In a previous article – Round Table Discussions: The Placebo of Soulsborne-Sekiro Difficulty – we got to sit around and chat with good ol’ gamer veterans and OTK’s very own Anonyburr has his mentor join the conversation. While known for a bunch of handle names, his mentor is known best by his first handle name “FirstFear” or simply, “Fear”.
Nowadays, Fear spends his off times coaching and training aspiring ESports teams and contributes to a myriad of online forums and websites with guides for various games, many of which were celebrated.
With the announcement of Team SIBOL to represent the Philippines in 2019’s SEA Games and with the team pool qualifiers happening sometime this August, Anonyburr invited his old friend and mentor to a small chat on the subject as well as his thoughts as surely, some of the aspirants joining were likely personally coached and trained by him.
While we cannot reveal more of our friend’s identity due to a withstanding NDA, Fear was kind enough to grace us with a few words of wisdom with our questions.
As someone extremely familiar with E-Sports, how can a player be able to make ESports/pro gaming a sustainable career? (to pay bills, put food on the table, etc etc) Or is a career in E-Sports viable for long term sustainability in the first place?
“Okay, first off – at least for the context of this interview. I want to make it clear that we’ll use the word Player for a non professional and Gamer for the professional. Professional Gamer is just too much of a mouthful (laughs).
I still think it’s not as sustainable or viable as we want it to be, cost of living in the Philippines withstanding. Players aiming to become Gamers need to understand that it’s called Electronic SPORTS for a reason and just like any sport, you work as a talent. This usually means that pay isn’t as constant. Pair this with the country’s rather conservative and often negative view on computer games, well-founded as some of them are, then you have quite the stressful environment.
On the bright side, since TNC won TI2016 (The International 2016), I think our country and our country’s views have started to get swept in the boom as evidenced by the formation of The Nationals, whose inaugural was last March 2019. In the years to come, I honestly do hope it becomes as sustainable as Gamers in other countries.
Now assuming everything goes well and it becomes a viable career here (in the PH), Performance and Consistency would be the general answer – as with any talent based employment. My personal thought? A passion to learn and become better.
As we always say – Accept, Adapt, and Advance.”
So you think E-Sports is still kind of niche in the eyes of the masses (but is slowly breaking ground). What do you think would it take for the E-Sports business to break its metaphoric glass ceiling and completely be accepted into the mainstream media channels?
“Luckily, I think it has already broken that metaphorical glass…or at least bore a hole large enough to worm out of (laughs). I think it’s already a question of getting the right people to do the right job at the right place and the right time. I am hopeful we see that surface at the upcoming SEA Games and with Team SIBOL’s performance, win or lose.
Comparatively, I think It’s much more daunting to be accepted in mainstream media channels when even in countries wherein E-Sports can be considered mainstream, it is still widely frowned upon…except maybe in Korea? But I think this is only due to the dregs of an age where gaming was once considered the work of the devil (laughs). When we get past the generation of those detractors, I think the growth will become increasingly rapid.
We’re already laying down the tracks here (in the PH) and I hope I live to see the future generations ride that track further.”
In the same vein, what are the difficulties in convincing potential sponsors or companies to invest in E-Sports teams? And what do they expect in return?
“I am assuming this question pertains to possible sponsors whose connections to the gaming community is few and far in between, yeah? Like how paint companies have basketball teams? I mean gaming companies, internet shops and ISPs (Internet Service Providers) have been sponsoring gaming communities since it’s become a thing. If that’s the case, the most difficult thing I feel is offering a model, assuming the difficulty of finances have been answered – as that is always the first hurdle – then the next order of business is returns.
As with any sponsor, they expect their business to have traction because of your performance and advertisement. How this is pitched, I.E. the model, is where we often fall short knowing full well that the E-Sports model is still as niche as it is today.
But let’s say that E-Sports is a booming career, a viable and sustainable one as we covered in your first question. The difficulty will now be offering the company the talent and keeping the image. I was actually reading on this recently because I wanted to own a team in the future and talking with some business friends, I have come to the conclusion that keeping the image is the hardest in pitching players and a team.
The very general problem with E-Sports players as compared to players of other sports, is quite frankly we look, or are, unhealthy. We may have strong hand-eye coordination but since gaming doesn’t really require you to move much well… (laughs sheepishly)
If your sponsor is a company that prides itself in providing healthy options then that wouldn’t really fit right? It’s like that old adage How can you sell me a pencil when you use a pen kind of thing.
Likewise, the other side is just as divisive. Since gaming is available for everyone and wants to be seen as accessible for anyone, some sponsors also do not look for the most handsome/beautiful players and want the plain looking type. This paradox can create quite a frustrating argument (laughs).
Of course you won’t only sell appearances, you also gotta sell the ability and attitude.”
Then let us segue into the next question as it’s relevant. What are the common pitfalls and false assumptions players would have in pursuing a career in pro gaming / esports?
“That they’re good (Laughs). No, but really in my time as a coach… can you even call it that when I said it’s not as sustainable as a career? (laughs).
