THE NIGERIAN GAMING COMMUNITY – Aborting the unborn child
This article is one of three that I wrote about 6 months back but never got the chance to publish. Just saw it again and felt it was still a good read regardless as the problem therein still plague us now. Please enjoy.
Video gaming is a big deal now. Back in the days, say the 90s, early 2000s, majority of parents thought it was a complete waste of time and money to but a game console for their children. More often than not, it was only parents who had the “extra” cash that actually bought consoles for their children; or those who were either widely travelled or a tad more enlightened or those that just wanted the status symbol thing. Fortunately for this generation, the crop of parents we have now were those who grew up with the early games like the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), the Sega Mega Drives, the Atari or the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), and so to a lot of degree, they understand that gaming sometimes goes beyond the fun and entertainment aspect.
However, as much as there are gamers in Nigeria –and very good ones at that – we barely have a vibrant gaming industry. Today when we hear of major competitions like the DOTA or League of Legends competitions, the Evolution Championship series, the FIFA Interactive World Cup or the Major League Gaming competition to mention a few; the question one is most likely to hear would be “Ah, when will it happen in Naija?”
My response to this question is usually “With our present mentality, NEVER.”
As funny as it might sound, it is true. With our abundant talents and ‘hyper-passion’ for things – especially when they are technologically driven – one would expect that we should have a moderately growing gaming community at the very least. South Africa with a far less population than us have a thriving gaming community and are beginning to attract foreign sponsors to push their events. And yet we claim to be at par with them when it comes to gaming (or so we thought).
So what is the problem? Plenty.
THE MEDIOCRE GAMER'S SATISFACTION
Back in 2004, we had our first fighting game tournament – The Shaolin Tournament – and even though we were few back then, the turnout was great. We featured 4 games viz Street Fighter III: Third Strike, Super Street Fighter II Turbo, Capcom Vs SNK 2 and Soul Calibur 2. As a result of the success of that event, a lot of people encouraged us to keep it up and even make it a bi-annual affair (some even suggested monthly, lol). Some went as far as promising to support with prize money, capturing the footage of the event and the likes. But like they say, talk is cheap. I personally made a promise to myself to try and organize a tournament, at least once every year, even it meant putting in my money besides my time and effort. It went well for the first two years but then I started to notice a trend. Newcomers who were usually sure of their ability and prowess and hitherto boasted about their undefeated and unblemished records were usually over-enthusiastic for the first tournament they attend. After they get knocked out in the pools or preliminary stage, they just stopped attending. When you call them, they give you 1001 reasons why they can’t make the event. They just lost the zeal to attend.
I didn’t take this seriously until 2009. I belonged to a now, almost defunct group called Shaolin Boys. They were composed of the crème-de-la-crème of the fighting game community. Their fame was so legendary that the mere mention of their name (or in some cases, names of their members) evoked fear, respect and a cautious “let-me-not-jabo” attitude from other fighting gamers or groups who knew them. That year, a young man by the name of Henry Agama organized a fighting game tournament. It was not surprising therefore that Shaolin boys went and dominated the tournament filling the top 8 spots for Street Fighter IV and Tekken 5. The following month, he held another and it was no different from the first. However, this time only a handful of external fighters had the courage to pay and participate – two of whom I have great respect for till date. The rest of them just watched from the background. Needless to say, it was an all Shaolin affair. It was so bad that Henry had to exempt the top four guys from participating in the next event so that others would be encouraged to enter.
We would adopt this same strategy in 2012 during the NGE roadshow by placing a ban on all Shaolin strongmen from participating in the first three editions of the Street Fighter and Tekken tournaments, just to encourage other gamers to participate. This was how notable players like Ryu Apprentice and TH_Vique rose to prominence.
I usually laugh whenever I see people refusing to enter tournaments for fear of being beaten or losing because the question I usually ask is “How do you intend to get better?” If a gamer wants to play only people he can beat, where lies the joy therein? Wouldn’t it be better to put the game on and play CPU? Is the excitement of competitive play not supposed to be the different players, each with their different patterns, strategies and playstyle which we have to study, learn and ultimately overcome? Isn’t that what makes the victory ‘sweet’? Isn’t that what makes the player better and more experienced? Unfortunately in our case, it is the reverse. Most of us are content with beating people that probably do not even understand how the game works and boasting about it afterwards. If the person we beat starts to show signs of improvement or getting stronger than us, then we start to make excuses to avoid playing the person.
