In South Africa we have been behind in almost every single competitive eSport title. We’ve always lacked infrastructure, economic stability, and the sheer numbers to even attempt to compete. These are crucial when considering grassroots development of any eSport, and we’ve always been behind.
Our big break came with the increased stability in internet and the introduction of stable servers for RTS/MOBA games in 2010 when Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty came out. We now had the opportunity to compete against European players, and even had a few competing in local online competitions. We had our export, Robert “PandaTank” Botha, who competed in various international tournaments, even spending time overseas and competing.
However, while we could compete we were at a disadvantage as professional players around the world had already competed in previous iterations of Starcraft and Warcraft in the RTS genre. The same opportunity was awarded in 2011 with Dota 2 when our MOBA players were forced to play on European servers. Naturally playing on European latencies is not fun for any game, but it did expose us to a wider skill gap and that did up the skill cap in South Africa. These games mentioned, and others such as Counter-Strike, Call of Duty, Battlefield, etc. were all games that existed in the international circuit well before we got the chance to grow and compete, but that’s all changing. Some teams have held their own against international competition, and most notably the Southern Barbarians who won the ESL Nations Cup, but it’s evident that we still struggle when looking at other exports who have had the chance to compete abroad.
Overwatch could be our break
By now fans of Overwatch have stuck primarily to the custom games and some private matches versus friends. There are a number of competitive teams and tournaments. This number is rising with 16 teams already signed up for the Orena Ladder. Overwatch could be the opportunity we’ve been waiting for, and something needs to be done if we want to actually compete internationally. Yes, we all know playing on European servers is tough. While Blizzard’s net code is fantastic, there are noticeable delays which are experienced in crucial moments, but it’s not half as bad as other FPS titles played from South Africa to Europe.
We’ve essentially entered the playing field in a neutral position as professional teams have had a small head start during the beta testing phase. It’s also obvious that these professional teams have the time and money to practice and compete, and they’re competing against other professional teams, but that’s not stopping you from paying close attention and working on becoming as competitive as you can prior to joining or starting your own team. We’re exposed to the same demographic they are when it comes to grass-roots development, and that doesn’t mean we can’t at least try compete against lower tier teams in open tournaments. ESL have their open cup every week, and GosuGamers do the same. My advice would be to enter as many as you can in the efforts of growing and bettering you own, and your team’s play.
Watch the pros
We live in the age of information and there’s plenty online about competitive Overwatch. There are replays on YouTube, professional analyses, and tournaments happening every single weekend. Expose yourself to the higher tier of play. Sit down and watch, pay attention, and see the changes in meta, gameplay, and strategies which evolve out of these competitive scenes. Whether you choose to practice these new-found strategies in public games, or use them in local tournaments, it doesn’t matter. What matters is you’re learning and improving non-stop. If you find European players, make a mix team of South African and European players. Exposing their play style to ours and visa versa is healthy, but make sure the local tournaments you enter allow you to have international players as some do not.
The professional players in top teams are often streaming and this is probably the best place to watch as it’s personal and they offer a lot of information as well as answering questions. Here you can either focus on a specific role (whichever the players is playing) or get a general idea of competitive play when watching a professional. This, in my opinion, is far more beneficial as it a personal account and not so much watching and trying to understand what is going on.
Listening to the commentators is also rather important as they may offer in-depth analysis of strategies and plays which you may not have considered. Many of these individuals are old arena FPS players and have some insight into the inner thought process of professional teams. Commentary is usually both exciting and insightful, so this is also a major drawing point for watching competitive Overwatch.
Stop making excuses
The final point, and this is a big one, stop complaining. You will not get local servers, and quite frankly you don’t need them. Take this opportunity to grow and understand that Blizzard have fantastic net code which is a blessing in disguise. Yes, some of our ISPs don’t make it easy with routing issues, but there are options such as What the Fast, and I’d recommend trying it out. If you’re one of the players who continuously make a fuss about local servers, you’re only limiting yourself as you may forget everyone else has to play with the same “handicap.” I say handicap in inverted commas because it’s not really a handicap, it’s a slight adjustment which is easily made.
Start competing, start paying attention, and “git gud.”
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Last Updated: June 15, 2016