UK Esports – Killing Me Softly

Ignore the title, I was lacking creativity when searching for one. Don’t ignore the recent events which have seen the best and worst of UK esports rear its ugly head though.

For those not aware, November 29th 2012 will go down as a bad day for UK esports. As we’ve staggered from one disaster to another in the last dozen years, 2012 gave hope that actually UK esports could hold it’s own, produce great tournaments & send superb players to international events (and not just to make up the numbers). There was also hope that two of the biggest players in the market, Multiplay and Heaven Media had, at least from the outside begun to thaw the frostiness.

The success of AMD experience events (run by HM), the WCS Finals (run by Ben and Luke) and the excellent i46 (Multiplay) all gave notice that the UK could no longer be looked over as some back street shady den of disaster and instead had produced world class events with fantastic coverage.

You could argue these events weren’t perfect, but esports events rarely are. You can’t argue they are three of the best things to hit these shores in the last 15 years of esports, but it’s the last part I want to concentrate on here, the coverage.

While lots of sites have sprung up around the globe over the last few years, two have remained at the highest level, regardless of your allegiance to games, Cadred and HLTV.ORG. These two stalwarts of the scene produce tremendous, free coverage that me and many others in esports use and rely on, hell even love in places. Sure there are puff pieces and the odd advertorial, but in the main you can’t grumble with the quality of the coverage from live events and it’s free god damn!

With Cadred, owned by Heaven Media, it’s also a UK success story, promoting fantastic writers and love him or hate him run by Richard Lewis, a mess of a man at times, (I am sure he would admit) but possibly the greatest esports writer this country has ever produced and I don’t say this lightly.

So it was very disappointing to read not one, but two damning stories involving Cadred, Heaven Media, Multiplay and HLTV today.

Firstly, HLTV announced that they had not been able to secure press passes for the upcoming CS:GO tournament in Prague, run by Heaven Media, owners also of Inevitably this started a debate on HLTV that it was bias towards Cadred so they could report on the event exclusively. News flash people: Heaven Media want the maximum exposure from the event possible, regardless of which site produces it. The more the merrier.

That said, I thought it was ludicrous of Heaven Media (remember it’s NOT Cadred who haven’t issued the press pass) to not give HLTV a press pass. I called them too and was given an exasperated unofficial comment that “the venue was just too packed and we didn’t want to agree to them sending someone out and then find out there was no room for them”.

I even asked if this was political in any way, as expected the answer was “No, not at all, it’s just a space issue, I can’t even be sure our staff have enough room right now”.

While I have massive sympathy with HLTV and they do an amazing job, event after event, I don’t agree with posting what they did on the site, it’s really unprofessional, even if I do understand their frustration. According to HM though, there was no hint of this in talks and HLTV didn’t come back to negotiate (why would they you might argue) and discussions remained friendly. Perhaps too much is made of the rivalry between Cadred and HLTV and this is the result, but this is very much a Heaven Media decision and let’s remember they haven’t banned HLTV from attending, just said they have “no room”.

Neither side comes out looking particularly good though and it’s the readers who suffer.

The next story came out of Cadred, news that had been floating around for a while that all Heaven Media staff had been barred from attending Multiplay events. Now I have to admit, I was a little perplexed by this. Sure, I heard about the incident with Richard Lewis and others during i46 and felt the appropriate action was taken (based on the version of events I was told and had no reason to disbelieve), but banning the entire company from further events seems overly harsh based on the actions of one man.

Fine, omit Richard from the press list, but ban the entire company? Again, I wished in some ways I could help mediate between the sides, but it’s way too late for that now. I also wish we could all just get along, but rarely in business does that happen. It makes the recent ESL/DreamHack/MLG alliance even more astonishing.

I write this with a heavy heart and for a number of reasons. I’m good friends with people at Multiplay, Heaven Media and HLTV and I respect the hell out of all of them for what they have done and continue to do for esports, particularly in the UK but I can’t for the life of me understand why they don’t all understand they need each other in this tiny little niche industry. Sure, I’ve fallen out with all of them in the past too and (bar Craig and me being too stubborn for our own good) fixed them just as quickly.

We all have different ideas about how to make esports in the UK bigger and that’s fine, but do we really need to rip the scene apart by all this in-fighting?

It really is time we got our shit together in this country when it comes to esports and sat down, adults in a room and talked over the differences and came to (at least) an understanding. Start with date clashes and calendars and perhaps consistent game rules and bans and go on from there, it’s not as hard as people make out.

And for the love of mushrooms and daisy patterned trousers, please stop attacking each other in public :(

One final note. I was asked specifically to answer the question: Who’s fault is all of this?

I’m not going to blame any one party, there are some valid arguments on all sides. Yes it’s Multiplays event and they can have whoever they want there, but cutting off a decent traffic source and brand exposure isn’t the smartest idea I’ve ever seen and potentially turning a huge community of players who support that site isn’t clever either. Likewise, did Cadred really need to post the news piece? Perhaps, but it’s unnecessary in my opinion and just causes even further bad blood. Same with HLTV who I think were hard done by not getting a press pass, but would they have posted the same thing if they had been turned down for a local LAN that wasn’t being run by their CS coverage rivals owner?

Bottom line, no one comes out of this smelling of roses and ultimately it’s drama we could well do without in the UK scene right now.


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