FREEBIES TILL I DIE
It’s true that things are hard, but that hasn’t stopped people from spending on luxury things that they want. However one of the major problems I have discovered with our Naija gamedom is our love for freebies. Majority of gamers do not want to pay to enter tournaments, yet they want to win prizes. In 2012 during the NGE roadshow, the first three events were free and we had a massive turnout – the highest ever recorded for any tournament in Nigeria as at that time. Cash prizes were given out to the 1st – 3rd positions. After the fourth event which was a beach rave, we felt we had enough followership to kick off. A fan club was created and people were asked to register to become members. Their membership would grant free access and participation in all events held within their membership period. The registration fee was 3k for 3 months, 5k for 5 months and 10k for 1 year. That was our undoing. We didn’t get up to a fifth of the usual numbers we got for the previous four events. There was this particular guy who had attended three of the previous events. When he came for the fourth tourney and was told about the paid membership, the next thing he asked was “Ah, I thought it was free.” I replied “It’s almost as good as free. We are collecting membership fee, 3k for three months and you have free access to all our events and win the prizes.” The expression on his face changed and the next thing he said was “Na wa o. Okay, am coming back.” He left immediately and that was the last I saw of him till several months later.
Similar thing happened at the Techplus tournament. When the entry was free in 2015 and 2016, the registered gamers were 800+ and 2000+ respectively. Enter 2017 when an entry fee was fixed, the total number of entrants wasn’t up to 200. YES, YOU HEARD RIGHT. Less than one-tenth of the entries from the previous year.
It is very disturbing that in this age, people still want free entry for torunaments and worse still, they want prizes to be given. Do they bother to think where the money is going to come from, considering that so far, they know there is no major sponsor? At COPA 2016 FIFA 17 tournament, someone actually asked me why we couldn’t do ALL OUR EVENTS FREE. “You guys should try and get sponsors now and do the events free so that more people would come.” I replied “No problem, if you can give me names of people who you know can drop money for events, please do. Leave the rest to me.” This singular reason of low turnout for paid events is the reason why a lot of people who would have hosted tournaments have backed off from tournaments and in some cases, gaming, altogether.
THE LAZY GAMER OR CONTEMPT FOR LOCAL EFFORTS
Most of our gamers here are actually lazy. Very, very lazy. To take out a minute or two and fill out a tournament registration form is a problem. To read the rules and regulations or information about a tournament is too stressful. To even attend a tournament that is just a bike ride away from your vicinity is a no-no. Before the NGE site came up, we had a lot of requests from gamers asking us to put up a site which can facilitate tourney registration and where they can go to check information regarding any tourney that they wanted, a leaderboard which would spur them to attend more competitions and get ranked and brag and all. The site came and even with that, it was STILL AN EFFORT TO VISIT THE SITE. Rather than go to the site to read the information which had been carefully written, they would call you to ask questions. Some would even call you to ask that you do the registration for them that they don’t have time. Now the funny thing is that some of these same people would take time to meticulously fill forms of other events that they want to attend.
So this begs the question: Is this a familiarity problem or that they do not think what we are doing is good enough? I ask because I am very sure a lot of them visit other sites and they even try to do stuffs constantly on those sites like reading articles and posting comments, creating topics/threads for discussion and other related stuffs.
Community building is a joint effort. It is not just enough for tournaments to be organized, there have to be people to attend it. In some places, they are not fortunate enough to have people who have the time, resource, energy and even technical know how to organize tournaments. They are even willing to pay for someone to do that for them. Fortunately over here, we have people dedicated to organizing these events regularly but yet for us to attend is a big issue. To support is even a bigger issue. Yet, we look up to other communities who are big and we admire and want to be like them and we forget that it took support from themselves to get them to where they are today. People in other areas enter tournaments to participate even when they know there is no hope of making it to the elimination stage, but they attend and participate all the same. That was like their own way of contributing to the growth of the community. Some may not even be available for the tourney, but they paid the entry all the same, it was their own way of support. An unlike most of us here, they didn’t startle and back out of a tournament at the mention of big names. On the contrary, it was even an added incentive for them to attend the tournament. The stronger, the merrier.
If we do not erase this backward, we might wake to discover that even the little community we are trying to nurture is no more.
Suggestions on how to move forward, please drop a comment below.