The Dark Ages

I decided to write one of my rare personal blog posts.

It’s been a tough few months for me, and I guess I’m struggling through my own personal dark ages. Although I’m not intending to go into detail, I’d like everyone out there who is in a bad place, to remember that you really aren’t alone.

Yes, you may feel like you are, when you’re in your bed at night and it’s just you and your thoughts, or when something, anything just reminds you of what you’re trying so hard to lock away. But at that point in time, when you feel the flood of thoughts inundating your sanity, pick up your phone and message a friend. Write in a diary. Write online. Consciously pick yourself out of your comforter and sit with your family in the dining room, or watch tv with them.

You are never alone, and you have to remember that.

If no one is accessible, drop by an anonymous chat group somewhere. The fact that you know you’re talking to a live human being at the other end will make up for all the a/s/l questions and lewd remarks.

I’ve learnt that helping other people whilst you yourself are experiencing pain, is a very valuable experience. You’ll be able to relate to the person in a way not possible normally. And you’ll realise that as a third party, you can often see their situation much clearer than yours, even if it’s similar.

Pick up a project and work on it singlemindedly. Do stupid things that absorb you, like pretending to be Dk.Burning in a pub dota2 game.

Time doesn’t heal all wounds. Nothing heals your wounds. They’re always going to be there, ready for a re-visit, waiting to shred you open again.
But you can choose to fight it’s hold on you. Yes, there are going to be days and moments when you’ll feel like everything just happened a minute ago, and you’ll be struck breathless and cut through your soul… but gather yourself, and just learn to lock it away bit by bit.
You hold the key, you control it.

I’m more than happy to be a listening ear to anyone out there who isn’t in a good place. I may not be able to give advice or share my experiences, but I’ll listen.

For all the sisters in pain out there:
Pick your head up, princess. Your tiara is slipping.

FEMALE-ONLY ESPORTS TOURNAMENTS SHOULD BE BANNED.

[expect edits to this article… I think.]

Now that I’ve gotten your attention, I’d like to remind you that I’m the founder of femaledota2.com and their current FSL (Female DotA2 SEA League), so obviously the title isn’t exactly what I think/feel.

If you don’t know what the fuss is about (and honestly, I don’t really know what the fuss is about…) read this first http://www.reddit.com/r/DotA2/comments/22rnoe/allfemale_tournaments_should_not_be_in_esports/

I’d like to agree with this statement because of these points :
– the current pool of female gamers are not professional enough, and to a certain extent I disagree with rewarding them with prizes and a cash pool because compared to other teams, they probably deserve it less.
> Let me elaborate. There are teams which turn up late, change dates last minute without informing anyone, just don’t turn up at all, don’t bother to read the tournament site and update themselves on details. It might be due to the fact that they have no prior experience in an online league and are thus new to the whole idea and process. A few of these teams have since pulled out of the league.
> I tried to fix this by stretching out the league to 3 months so that the eventual winners will REALLY deserve it. This requires an insane amount of dedication, and face it, many teams, mixed/female/male don’t even last 3 months nowadays.

– there are no physical differences that really stop females from performing as well as males.
> But obviously there’s some difference elsewhere, or we’d see many many more pro females around, right?
I’m not even going to try to talk about the possible differences. I think its sufficient to note that they exist.

And now, I’d like to tell you the story of WHY I disagree with the statement. (Other than the obvious “Valve empowered the community by allowing them to create leagues, so it’s up to anyone, really, to organise whatever they want to, with whatever rules they want. Whether you’ll get enough signups is another story.)

Why the league came into being
– Femaledota2.com was going through a slow period, with the admins scattered and no real direction.
> To revive the community, I decided a competition was in order. And no, there was no prize money, no prizes, NOTHING. But still we had 14 teams sign up, and I think 10 eventually saw it through to the end.
> I created FSL as a sort of testing ground, hoping to expand to the other regions eventually. But that is proving to be quite hard for me to do because of the manpower and time difference.

