South Africa is an island in esports terms. We are isolated from the rest of the world. It turns out that geography can be a real source of annoyance, even outside of high school. This means that in most games requiring fast reaction times and pinpoint accuracy, SA players are going to suffer with high ping and lag problems. The sheer distance and the volumes of ocean and landmass between ourselves and the overseas community precludes us from competing on an even footing. That and the relatively inefficiently routed international access cables. The SA communities in all esports barring MOBAs tend to have to develop alone, with little foreign influence.
In any insular and isolated esports scene like ours, it’s always going to be tough to figure out how good local teams are versus their international counterparts. Aside from the occasional trans-continental tournament attendance, we seldom get to see how our teams stack up. In CS:GO, it’s often been in the ESWC events in France that SA teams have gotten the opportunity to qualify for through Orena in previous years. There’s also been the sole attendance by Bravado last January to the Mountain Dew LAN and some WESG appearances. Unfortunately, aside from the occasional decent result, it’s mostly been a disappointment for SA teams when facing international opposition.
Does the relative lack of success mean our teams are bad? Is South Africa just not a good CS: GO-playing nation? Not at all. As I rather strongly alluded to above, geographical isolation means our teams don’t get to face international opponents as much as they really need to for proper development. Think about it. If you only ever face a small handful of teams that can challenge you and then still mostly destroy them, how often are you really stretched? Just as exercise requires some pain and tearing of muscle to build those very muscles, tangible improvement in CS:GO often results from regularly facing opposition that lays the hurt on you. Staying within SA has not helped our best local teams show as much development and improvement in terms of their overall level in the last two years as we may have liked. By that I mean in relative terms compared to the international scene. It’s part of what enabled Energy eSports to leapfrog Bravado last year.
Which leads us to the inevitable Bravado Gaming and Project Destiny mention. They are based in the United States at the moment and have been competitive against teams in the third and fourth tier of American Counter-Strike. They’re currently competing within the ESEA Mountain Dew League and are doing a good job. Where does that put them in terms of a relative level to the best teams? Still quite a long way off, but drawing ever closer. Tier one teams like Team Liquid and Cloud 9 are not within reach of Bravado’s current capabilities to challenge. The point of their trip is of course to close that gap. As it stands currently, they are doing an admirable job.
Project Destiny allows Bravado the extremely valuable opportunity to improve against stronger teams than the could face regularly based in SA. What it doesn’t necessarily do is help improve the level of our locally-based teams. Very seldom does experience gained by a handful of players translate to the improvement of the scene as a whole. There’s just no way that on their return it would mean their knowledge would somehow magically disseminate into the local competitive community and make everyone better. They’d have to open a Counter-Strike school to even have half a chance to do that. It will help certainly, but not signify a sudden sea-change in the local level of competitiveness. What we really need is for Project Destiny to not be an isolated event. We need more teams to go overseas for extended stays. That’s the only way our SA CS:GO outpost on the edge of the world will catch up to our international counterparts.
NA take my Energy
Yes, I acknowledge it’s a massive expense and someone will have to foot the bill. A lot of potential sponsors’ appetite for such expeditions will be contingent on how Bravado fare. Other SA teams with an eye on their own relocation attempt would do well to say their prayers and kiss their metaphorical lucky rabbit’s foot on BVD’s behalf. If Bravado succeeds, that could open the floodgates. Which big sponsor wouldn’t want to put their name on the tin of a like-minded enterprise? Surely it could be successful in light of Bravado’s success?
The current best candidate for a USA move has to be Energy eSports. There have been some persistent rumours of such a thing being impending since their victory over Bravado at ESL Africa Season Two Finals in October 2017. As the clear best local-based team at the moment, they’ve shown that there is no opponent that can consistently challenge them here. They need to get over to North America or Asia and compete against better teams and for bigger prizes. The pickup of MisteM goes some way towards confirming their intentions for me. There absolutely must be an Energy exodus if they are to reach their full potential. Energy could do damage on the international scene, given a chance akin to BVD’s.
If two teams gain international experience and become competitive in the wider world of CS:GO, it can only be good for SA. When those players eventually come back, hopefully after long and successful careers, their experience will be invaluable to improving our level of competition. Ten is always better than five, surely. Just like with SK and Immortals for Brazil, it will take more that just one good team to put SA on the map. SK opened the door just enough for Brazil to get a foot in the door. Immortals through Fallen’s Games Academy initiative helped bust the door open. Now there are several Brazilian teams competing in North America. We could do the same with SA teams if there was more than just the solitary effort.
Outside of just Energy and Bravado, I’d also like to see other local teams trying to leverage their sponsors to attend smaller international tournaments for the experience. A Sinister5 or Leetpro could do a lot with such an experience. Our scene as a whole can do amazing things with such experiences. Our players just need to be given the chance. Good luck to those already abroad and good luck to those trying to do the same. We need it.