Banner Photo credit: RD Rogacion
EDITOR'S NOTE: The contents of this article do not reflect the stance of Mineski International, its subsidiary brands, and its partners.
The Philippine Dota 2 audience is among the best in the world and they deserve better than All Star Weekend Manila.
The Philippines has already hosted three excellent premier Dota 2 events: ESL One Manila (2016), The Manila Major (2016), and The Manila Masters (2017). While those events were far from perfect with their own sets of attendee and viewer complaints each, on the whole big Dota 2 events in the Philippines have so far been successes, so much so that the PH crowd has been recognized as one of the best esports crowds in the world.
More importantly, those three previous events tried to be the best they could be for the Dota 2 audience. The organizers and sponsors came in with a healthy amount of respect for the audience they were trying to court. There was a lot less of that respect apparent with the All Star Weekend.
The Organizers Don't Seem To Know What Dota 2 Is
From the marketing alone it seems that the organizers of All Star Weekend didn't really know much about Dota 2 audiences.
Promotions for All Star Weekend started around mid-September. At the very least the organizers knew to contact Wykrhm Reddy, Dota 2's omniscient herald, and a few other outlets to help them promote but September is cutting it a little close for an October event. Audiences only had a month to hear about the event and scrounge up the money for the tickets (which were, by the way, more expensive than the Manila Major or The Manila Masters' tickets).
This caption on one of their Facebook posts is also quite telling:
Now while it is possible for two people to queue as a party in Dota 2, and it's also true that MMR is a kind of "rank", let's be real. We know what game the words "duo" and "ranked" are from, and it's embarassing the organizers don't know the difference between it and Dota 2.
The promotions for the event got weirder over time as All Star Weekend announced one Dota-unrelated guest after another. From Silent Sanctuary, Itchyworms, and Parokya ni Edgar (who are each worth their own standalone MoA concerts actually, though Parokya and Itchyworms didn't even get to play), to The Kinjaz, to Addictive TV, and for some reason Jason David Frank (the White / Green Power Ranger from the best Power Rangers series). These aren't necessarily bad guests to have (and from what we hear, they sort of saved the show) but they have little to do with Dota 2.
One can imagine a boardroom of clueless producers who don't think very much of "the e-Sports" just throwing in whomever they can get their hands on to add to the event's run of show.
Underdogs Rising Will Not Be The Esports Movie We Want
Another of All Star Weekend's selling points was that it would be part of a shoot for an upcoming "Hollywood/Chinese" esports movie.
While on some level this is kind of an exciting project to bring esports to the "mainstream", if Jason David Frank is involved in the film then (and no offense to the legendary Green Ranger -- we all grew up with Mighty Morphin) it's likely a B-movie.
Remember what Dragonball Evolution did to a world-beloved anime? Now imagine a bunch of non-gamer actors and non-gamer film producers getting their hands on esports.
This isn't even counting the audacity of the organizers to trick audiences into paying to be extras. Even when large film productions are unable to dispense talent fees to every extra in a wide crowd shot, at the very least the people in the background of a shoot are fed hamburgers or are willing volunteers. All Star Weekend and Underdogs Rising managed to get people to cough up money to be involved, which is genius but quite frankly dirty.
Ultimately All Star Weekend feels like a shoot with an "esports" tournament attached to get a free crowd. Apparently Kinjaz repeated their set thrice for multiple takes -- forget the actual audience right? It wouldn't be surprising if none of the talents or pro teams show up in the final cut of the movie, since there were actors on-site as well who had to be coached how to position their hands around a keyboard in a gamer way.
There is almost no doubt that the movie will be, if not already terrible as a film in itself, a piss poor representation of esports.
The Actual Dota 2 Industry People Were Used As Tools
One thing that All Star Weekend did right however was get the best Dota 2 talent for the event. With Sir ActionSlacks, Tobiwan, Merlini, ChuaN, PindaPinda, and KuyaNic and the rest of the Tier One crew and more on board, at the very least there were real Dota 2 community voices on-stage during the event.
