional esports

The following article was not made in specificity towards any specific teams or players. They are the result of looking at the problem logically and factually and bear no ill-intent. Enjoy.

In response to Singlecoil's article ("So you want to be a Pro?"), I can see no doubt that almost every fan will agree with the assessment. There is a problem inherent in amateur eSports, and "professional" eSports, but as to what it specifically is, is anyone's opinion. Whether one wants to term the problem life, or lack of professionalism, it will ultimately come down to something that I'm not sure we can overcome anytime soon.

When I took the reins of CEVO-P near the end of season 2, there was little to differentiate it from CAL-I, their deteriorating scheduling woes, and their philosophy of "invite" which was starting to lose its luster. To combat this, I approached my first full season as head in season 3 with the idea for the placement tournament, match schedules in advance, and attempting to hound teams into doing the "simple" task of scheduling their matches on time.

However, the broadcasting and publishing of news with the dates and times was an extremely frustrating ordeal. Having Gotfrag's staff asking for times and server information also added to the aspect of frustration. The players and management of teams, in most cases, had an almost apathetic attitude towards their season and involvement in the league. When asking what time they'd be playing, you wouldn't be surprised how many players had no idea they had matches that night, even with the schedules having been done weeks in advance.

Outside of that occurrence, teams that had scheduled matches didn't think to notify CEVO as to any problems they had with not being able to make their match. It took personal contact by an admin, usually myself, right before a match only to find out it wasn't happening. Soon, it became evident that the majority of teams seemed to think that ignorance was a justification for reschedules.

Now as per policy at the time, forfeits were avoided in CEVO. All matches were to be played by the final week so that everyone seemed to have a fair shot, and bang for their buck. However, when we saw that this was not viable for us as an organization and for the community as a spectators, we knew something had to change. This brought us to our inclusion of the rules stipulating much like what Singlecoil proposed; all teams were to have at least seven players on their roster and matches were to be scheduled at least 24-hours in advance, no exceptions. If you didn't schedule in advance, the opposing team's proposed time was set and you had to show up, or forfeit.

While in theory, it looked good and it started out well, it didn't last. Soon, the excuses started piling up again. Teams were collectively getting lazy, not scheduling, or having "issues" pop up at the last minute, etc... We (CEVO and spectators alike) were thrown back into the same problem that had been rearing its head for quite some time. Fans were left with teams that still didn't care and forfeits/reschedules were becoming common. Even with upping the rules and pushing for a more professional atmosphere, the players were not along for the ride. Enter: money-per-match.

The money-per-match took a new spin on the scheduling and professionalism conflict and addressed it head on. Teams that won a match earned $100. A forfeit resulted in a loss of $100 from your team's pool at the end of season. It started out well; teams were communicating with each other, with us and matches were being scheduled and played...for the most part. But again, it didn't last.

The downside to utilizing a monetary reward in this way was that teams now set out to gain any little advantage that they could. Disputes during that season were plentiful. Arguments over who wasn't in CMN on time vs. who scheduled what, and who was one minute late, etc... also plagued the CEVO vent server on a consistent. It turned into a large immature debate almost every match night.

Now after all that experimentation, how does one really fix the problem with the "lack of professionalism" in online leagues? Going through what has happened specifically in regards to CEVO, I can tell you that Singlecoil's proposition will not work alone, as it has already been tried. Taking into account all the variables, the age and maturity of players stands as the single factor inhibiting progression in my mind. If you enforce harsh rules, forfeits will increase as was witnessed, due to sheer nonchalance and other life priorities. Countering that with a monetary value will make your league open to attack in regards to rules, and in the end, you'll still end up with apathetic teams, forfeits, a hard to manage product, and leave spectators with something left to be desired. Increasing the monetary value and adding contracts is an option, but for an online league and the brief history of eSports contracts and their outcomes, it seems rather fruitless.

It would seem the only fix to such a problem, is not having an online league at all.

original source

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