I love South Africans for their ability to hold some of the most insane amounts of cognitive dissonance I’ve ever seen. South Africans can at once defend how awesome their country is, and at the same time moan about how backwards and third world it is. It’s a unique ability, I’m sure. We often moan about our tiny gaming or eSports industry and how little is being done about it. I suppose it takes an outsider like Paul ‘ReDeYe’ Chaloner to make us realize how well we’re doing.
For the uninitiated, Paul is a professional eSports broadcast host from the UK. He has hosted high profile events such as Dota 2 ESL, The Dota 2 International, CS:GO at DreamHack and many, many, many more. Telkom has brought him out to host their Masters Tournament, and it’s sort of a big deal – by bringing in someone of this high a caliber, it will hopefully push everyone else (from players to management, casters to organizers) to up their game. I got to sit down with Paul, and we chatted about everything from the current state of eSports in South Africa to what the role of national organizations should be, to which retro game he would love to commentate in an eSports context.
First up, we talked about eSports in South Africa and how far it has actually come, even just this year. In fact, the investment by Telkom could put other national telecommunications organizations to shame:
I think the fact that you have Telkom doing DGL league is a really positive step. It’s a step that not a lot of national countries have done. In spite of the fact that eSports is very big internationally, if you look at other countries like the UK for instance, it’s only in the past 18 months that you’ve started to see real competition in the UK. […] We’re in a very similar kind of position even though we’re potentially supposed to be more advanced than South Africa.
If our national telecommunications company, BT, were to suddenly announce they were doing a league, that would be enormous news in the UK. We don’t have that and South Africa does, so actually in many ways it’s actually more advanced than many countries. I’m not sure that many South Africans know that or understand that so they might think they’re actually a long way behind.
He went on to talk about how of course things still need to improve across all levels, but it was still really cool to hear just how far South Africa has already come.
We have touched on issues before with national bodies in eSports. I always find it interesting to hear what outsiders think about the idea of a national association and national team – is it worthwhile or not really? Paul gave pretty much the best answer I could have imagined.
I think it’s more about control. […] A lot of governments don’t realize, they sort of look at eSports as another sport. If they just did it like that, then sure building associations like that would make sense I suppose. But it’s not like real sports. We have a buffer in between and it’s called a publisher and a developer.
They own the game. Football isn’t owned by one thing, although FIFA now governs it, but it’s not owned by an intermediary between the association and the players. Whereas every game out there is. I think there’s a bit of a misunderstanding about who owns the IP but there shouldn’t be, it’s the publisher.
National Associations I think are generally a good idea: they provide stability, they provide government funding, government support and buy-in as well that this is a legitimate cause which is something we’re all looking for. So I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing, I think national associations just to develop a national team… it needs to be more than that.
There are more things it needs to be doing; grass roots stuff, eSports clubs inside schools – why isn’t that a thing – help and support for players who have become professionals who are suddenly thrust into the limelight at the age of 16-17 and asked to go on major TV networks and have no media training. So where’s that help?
Help for managers to understand how to run a business, how to set up a company, how to do tax returns, how to interact with the media in a positive way, how to run their social media. All of these things need to be done on a national eSports association is something that can help that.
It’s done that in Sweden, in Japan, in several other countries around the world. It can be replicated, but they shouldn’t just be looking at “Oh, we can govern eSports in our country and make a national team” because I think there’s more to it than that.
eSports aren’t real sports, but not for the reason people always say. I like that – it’s different from something like Rugby or Football because there will always be someone who owns the sport itself, who owns the game, and that’s the publisher or developer. For government agencies to try and get in on the eSports hype as a matter of control instead of support, it’s just not going to work.
I was wondering if all the different games actually led to a more divided fan base, a more divided experience of eSports. In the same way that Rugby fans aren’t always Cricket fans, I wondered if having not just MOBA and FPS eSports, but multiple titles of MOBA or FPS games might be dividing how many people view them. But Paul had a unique take on it.
I would liken it more to the Olympics more than a specific sport. When you look at the Olympics, the guy that comments on the 100m is the guy who will also commentate on the shot-put, the javelin, and the long jump, and the marathon and they’re all different disciplines, they’re all different sports effectively but he comments on all of that because he’s track and field, right? So I think eSports is a bit more like that for me. It doesn’t fragment the audience to have so many games.
I went on to ask about upcoming titles – which one did he think was poised to be the next big eSports hit. His answer surprised me, though – it isn’t so much about the game but about the community.
I wouldn’t ever say a game can’t be an eSport. Every game can be an eSport if the publisher wants it to be and if the community more importantly wants it to be. Ultimately, if a community wants a game to become competitive they will make the mods to make it competitive and that’s how every eSport’s gotten big since the dawn of time – it’s always been community driven.
It’s an interesting take because I often think of eSports as a means of growing a game’s community, but it seems it’s a symbiotic relationship – both support each other.
I asked if any of the guys had any cool questions for Paul, and I got one of the best ones from Darryn. If Paul could host and commentate on a tournament using a retro game, which would it be?
I would go with four-player split-screen GoldenEye on the N64, that’s what I would go for. Because it’s like a blend of Smash in that you’ve got four players playing, but they can all see the same screen. How cool is that? So yeah, four player, split screen, Goldeneye, paintball mod on, golden gun only. There we go, that’s the eSport right there.
Now, go support local eSports – watch all the cool eSports going on this weekend. rAge is full of eSports events this year, and it’s up to all of us to help grow an active community.
Last Updated: October 6, 2016