SA competitive gaming is apparently in the toilet. That’s a headline paraphrased from elsewhere and one that paints SA competitive gaming in a very bleak light. However, it fails to clearly point out that it’s referencing one particular event on one particular platform. It also neatly appears to ignore some fantastic work and efforts being made by many more and how vibrant the SA competitive scene currently is and its potential for a very bright future.
However, that’s not to say that the headline is completely without merit. Sadly though, it might make the rest of the world very well assume that all SA gamers (competitive or otherwise) are now blatant cheats. Of course, none of this makes any real sense without a background story, so let’s turn time back slightly… *cue wistful musical score*
Just over a week ago I had started to prepare an article on the MainGaming League currently being run on PlayStation 3. With over 30 teams originally registered to play, it had already completed around 60% of its games and featured a four way battle for the top slot. Even against a backdrop of the usual Call of Duty bickering and some discord over the ruleset and scoring system, there was every reason to applaud the competition for its concept. As life would have it, I didn’t quite get to finish the article last week, and by the time I sat down on Sunday to go on with it, the League had been tossed into chaos due accusations and denials of cheating by one of the League leaders.
F34R ELITE were on a twenty game winning streak without any hint of wrong doing (most likely due to the fact that up until then there wasn’t any) when a member of Clan High 5 started a thread and the world around F34R came crashing down. The thread(s) proves to be an entertaining read in its own right if you have the time, but maybe a summary is all you need…
Now, I’m not going to regurgitate all the names and information, accusations and counter-accusations, the he said and she said, along with the images and insider tips that were passed on to me, as they’ve already found their way out to the public. Let’s just say that in their scheduled match this past weekend between F34R ELITE and F34R D3LT4 something went wrong. The accusations – which have been backed up by clan members and subsequently withdrawn – are that ELITE (for ease of explanation, F34R’s “first” team”) essentially told D3LT4 that they must lose 5-0. The benefit of this would almost ensure ELITE’s first place standing in the League. Some – on the ELITE team – have claimed it was said in jest, but to almost any outsider, once this became public knowledge the words “match” and “fixing” became quickly associated with the events. Members of both teams have claimed that this was premeditated by clan leadership, while others inside the camp have claimed it was a misunderstanding and a “joke”. To add to the issue, an unregistered player joined the game on D3LT4’s side when they were down to three registered players for the match. The game was then called a “friendly” in what started to reek of a cover-up, with the actual game being rescheduled. However, the score of 5-0 was recorded for the game and then subsequently removed. As is evident from the community’s response people sit on both sides of the fence, but the majority are simply using the words “cheating” and “cover up” at every possible opportunity.
However, while people’s blood is clearly boiling, and the name calling has become very personal in nature (and frankly a little unnecessary and disappointing), the real issue is starting to be the organiser’s response – or lack thereof – to it all. It’s completely understandable that the MainGaming admin were busy with personal matters when the allegations broke, but days later a decision to ban D3LT4’s clan captain for 5 matches and penalise D3LT4 points has now been reversed. The original decision itself was met with complete disgust by the majority of clans and the sudden reversal has not met with popular approval either, as everyone is being left in the dark. In fact this has already caused around six of the teams participating in the League to pull out in protest.
What makes the situation happening even sadder for SA competitive gaming is that MainGaming themselves should realise that they may well have made the biggest error of them all. The tournament’s rules clearly state: “Each scheduled match will have a host as well as a match referee present. The match referee will spectate both teams, alternating between the two to look for any foul play.” Where was the referee? According to a conversation with a few other players, most matches played to date have not had referees present. This is a glaring omission and one that does not help the situation at all. Surely, had the rules been followed, the situation that now exists would have been completely avoided, or at least better monitored?
In times like these, a level head is needed. An impartial decision maker is critical – in the case of the MGL that should be their admin and not a member of one or other clan. One of the members of ELITE is part of the organising team for the tournament – something that should be applauded if he wasn’t also playing in the League. In fact, therein lies another one of the biggest potential flaws in the League (and many others that have been and will be run in the future) – the tournaments need to be setup, monitored and generally controlled by people not taking part in the tournament itself. How can a member of a team balance the delicate art of wearing the correct cap at the correct time when clan loyalty may very well be the deciding factor in almost every situation? It’s true that sometimes the only person willing to give their time for nothing to run these events is the same person wanting to participate, but it’s not the right way to create a truly unbiased competitive scene – especially one with tens of thousands of rands in prize money up for grabs.
What is sad about this whole event is the fallout and the obvious damage done to the SA Call of Duty competitive scene. Friends are now enemies. Clans have now broken up. Quite possibly, potential future sponsors have been scared off. For SA competitive console gaming to succeed it certainly doesn’t need this sort of controversy and needs to look at successful PC tournaments and even non-virtual sports tournaments to get things right. This isn’t all doom and gloom though. As I said at the beginning there are others out there that have run and will run successful tournaments in SA console gaming, so it’s not SA competitive gaming that’s in the toilet, but just a small part of it.
At the time of going live, there was still no final decision from MainGaming regarding the situation.