– My own team was going through a rough patch and what revived it at that time were some female matches.
> Being in a team long term isn’t easy. It’s like having a relationship, with 4 other people. And people who haven’t been in a team long term, will have NO idea how it’s like. And I’m pretty sure not that many people have been in a team long term. Yes, we chose to stick to an all female line up, but yes, we also took part in open competitions, and yes we played in mixed line ups with guys too, like when the other teammates weren’t free to participate.
> What I realised was that suddenly everyone had more motivation to train and to win. DotA2 as a team game gets dry after a while, and morale fluctuates. If a team take a bad loss, its likely they’ll just go into a death roll and just lose and get mind-fked more and more. If a player is feeling down, or has other priorities, the whole team is affected. Having a common goal gave us the revival we needed. Yes, maybe the goal is small now, but we can have bigger goals in the future.

– I decided to introduce a LONG league, to encourage training, improving and growing.
> Teams play differently in training and in competitions, simply because there’s more to lose in a competition than there is in training. An extended league will weed out the less serious teams because its very taxing to play 2 series a week for 3 months. For those who aren’t familiar with the format, it’s a double round robin where every team plays every other team in a series of 2 games. The top 4 then proceed to the playoffs where bo3’s are played.
> A long league gives teams the opportunity to have more competitive experience, as opposed to an open competition where hundreds of teams join and are eliminated in a BO1. It’s also interesting to see how a team grows and develops throughout the season.
> When teams came to me with petty squabbles or scheduling conflicts, or when I saw they were obviously just out for a free win instead of to actually play and let the chips fall where they may, I tried to steer them to the direction of just playing it out, accommodating the opponent etc.
> FSL #2 is different in that there are actually prizes at stake, so this is getting harder to encourage because teams just want the win badly.

– Starladder female was a disaster.
> Not going to blame anything or anyone for this, just stating how it appeared to the community. I decided to keep FSL low key because I didn’t want too much attention on the league simply because it was full of females. It was really just meant to be a training ground for the girls and getting attention will just complicate things. Even without prizes, there were still complaints about why is my team not featured, why is another team’s match casted instead… etcetc.
> I wanted the focus to be RIGHT.

My team’s stand.

– Participating and winning open tourneys is our eventual aim.
> having a 3 month long league just provides consistent training and a common goal for the team to stay on the same page, and to stay motivated.
> we still take part in open tourneys when they come up, I think this year we’ve participated in 3 or 4 open tourneys already. And we did fairly ok. Click to see one of the brackets : http://challonge.com/aocsg
> When our teammates are unable to commit for an open tournament, we either individually form a team with some other guys or take guy subs into our roster. So, we just want to play.

– We are interested in improving individually and as a team
> If MMR is anything to gauge skill by, we’re mostly over 4k, with one player at 5k. And our team mm has a rating of 4.2k. All of us have played thousands of games, and we use our own accounts ourselves.
I’d personally kill anyone who dared to touch my account.

– We don’t really care if the opponent subs a guy in
> While it will sort of make us lose respect for the opponent, we don’t really care because if we lose, we lose. It just means we’re the weaker team, and we have work to do.
> Even if we don’t really care, it does go against the rules and the aims of the competition, and even in FSL we have had cases where there are male subs or guys smurfing. So we understand when organisers would like to impose guidelines, like Call of Beauties (I made a request directly to the organisers to change the name before it was launched, btw) makes the teams play at a LANshop of their choice. It’s perfectly acceptable, it’s like checking your student ID to make sure you can enter a university only tournament, or your passport/identification card to make sure you’re taking part in the correct regional tournament, because those are the terms we signed up for. And please, don’t get all elementary school-ish and start squeaking about CHECKING GENITALS. It really just makes you look stupid.

And like I’ve said before in a previous post (you can read it here http://furryfish.me/confessions-of-a-female-gamer/), if a chance comes up for you to be the best at something, anything… even if it’s segregated by gender, nationality etc, WOULDN’T YOU TAKE IT?

(Also, much love to Blitz. http://www.reddit.com/r/DotA2/comments/22rnoe/allfemale_tournaments_should_not_be_in_esports/cgprvep)

blitz

More about Female DotA2.com SEA League :
FSL#1 http://femaledota2.com/tournaments/femaledota2-sea-league/fsl-1/FSL#2 http://femaledota2.com/tournaments/femaledota2-sea-league/fsl-2/

Why I love being (almost) 30.

