Mind Sports South Africa (MSSA): A Bravado Challenge | Response & Opinions

The MSSA: What good governance of local esports looks like

It’s been a fairly busy week if you’re either a fan of or involved with South African esports. Yesterday the MSSA released a news article (which was also linked via their official Facebook page) titled, “Mind Sports South Africa never takes selection for a national team lightly.” You can read the original MSSA statement/post I’m responding to here. Once you do, most of what I’m about to say is going to make sense. After spotting the post (thanks to an email copy of the post I received) I took to Twitter initially to share my concerns about how unfairly this post characterizes international performances by the hugely successful and premier South African MGO, Bravado Gaming. This quote directly from the post is considerably alarming:

“One only has  to remember the 2017 WESG earlier this year where South Africa’s self-proclaimed ‘best’ team was slaughtered in both CS: GO and DotA 2.”

The above statement calls out the performance of Bravado Gaming at the World Electronic Sports Games (WESG) in China earlier this year specifically, by saying the teams were “slaughtered” at the international event. This statement also appears to highlight the fact that Bravado Gaming were not appointed by the MSSA to be South Africa’s representative at the WESG event held in China.

What is my problem with all this? Well, first off Bravado Gaming had to qualify for WESG in initial online qualifiers and later again at a LAN event held in Dubai. Who did they have to qualify against? Only every other team in South Africa, and after that only every other successful regional qualifier from the entire African-Middle East region. They also weren’t the only team who qualified to attend the LAN qualifier in Dubai. They were joined by White Rabbit Gaming for DotA2, and Damage Control and Carbon for CSGO. Only Bravado Gaming qualified from the Dubai LAN qualifiers to move on to the Main Event in China. Sounds like they earned these stripes.

By the way, MSSA teams were nowhere to be seen at this international event. They likely would not have even made it through the regional qualifiers and certainly weren’t among the South African teams present at the Dubai qualifiers. There appears to be a huge disparity in skill between privately run teams and the MSSA led clubs/teams which is a topic omitted from the MSSA post, but is an issue we can touch on right now.

As a comparison, when the MSSA send teams to compete in overseas events they didn’t fare any better at the IESF (which isn’t even the same tier tournament as WESG). In the 2015 World Championships Africa Qualifier an MSSA sanctioned side came last, while in 2016 players from top MGOs performed significantly better when they went to the event and actually managed to go as far as the semi-finals. 

Bravado Gaming successfully qualified via online and LAN qualifiers, and held their own in the DotA2 matches I watched at the Main Event, for WESG. Words don’t mean anything anymore if “slaughtered” is a fair description of Bravado’s performances at the Main Event in China (especially consider the Bravado DotA2 squad had to use 2x substitutes from White Rabbit Gaming). Bravado Gaming didn’t win the event, of course not. South African teams haven’t had enough experience in the international scene to be at that level, and we know our teams aren’t the best. But neither were the boys in blue getting crushed within the first five minutes of each game. This isn’t even the first international event Bravado have qualified for, their CSGO team has attended ESEA S23 Global Challenge and ESWC. Bravado Gaming manage to qualify consistently for multiple international events. They aren’t just invited to compete – they’re actively qualifying time and time again. Isn’t this achievement something we should all be proud of and support as South Africans, even as we look to improve the local scene in order to better compete internationally?

Another point of contention I want to raise is where the post discusses the friendly match against SK Gaming and how poorly local teams did in 2008. We spoke to Richard “DemoniK” Sjoeberg who had this to add:

“I was actually part of the 2008 event as one of the Protea Dota players at the time. It’s true, the MSSA did bring down both SK Gaming’s Dota 2 and CS side, just one week after these teams had come second and won ESWC respectively. However, while the Dota team actually got to play Dota against us (and thrashed us heavily – it was a joke), the CS team was actually brought down for a Call of Duty tournament – a game they had never played before.

Both the Bravado Gaming and SK Gaming CS teams had to take part in the CoD tournament that was also taking place that weekend, and obviously came stone last as it was not a game either team had ever played (I ended up coaching both teams at some points because they had did not know the maps). The deal was, however, that if they played the tournament, they would be able to have their showmatch against each other, which turned out to be the most closely contested matches of the event.

Bravado Gaming came out firing on map one, managing to almost take SK Gaming into overtime on Nuke, ending the map 16-14. This was not a hard game to watch by any means, and still remains in my mind one of the most exciting games of CS I ever watched. Unfortunately in the second map, Dust2, things went a bit astray for the Bravado Gaming side, but it did not look terrible by any means.”

It doesn’t seem as clear cut as it’s made out to be.

The Challenge…

Responses to this post have been huge across social media, and for the most part people are understandably upset. In fact, Bravado Gaming themselves responded to this all in their usual Bravado manner. They issued a challenge:

Pure. Class. I really love the Bravado Gaming response. The ball is now sitting firmly in MSSA’s court. Who are the best of the MSSA CSGO teams? Well currently there are the seniors teams and school teams. We have found both those lists with rankings. I’m hopeful these are up to date, but if they’re not please feel free to let me know.

MSSA School CSGO Rankings: Click image for reference article

The reason that such an exhibition match wouldn’t be such a bad idea? This could serve to illustrate to the teams currently participating across South African esports that there is a very real skill gap between being the best in the MSSA and being the best in South Africa. There is, in fact, a deep chasm between the two that everyone needs to recognize if we’re to turn esports into a professional industry in this country one day. But it’s also a very real opportunity for top schools teams and seniors teams to test their mettle against the likes of Bravado Gaming. We know VexxedPhoenix had recently gone up against Bravado in the CS scene (they lost the series), so a rematch could certainly be appealing to both sides. Who doesn’t like a little bit of revenge served with their headshots?

MSSA CSGO Rankings: Click image for reference article

At this current point in time, being awarded national colors in DotA2 and/or CSGO by the MSSA (or being a protea) does not accurately reflect the true skill cap of South African esports. In order to bridge that gap we shouldn’t be telling South Africans that organizations like Bravado were slaughtered when their teams qualified to compete abroad. A better option might have been to work with these organizations as partners to better ourselves going forward and celebrating the achievements we’ve made as a community to date.

This original MSSA post we’re discussing clearly attempts to raise some issues about local esports, but does so in a manner which isn’t easy to engage with (let’s be honest – by now they’ve alienated most top tier organizations/players). I’m also really worried people (especially young aspiring esports players in the schools system) who read this and don’t know the full story might walk away with a negative impression of Bravado Gaming and our esports scene in general. Bravado Gaming really stand out as one the best MGOs in the country (if not the continent). It’s an organization others in the country attempt to emulate, and rightly so. And I’ll be damned if I stand by idly and let statements like these pass by unexamined. We did reach out to representatives of the MSSA to give them an opportunity to comment, but we still haven’t heard back from them.

A special word of thanks to all the community members who helped me with the relevant details I was fact checking. I’m keeping you unnamed for your own protection – but you know who you all are and I appreciate your help with this!

TL;DR A challenge has been issued. And it’s about damn time!

About Sargon

Christopher House is an ex-DotA2 competitive player who works as an independent esports writer.