Anyway, I say this with the utmost honesty and without any particular bias or exclusion, even of myself that Hubris is really one common pitfall and one that has become honestly associated with Filipino Players’ toxicity. It’s funny and ridiculous until you realize its your own. We laugh at that one newbie feeding the other team until we join a game where there are players exponentially better than us and they blame us for feeding the other team.
It’s a problem when you want to market a player who’ll be a face of a brand. Players need to realize this if they want to become Gamers – just like your basketball or tennis or whatever sports idols, you need to act the part. That is one of the points I really put emphasis on whenever a Player wants to transition into a Gamer and is one of the reasons I like separating the two terms.
Now I’m not forcing Players to become super humble, there are probably some pretty nasty players out there anyway but I do encourage Players to be modest. That is to say, if you’re gonna talk then you better be a humble loser and an even humbler winner.
Players need to realize that skill can be taught and no matter how good you think you are and even if you’re that good, you need to be completely aware that you’re not that good 24/7 and the talent to do so is rare.
You will fail, you will fall and there is always someone ready to replace you simply because of the accessibility of games as compared to sports, especially nowadays when a computer is becoming a much more common household item and with the rise of mobile gaming and besides, no matter how good you are, international companies will call you out on behavior. So yeah, attitude is important to be mindful of.
I think that’s the biggest factor though I’m glad to say the number is decreasing – At least, for those interested in joining the Pro scene. The only other pitfall I can think of is that people think it’s easy.
It’s really not. It’s as competitive as it comes.”
Well since we’re on the subject, in training players, what differences have you come to realize in the performance and return on investment between the current generation against the veterans from years back? How has the approaches to training E-Sports players changed in the course of your career?
“I think the biggest difference is initial experience. When we were starting out, our Coach had Day Learn, do you remember that? It was that one Day you just mess around the game to learn the mechanics.
Now I can just totally skip Day Learn and move on to micromanaging everyone’s skills, habits and tells. Everyone is familiar with the games now. I’m not even talking about the learning curve yet, I’m talking about the instinct. Ever since gaming has become common, I can feel easy knowing that even if I put a FPS player into a MOBA game and vice versa, they both instinctively know that the Left and Right mouse buttons do the thing.
Then there’s an instinct to actually try to work together. Since alot of games now have online platforms, many newbreeds are already aware of having to work as a team and have certain instincts about it.
But that’s also where the problem sometimes lie. Like I mentioned earlier, Hubris is a big pitfall and now that everyone knows how to play this certain game, they are sometimes unwilling to listen.
I want to make it clear that we coaches are not trying to teach you how to play the game, we know that you know how to do that. We’re trying to teach you how to cope with someone who knows better than you at playing the game. We want to teach you how to be playing 100% of your game when you’re only really playing 80% of your game, we want to teach you how you can work as a team and lastly, we want to teach you your weaknesses so you can improve on them. It’s just like any sport really.
Going back to the question, training time-wise, I can actually cram in more and most of the time, the players are hella enthusiastic. We used to warm up for an hour then scrim for 3 hours and we were exhausted. These newbreeds can warm up in 30mins and scrim for 5 hours. They get more practice in and I get to teach more things about the stage itself rather than the game because quite frankly, the stage often gets the better of the Gamer. The thought of a hundred thousand, even millions, scrutinizing your every play can heavily demoralize a Gamer so we also teach them how to handle that kind of pressure. Luckily, these newbreed Gamers seem to be much more aware and can get easily comfortable with it, at least as compared to veterans.
On performance, there’s not much difference. The old buckets can still kick just as much ass and I find that comforting.”
With the influx of different games on the E-Sports scene, what do you think are the common lessons/learning each professional player develops that can be beneficial in real life?
“Any lesson you get from any sport quite frankly – Sportsmanship, Patience and Character are at the top of my list.
All of which are essential in surviving the harsh real world, Character most especially. I just honest to goodness hope Gamers are actually learning these amidst the crazy pressure and I hope that I, and many other coaches out there, are successful in teaching it.”
We hope you had as much fun reading this as much as we had fun making it. This has been your friend, your foe and everything else in between – Anonyburr, and you just got Otakultured!
FirstFear (real name withheld), is a retired professional player during the heyday of Counter-Strike. After the notoriety died down with the rise of MOBAs in the Philippines, FirstFear went into coaching and consultation services and uses his experience to enrich and train local teams to prepare them for major local and international tournaments. On his off times, FirstFear creates guides and walkthroughs for different games for several forums and websites which include, but is not limited to, Fextralife and Gamefaqs – many of which have been celebrated and used by many gamers. He is the gaming mentor of our resident FromSoft fag, Anonyburr.
Round Table Discussions serve as the editorial segment of OTK!, with emphasis on the unfettered and unabashed opinions of different geeks, otakus, gamers, and hobbyists who share the same passion as all of us, featuring OP-ED articles meant to challenge, agree/disagree, or merely opine on the current state of pop culture affairs.
The views and opinions expressed in this article may or may not necessarily reflect that of OTK! and the whole team.