Yeah, I mean, years old.

I think tons of women dread turning the big 3, and admittedly, although it’s just a number, it’s pretty scary to me too because it does seem like I’ve been around for a pretty long time… and I don’t know if I’ve done justice to the 3 decades I’ve spent on this earth.

But well… In the past couple of years, it’s like something just clicked in my brain and I started seeing things very differently. I can’t put it down to anything other than… age.

I’ve always been self assured and independent, but I can really feel a tangible difference in that… perhaps last time I knew how I was supposed to act and feel about certain things, and I would try my best to play the part, even if I didn’t REALLY feel that way. But now, I can honestly say, I’m totally fine and unaffected about the exact same things.

I’d probably be able to label each finger and toe, and then 20 more, with the name of a person I’ve yelled at because something they did or said angered me. Things which would have gotten me all riled up and reacting in all the wrong ways just seem like opportunities to instruct and impart knowledge now, in a calmer, more logical way.
I’ve mellowed? I suppose so. But I still have a ways to go cos there’s this bad habit I have of picking fights whenever I can.

I yield to no one, and I care nothing about what strangers think of me. I feel… almost invincible, because my willpower could move mountains. Cocky? Yeah, I guess so. Which is why I believe God blessed me with many ailments and situations to remind me of my mortality… that I’m Human, and to be humble and that He holds my life in His hands.

But, of course, despite all the wonderful things going on in my psyche, it’s also great that I’m still mistaken for a teenager pretty often cos I just look so damn young.

Confessions of a Female Gamer

No, this is not another of those feminist discourses or one of those whiny “oh we are so marginalised and misunderstood”  posts.
I’m going to dissect my motivations and my growth in the past 15 years of competitive gaming.
So, buckle up, we’re in for a long ride.

If someone asks me now, what draws me to competitive gaming, I can give you my standard reply whilst playing a match, singing to a song and planning what to eat for lunch tomorrow. I would give you a half truth, one honed through repeated recitals at various interviews : I used to do competitive team sports, then I broke my ankle and had more time to devote to gaming, then took it to another level because of my competitive streak.
It’s not false, but it’s only part of the truth.
You see, it’s because I’m in an all female team. And by default, that means attention simply because of my gender.

Flashback to 1998 or so, I was pretty content to go LANshop hopping and making friends whilst playing casual counterstrike. And quite happy to be the rare gamer girl and talking point among the guys. Not to say that I didn’t like the game, I played hours of that game for the longest time, but the added attention was mostly nice.
Maybe it was because I enjoyed being seen differently, I didn’t like conforming to the stereotype of a girl, and I’ve gotten along better with guys than other girls. Whatever it was.

Soon after, I was introduced to The popular hangout and all the popular people of the community, and I have to admit there’s a certain pressure to stand out and want to be the best, of all the popular girls, that is. And that in itself is a motivation to play and improve. (I remember a public game where I ended up pking a girl, and one round, we happened to be the only 2 left standing. The guys crowded around my com to see the final moments, saying things like “eh, you better not lose to her ah!”

But! This limited me to wanting to improve only to be better than all the GIRLS.

Then came a day, I was having a 1v1 sniping match at LAN against my guy friend, when he suddenly became really pro halfway through. I found out shortly after that one of the local well known snipers had taken over his com to play against me. And the satisfaction I felt, at knowing I’d managed to give him a run for his money! It wasn’t so much the fact that I’d held my own versus a guy that made me feel real good, but that I’d held my own against one of the local competitive stars.

Moving on to DotA, I started out in a guys clan, invited by my schoolmate. I wasn’t good enough for their first lineup, but I managed to eventually lead their second team as commander and drafter. And I guess this isn’t something every female can say, that she led a team of guys.
Admittedly we had limited success, but it was a great experience.

Somewhere around this time, I started hearing about other girls in the community, and there was always this comparison thingy going on. Like “oh, her (insert hero name) is the best I’ve seen for a girl” or “she quite strong but I think (another girls name) still better”
So… Once again I guess the being compared with other girls surfaced…
I still haven’t figured out why we aren’t compared to other guys, other than in derogatory ways (eg, “this guy feeds as much as so and so girl” , rather than “so and so girl is better than so and so guy”)

What made me form a female team though, was something not very significant, or even a compelling reason.

