The Rise of Esports in SA: Our Time Has Come and This Means War
See that title? It's catchy ya? Took me all of two minutes to come up with it. Which is great and all, but hasn't the "rise of esports" already happened? Haven't we already proven to South African parents that their little babies aren't wasting their lives behind a computer screen? Already given away R 1 000 000.00 prize pools and been interviewed on radio stations and TV shows?
Yes. We have done all of that. And a whole lot more.
But even though esports in South Africa has finally broken the barrier, there is still sooo much more that we have to do in order to make esports viable in SA.
Now, if you had told me this three weeks ago I would have said you were mad. We've come a long way from dark LAN's hosted in sports centers where the prize money barely covered the cost of petrol to get you there. Our events are chock full of laser light goodness and flashy photography that makes players look like extreme sports pros sponsored by Monster.
So why the sudden change of heart? What happened three weeks ago?
Pull up a chair and get comfy as the screen starts to fade and I play the silly jingle that lets an audience know we are going back in time to memory land.
About three weeks ago, a new kid on the block by the name of Kwese announced that they would be hosting the ESL Africa Championships here in SA. Now that's pretty big for us in my opinion, as they could have hosted the championships anywhere in Africa. But they chose SA. That's a win for us, and that's also a chance for us to prove what we can do.
Sure thing. No problem. We got this!
Or at least, that's what I thought when I woke up on the day of our first soft launch live stream for the ESL Africa Qualifiers. Now the soft launch wasn't a big thing, most of you probably don't even know it happened and you go about your days none the wiser. But for me the launch was an eye opener. It gave me a new perspective on how things should and will start working behind the scenes, and as production staff, its a war zone.
As we walked into what would be our outpost for the day, I wasn't really sure what to expect. I've never really been a production assistant before and I wasn't a part of the Mega8 stream at Urban Brew Studios earlier this year, so this was all new to me.
Our "outpost" consisted of two rooms. A streaming room that looked like someone had let decades of luminous green moss grow all over it; and the War Room, a darkly lit chamber full of sound and editing equipment with cables growing out of every corner, spreading across the carpeted floor.
Like any great battle, things started out quietly, the halls were empty and our landscape was foreign. I received orders from our General, Miles Regenass, and carried them out as instructed. My mission: to help the troops achieve victory at all cost!!
I was also to report to the casting divisions Coronal, Nathan Slabbert, who ran a tight ship with his trusty second in command, the cap toting Major Michael Harmse. The deadly duo better known on the battlefield as BurningRed and Axtremes would be manning the front lines for us.
Within minutes the troops started arriving, some knew of our mission while others needed to be briefed. A routine was established and we quickly went to work building our digital arsenal. But we soon discovered a flaw in our plan. We had no spotter! Who would survey the battlefield for us and report on what the enemy was doing?
For a moment I sat in dead silence, the air around me electric as our two leaders stood frozen in time. In that moment they were no longer leaders, but two battle wary veterans facing their potential failure head on! In that moment they decided to fight back! They would not give up, they would not surrender! This was their moment. Their calm before the storm, and both of them were prepared to ride that storm to victory!
Additional infantry was needed and the word was put out for a spotter. Within hours our spotter arrived from beyond the trenches, Lieutenant Matthew Stott is well known for his ability to spot the slightest movement on the battleground.
Our company was almost complete, and at this point I was introduced to Sargent General Ivy, one of the most skilled individuals in our camp. Her knowledge of the enemy was unmatched by any and she was fierce in her dealings with them.
With that we were ready, and the battle had finally begun!
Ok, so maybe I took that analogy a bit far. But I'm trying to make a point here, and as you know I can be long winded when making points.
My point is this. As I sat in the studio these last two weekends, watching this crew of humans working together to create something worth streaming, I was actually watching two worlds collide. I got to watch the undying resilience of the esports industry work hand in hand with the established efficiency of the broadcasting industry. And in doing so I realized that we need this.
With big companies like Kwese and SuperSport buying into our local esport industry there has been doubt and negativity coming from the community. Be it players, talent or spectators, I've noticed some skepticism and speculation as to whether these big companies see anything more than a cash cow in front of them. Make no mistake, the only bottom line here IS the bottom line. It is all about the money. But that's business and that won't change. Ever.
What will change is our perception. We need to stop looking at this buy in as an invasion and see it for what it is. A much needed boost that has a good chance of solidifying esports in South Africa. I'm using Kwese as an example here because I don't know much about the inner workings of broadcast channels like Ginx.
Instead of using their own production staff who've never had experience with esports, Kwese has decided to hire a number of local esports individuals in order to help grow the local scene. Not only does that mean the right people are finally making esports their full time focus, but it also means that those people can actually host all the beautiful esport events you guys have been asking for. And they have the budget to match to. Not only that, but I hear Kwese is actively looking for local esport events and content creators to provide them with content for broadcast. Again, they could be using people from outside the industry.
What we don't seem to realize is that esports in SA is still young, it's not ready to stand on it's own two feet yet. A fact that even Paul Chaloner will attest to. And if we have any hope in making esports big in South Africa we have to start working together. We have to start supporting the players and not just the teams, we have to start watching the live streams more regularly, we have to start attending events more willingly. We as a community need to start standing together and be proud instead of back biting and second guessing everything. And I know that we can do that. We have already proven it with the YouTuber community.
Now I'm not here to preach, I've already said my piece on supporting local many times before and I don't think it needs repeating. I'm here to tell you that this is happening. You can either accept it and see it as a good thing or you can have a hard time fighting against it. In the mean time while you decide what to do I want to say a huge thanks to Miles, Nathan, Brad and the rest of the Kwese crew for letting join them on their adventure. You guys rock!!
Leave me a comment in the comment section below letting me know what you think about all of this. Or hit me up on Facebook and Twitter. The links to my social are in the box to your left.