Orena’s OCS – Setting dangerous and reckless precedents in local esports

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Chris House recently broke a story on Zombiegamer surrounding issues with Orena and its Orena Championship Series (OCS) and Premier Ladder. You should read the full article as it’s a vital read for this article and explains everything in detail.

The breakdown of the article is as follows:

Orena had the Prem Ladder which served as a feeder division for the OCS. Teams that won the Premier Ladder would be guaranteed a cash prize as well as a wildcard spot in the OCS. Orena then cited “system faults” as the reason that the cash prizes were being withdrawn and instead added to the OCS pot.

The system faults compromised the integrity of the standings in the Premier Ladder. Sargon highlights the flaws abused in the system:

…Teams being able to decline matches (or some teams only challenging the same other teams and avoiding the “big fish”)

Despite these system faults, which were not the fault of players but rather how the Premier Ladder was structured, the seedings were still used to decide who gets to compete in the OCS. I’ll repeat that, despite the competitive integrity of the Premier Ladder being compromised, the resulting seedings were still used to feed into the OCS.

Sargon spoke to Luca and despite raising serious concerns around the handling of the Premier Ladder, Luca stood firm with his reasoning of how Orena handled the event. There was no budge on the decision to remove cash prizes after the event was completed nor was there a flinch about the lack of competitive integrity in the Premier Ladder and its continued use to decide who advanced as a Wildcard team in the OCS.

The local esports scene is still young and organisational failures like these are so dangerous to its continued growth and long term success. It sets a precedent that others, less caring about the scene, will follow and exacerbate. There is still so little trust and credibility in the scene as investors and advertisers learn about it that mismanagement from such a recognisable brand poses a high risk for everyone.

Setting a dangerous precedent

With the scene still so young and courting impressionable investors and brands, dangerous precedents are always at risk of being set. If the industry doesn’t act quickly and decisively to curb bad behaviour, it risks normalising it and creating bigger problems for itself as time goes on. You don’t want to build an esports community on a rocky foundation after all.

Orena is attempting to set a dangerous standard that cannot be allowed and in any established competitive scene. Such actions would absolutely be called out and pressure would be put on the offending organisation to reverse them and do the right thing.

Removing a cash prize after the fact is not, in any possible way, okay. Teams competed and invested a lot of time and energy with the goal in mind of attaining the cash prize and to pull that away right at the end is incorrigible. Yes, some teams abused the system to aid their cause and that compromised the integrity of the competition but at the end of the day the teams did not break any rules. The onus is on the organisation to create a system and a comprehensive rulebook that ensures competitive integrity.

Continuing on with the standings despite the system failure indicates, on the part of Orena, a lack of respect or understanding of the importance of competitive integrity – both of which are worrisome trends for a competitive organisation to have.

It goes without saying that competitive integrity is critical to any competition. It’s a non-negotiable. Organisations owe it to the fans, the teams and the scene as a whole.  What is even more damning for Orena is that teams raised their concerns about the system and yet nothing was done. Orena’s defence that they are a “small team” or a “personal operation” and thus implying they are prone to mistakes just doesn’t cut it. Either bring in the help you need or show restraint with your ambition.

The SA community looks to international events as the benchmark for everything that happens within our borders and Orena has fallen woefully short of that. Local teams, esports fans and those in the industry should make their voices heard and collectively express that this is not okay and not acceptable in the scene. Local esports needs and deserves better.

Moving forward from the mess

Orena should have stuck to the initial agreement they had proposed to the participating teams. Despite a system failure, teams should not have to be punished for something that was not their fault and not in their control. Orena should have paid the money and gone with the standings. Biting the bullet for a badly organised event and learning from the mistakes would have been a far better and fairer route to go.

Esports in South Africa is young, mistakes are allowed to be made by organisations doing their bit to grow it. Orena has also a done a lot for the local scene and have poured a lot of passion and energy into it. The local scene owes them a lot. So it is with respect that I say that Orena behaved reprehensibly in this situation.

You don’t get to take away cash prizes after the fact and then act as if everything is dandy. I also strongly believe that those in the scene should stand up and speak out against this behaviour. I understand speaking out risks careers and future opportunities but do we really want to wait for a Harvey Weinstein moment in the industry before people stand up and call out problematic behaviour? If no one calls out bad behaviour now whilst the scene is still growing and learning, when will anyone ever?

Chris House put it aptly in his article. Orena needs to pay back the money to the rightful teams. They owe it to the scene and they especially owe it to the teams. The local scene should not be quiet on this, the whole industry deserves better.

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Last Updated: October 18, 2017

Glenn Kisela

I've always loved video games as well as writing, so mixing the two together was inevitable. When I'm not doing that, I do photography and design. May or may not report you to the relevant authorities. I'm also a big fan of English Cricket. Ask me about the ICC.

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