The guys on my team either left the clan, lost interest in the game or had life to attend to, so the line up lasted maybe a year. In 2005 for some reason, I’m still not clear what the aim was, but there was to be a female DotA showmatch at the WCG grandfinals in Singapore. And I was invited to form a line up to pk some other girls.
And that was it.
Maybe after the win, I felt ownership over the team and decided to take it somewhere. I can’t really say it was a conscious choice to ditch mixed teams and throw in my lot with girls. But it did help that I had a great partner in crime –  pinksheep.
As a team of 5 girls, it has brought me untold opportunities, and an equally untold amount of grief.

I can’t say that I knew the marketing value that we had as a team, but it eventually became clear that for our standard, we were getting a lot more than we deserved.
Which is why, if a female gamer tells me it’s oh so difficult to be recognised, I’d give them the skeptical 3rd world baby look.
What are you asking for? What have you DONE to deserve it?

I guess this almost guaranteed support makes everyone think “oh it’s cos they are girls”. But before you think that way about Asterisk*, let me ask you this: how many teams, male teams female teams mixed teams whatever, do you know that have survived for 8 years?
Call us fake-professional or unaccomplished or noob, but can you see that we are taking this seriously? And that maybe we really like the game and are trying to get somewhere by playing it?
It has NOT been easy keeping a team together. It’s like being in a relationship with 4 boyfriends at the same time. And the number of arguments and disagreements we’ve gone through have either led to falling outs or stronger relationships.

I do sometimes think about being good enough to play for a professional DotA squad on an international level, and I often think my team and I are just a mockery of a competitive team because our standard is just so far off. And many times this drives me into a state of “why bother and care so much… We will never amount to anything…  Why not just give up and spend more time on social outings and life? ” and I believe I’m not alone in having these periodic down moods.
But honestly, how many people can do that? How many people qualify?
Maybe hmm… 20 people per country?

So, if the chance comes up to be the best at something, even if it’s segregated by gender, why shouldn’t I want to take it?

I guess the closest a guy can relate to would be an amateur competition where certain pro teams are banned from participating. Just because your team cannot win the real professional teams, and decide to take part in an amateur competition because the chances of success for you are higher, does it mean you should be harangued and made to feel ashamed?

I think we need to forgive ourselves for not living up to how we want ourselves to be. Speaking for myself at least. But at the same time, keeping my motivations in sight so that I will consistently be pushing myself.

On to another topic of female teams.
I guess I used to feel threatened by the formation of other female teams. For a couple of reasons I guess, mostly stemming from how girls are always compared to other girls and always made to feel that there is this bitchy I’m better than you tension.
Over the years though, I’ve realised that this is so counterproductive. OK, yes your team might survive a year or so, but if life calls one or more of your players, how will you find replacements if you’ve spent all your time trying to eradicate all other female competition?

Which in part is why I set up femaledota2.com. The community of females needs to grow so that it reaches the size of the male community, which in turn leads to the possibility of there being more talented females. Only then will there be a chance that of the 20 possible pro players per country, some are female.

Yes, I agree that technically there’s no reason why females cannot succeed where guys have in competitive gaming, but look at it this way –  China has the greater likelihood of having more talent than Singapore simply because of sheer size. And I’m really trying so hard to even out the odds.

To this day, I can’t say the ugly green monster in me doesn’t get insecure about other female gamers/teams or sink into low moods about how I’m so lousy, but I can say that how I manage it is different. As my teammate always says, “if you feel like that, then make sure you train and dedicate yourself to the game until you’ve made yourself irreplaceable.”
And then, train some more so that no one can ever catch up.

And that, is how every competitive (or aspiring competitive/professional) gamer should think.