If anything, the hosts and casters were the real heroes of the event because despite the abysmal attendance to the event, unengaged audience, and one marching band that just didn't know to shut up during the games, they did their best to salvage the circus parading as a Dota 2 event. For example, here's Slacks doing his absolute damnedest to hype a non-existent crowd.
People give Slacks a hard time for his cringey antics but the man will sacrifice his own dignity to keep a crowd engaged. All the involved talents had to do much of the same in their own ways, trying to drum up hype for a poorly-conceptualized event. If anything, the organizers relied on the talents to hold up the Dota 2 end of the event entirely.
The organizers couldn't even treat potential talents with the respect they deserve. We received an account from one notable Filipino streamer, host, and shoutcaster (who wishes to not be named) who was hired for the event via email and told to block off his/her schedule. This person then spent a month attempting to follow-up with the organizers about event guidelines, calltimes, and other such necessary information you'd expect to be relayed to a person that's a part of the event. All this person knew was that he/she would be co-hosting with Slacks (note that this person is a local esports personality of enough renown to co-host with Slacks).
This person had a hotel booked, a slot freed up on a busy schedule, and many unanswered texts and emails. They didn't ever tell him/her that he/she was no longer a part of the talent lineup, forcing this person to be the one to email one day before the event that he/she would be backing out due to a lack of communications. Just as well as it would seem this talent dodged a bullet.
People Had To Literally Be Paid To Watch
Day 1 of the event saw a mostly empty MoA Arena. Sure it was a weekday, and a payday Friday, but having only a few hundred attendees in a 15,000-seat arena is kind of unprecedented and embarassing. By Day 2 and Day 3, everyone in attendance was pretty much sure that the rest of the crowd had been paid to be there.
Attendees reported seeing families and children at the event who didn't know anything about Dota 2. Apart from the screaming children there were also hordes of people that seemed to have been literally pulled from random streets to fill up the disastrous event. These people, though they made for a less humiliating Day 2 and 3 for crowdshots, were disruptive and had no desire to watch professional Dota 2 players play.
Photo Credit: Ren Vitug
Apparently these shadow extras were ferried in by the busfull, bribed with Jolibee and the promise of being in a movie, and kept in the arena by a no re-entry rule. One redditor even guessed that red or green wristbands marked those in the audience who had been paid to be there. When the time came to shoot for Underdogs Rising, caps and shirts had to be launched into the stands to hype the fake crowd. Suffering in the middle of them were the actual Dota 2 fans who paid for their seats.
It's a shame that this had to be OpTic Gaming's LAN debut, or TNC's hometown LAN invitational. The actual Dota in the event, just like it is here in this article, was just an afterthought.
Why All Star Weekend Was An Insult To Esports
That esports is a growing industry is an obsolete observation. Esports is here, it's big, and we don't need the patronization of the so-called mainstream. Esports stream viewership is already equal to traditional sports viewership, and our community is much larger than many established brands would like to believe. Or perhaps they do believe it, which is why some organizers think that they can milk our passion like a cash cow.
You can't just stick Dota 2 on a poster and be worthy of the legendary Philippine crowd.
Whatever zaniness and trashtalking and shallowness the esports community presents, behind the memes is an intelligent and discerning audience. Dota 2 fans, after all, have memorized 113 heroes and all their skills, hundreds of unique interactions, and an endless and ever-changing set of strategies. If an organizer thinks it can just please us with a bit of techno music then we're being condescended to aren't we?
Certain Filipino esports advocates have been touting a message of patience with the organizer of All Star Weekend, as if intelligent critique is automatically equivalent to crab mentality, nevermind the importance of accountability. This is, of course, an irresponsible message. Our country doesn't need any lower standards.
Congratulations to TNC, and good work to Tier One Entertainment and all the invited talents and guests, but All Star Weekend Manila 2017 was a shitshow.
To future esports organizers, please understand that we are not merely a sea of gamers with loose wallets. We know those of you who didn't grow up with gaming can't understand why we want to watch people play video games on a screen but don't make up for that insecurity with sideshows we don't need. We deserve better than an All Stars Weekend Manila.
We are a sports crowd. We are an impassioned fanbase. We are the best audience you'll ever get if you'll only respect us.
Just show us some good dotes and we'll do the rest.