End notes: through writing this, I’ve actually managed to realise certain motivations and reasons that I guess I never really thought about deeply. So some things you’re reading here, you’re actually discovering with me…

The Internal Debate – Headsets vs Speakers

Other than to share some of what goes on behind the scenes of teams and their interaction with each other, this post is for me to get this out of my system.
Views expressed here are my own, as always, but I thought I’d just make it clear before everything else I say.
And also, regardless of how the rest of the post might sound, I’m extremely grateful to the managers who have stepped up to initiate this open discussion, and to Valve for… EVERYTHING.
I understand that there is no way to please EVERYONE, and that sometimes, decisions just have to be made.

***

In the lead up to TI3, the team managers have been discussing things which they’d like Valve to implement. It could be simple things like not wanting to wait too long for reporting times to issues like whether players should all have to wear headsets during the competition.
The later of which I intend to discuss in my post.

It’s a pretty widely known fact that Zenith is a team that doesn’t wear headsets, and don’t use VOIPs to communicate with each other. Maybe sometimes at home when they have to skype with each other, they do. But even then, players like iceiceice still use a stand mic so that he doesn’t need to wear a headset. In the past weeks/months, Zenith has been training almost exclusively at LAN, and they have the freedom (no pun intended) to go headset-less. They also beleive that there is a delay time, which to a lay player might just be a few split seconds, but in competitive play, makes a huge difference.
The point of this paragraph, was just to lay the foundation and background as to why, as a manager, I’d have to fight strongly against having gear restrictions such as this being implemented so close to TI3.
It’s in the best interest of the team.

A couple of other managers have expressed their extreme displeasure at having a team not wear headsets and compete at TI3, because when the audience is loud, sound travels through the booth and players can hear it. One went so far as to call it unprofessional to have a competitive team not use headsets.

So, I’d like to first address the issue of soundproof booths. There is almost no way that the organisers can ensure that a booth is perfectly soundproof, and this is something everyone can understand. If the audience wants to be heard, they WILL be heard. I’ve seen IEM solve this by making their StarCraft II players wear in-ears, and then helicopters over. BUT the difference here is that StarCraft II is a solo game, whereas the communication between members is absolutely CRUCIAL in a DotA2 team.
[In game sounds aren’t really that great of a priority to a MOBA gamer, at least, not as crucial as say… CounterStrike. Granted, with headsets on, it does allow you to hear noises in the fog, in DotA2, which you might have missed if you didn’t have headsets on. But to me, this is more of an added advantage to wearing headsets, which means players who do not wear headsets are putting themselves at a disadvantage. But well, the advantages of wearing a headset to a DotA2 player is not the topic of the day here…]

Therefore, a VOIP has to be implemented, so that players can communicate via headset. And to me, this is where the problem llies.
Gaming headsets generally don’t have really good mics, so lots of the surrounding sound gets picked up. I’m pretty sure most of you have skyped with friends while playing pubs, and there’s always that one teammate who seems to have his whole family squashed into the 3foot area surrounding his gaming area and quarrelling.
So, multiply the surrounding sounds by 5 mics. And I’m not too sure if that would make the audience or your teammates clearer. Probably it would be the same as having no headsets on, just 5 times clearer.
[There is also practically no way to implement one VOIP across the board, because it’s likely that each team is partial to a different VOIP, or perhaps sponsored by a VOIP (which means they aren’t allowed to use VOIPs by different brands/companies). But well, that is another issue, which likely deserves an entire post to itself, together with an evaluation of the in game team speak function of DotA2.]

Of course you can employ strategies like a push to talk button, or open mic. But players who are not used to having a push to talk button aren’t going to be comfortable changing to use that right now, and open mic settings aren’t perfect – you normally end up having it too sensitive or too insensitive – and in a competition, are you really going to risk not having your command heard at a crucial moment? Or to have it just that important split second too late?

That said, I do understand the concerns, and the underlying concern is that the audience or caster will give away things that lead to one side having an advantage that they shouldn’t have had.

So maybe, when the stakes are high, how the players are isolated might be something organisers can look into. Each team could be put into different rooms, away from the audience and casters, and their every move televised to the audience, rather than letting the audience actually see them in the flesh.

Probably, the audience themselves should learn to be more disciplined and responsible and realise that the part they play is important too. Perhaps organisers can try ejecting offending spectators? That might be interesting.

***

So, what’s YOUR point of view? Headsets? Speakers? Audience?