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What To Learn From The WxC-MineskiTV Rivalry

The two largest esports fanbases in the PH had a passive aggressive flame war

Izo Lopez

EDITOR'S NOTE: We who work in esports writing know that 90% of you will only read the headline. For those of you who do go on to read the article, the majority of you will still just scan and lock on to the paragraphs and phrases that best fit your existing opinions. This is our (my) earnest request that if you are going to read this article, read it through and through and form your opinion slowly.

For the 1% who do regularly read the entire article, from our weary editorial staff of seven, thank you.

As for why we wrote this when things already seem to be settling down, no one seems to have learned much from recent events as we're still seeing passive aggressive comments in Facebook groups. For those who think we should just butt out, we believe that as the press we have a responsibility to have a voice in these matters.

First, Some History

Anyway, the WomboXcombo-MineskiTV rivalry. In case you didn't already know, there are two major esports (and I mean esports, not gaming) channels in the Philippines and those are MineskiTV and Womboxcombo.

Extra Info: Other prominent esports channels are Rumble Royale and Garena but as far as we've noticed, the Philippines' Dota 2 esports-watching audience is still larger than its LoL esports-watching audience. This year, PlayBook (fighting games) and Bren Esports (mobile games) also started to build up their own channels. Most other big channels like GLOCO Gaming and GG Network are really more general gaming channels than "esports".

MineskiTV was established in 2013 as a broadcast arm for MET events, while also having the capability to serve as a production team, multimedia creatives team, and Philippine esports channel via Twitch.tv and Youtube. Its original cast of Lon Marcelo, Hide Yanagida, Bianca Yao, Dunoo Pangan, and Tryke Gutierrez are the OGs of PH esports casting. To this day, purely by the numbers, it remains the #1 esports channel in the Philippines.

WomboXcombo is the brainchild of Nico Nazario, who used to be a writer for Mineski.net and a marketing associate for Mineski Infinity, before he left to pursue his own projects. In 2015, Nico set up the WomboXcombo channel and the brand has been evolving since. From one guy casting Dota 2 games in his own home, WomboXcombo has grown into a cast and crew of at least a dozen people, and rivals MineskiTV for viewers in almost every major Dota 2 tournament in this era of esports.

The general audience perhaps is not aware of this but the battle between these two channels rages on every day on social media and on their streams, as they both try to outdo each other for Facebook likes and Twitch viewers.

We at Mineski.net used to handle MineskiTV's Facebook promotions (which we no longer do) and I can personally say that the one upsmanship has led to the evolution of several of the Facebook promotion styles you're all used to by now: polls, score cards, twitch clips, highlight reels, good luck posts, and congratulations posts (allow me a moment to brag: most of these innovations came from our team, under the direction of previous Mineski.net Editor-in-Chief Juno Reyes).

In summary, while both sides try to keep the bad blood and personal attacks to a minimum (since esports is a very small industry and everyone's friends overlap), there is an undeniable healthy and constructive rivalry. At the start of 2017 it wasn't close, but it's neck and neck now.

Next: The Recent Drama

Both sides have traded jabs over the past year but recent controversy has sparked a fresh wave of animosity between the fanbases of the two channels. I would tell you all about that controversy here but we already published an editorial about it, which our parent company's business developers then asked us to take down because it was insensitive to a key business partner.

So, since we at Mineski.net would like to keep our jobs, I'm not going to give any more details. If you're reading this, chances are you already know about the issue anyway. This article is also less about that than it is about the WomboXcombo-MineskiTV rivalry in general, and the peak it reached this weekend.

Long story short: stuff happened, and the fans of WomboXcombo and the fans of MineskiTV are at each others' throats. Whatever sparked the initial conflict has been overridden by what seems to be the pent-up need for both fanbases to have an excuse to be toxic towards each other.

A triggered KuyaNic called out people on MineskiTV's side of the fence. Certain MineskiTV talents deflected the hate, albeit smugly and with derision. In the midst of this, a few cool heads such as Tier One's Pao Bago and Mineski Infinity's Een Mercado (among others) tried to calm people down but to no effect. Esports figureheads released statements on their Facebook pages or wrote passive aggressive comments on growing Facebook comment threads. Facebook posts were screenshotted and posted in the rival camp's Facebook group, and then the responses to those were screenshotted and sent back, and so on. In esports offices (and esports office group chats), echo chambers and circlejerks rang with complaints about the enemy (but never any self-criticism).

For one nondescript Saturday in esports (barring, of course, Team Tribe's epic Cinderella run in Vainglory Worlds), it seems that WomboXcombo and MineskiTV (or at least, their fanbases) were going to war. I mean, it's mostly just Facebook noise but a war-like hatred was there. It was ugly, man.

The esports personalities involved were also probably not at their best selves. The WomboXcombo camp had been busy all day preparing for their community Christmas party while half of MineskiTV was in Singapore for Vainglory Worlds, and both camps were exhausted from nights streaming Dota 2's The Summit. It was generally bad timing for everyone.

Also to be very clear, most of the toxicity happening was caused by the fans of the channels rather than the members of the channels themselves. MineskiTV's Barangay Mineski and WomboXcombo's Lupon ng Womboxcombo are the main Facebook communities of each channel, and both have thousands of members. When shit hit the fan, the worst elements from each group displayed the effects of mob mentality.

Our only hope is that by the time this is published and posted on our Facebook page, the fighting will have died down.

What Was The Main Problem?

Okay, let's refocus. Whatever was the initial reason for the whole mess, I want you to forget for a moment because ultimately the fighting that happened afterwards was not really about that. If it was just about that, the whole issue would have been resolved early since MineskiTV actually had nothing to do with the thing that first triggered WomboXcombo fans, and the company that did have something to do with it has apologized in the sincerest way and is working to make things right. That initial issue is more or less solved.

The main problem was the incredibly self-unaware circlejerking that each side did. Instead of communicating and working to resolve an issue, each side just made fun of the other and both Facebook groups became stews of toxicity. This toxicity occured in many ways.

Note: this is the part where I try to attack each of you, even though you've probably gotten to this point by thinking "only the other side was wrong!".

The first problem: too many on both sides were angry without self-awareness. Though each side called the other toxic, the truth is that both sides were toxic. Members of Lupon ng Womboxcombo were ready to boycott and attack MineskiTV talents on social media, all the while saying "their casters suck". Members of Barangay Mineski went the opposite route, going for a smug "we're not fazed, we're #1" tone despite the fact that Lupon having over three times the members that Barangay has should be a wakeup call for the oldest PH esports channel. There was blatant disrespect and belittling on both sides and whether or not it was conveyed through anger or through smugness, all of it was toxic.

The second problem (and this one may surprise you): people calling for positivity instead. Going for a "live and let live" or "stop fighting, let's just all be friends" attitude may seem like the best thing you can do in a hostile situation but it can make things worse in very subtle ways. When people are angry, they are angry for a real reason. Their anger might make them act in irrational ways but underneath the rage is a real and rational complaint that just isn't being conveyed properly. To just dismiss this complaint is to allow the wrongness that caused a complaint in the first place to continue happening. The anger may die down but nothing has been fixed.

The worst is when people (who may not reallize they're doing it!) call for peace not because they think it will solve the problem but because they are eager to be on the moral high ground. Whether these people are just too lazy, naive, ignorant, or cowardly to make the (difficult!) effort to formulate and defend a stand, doing so does nothing but force truly aggrieved people to be passive aggressive rather than calmed down. This is a tough pill to swallow for many people, especially since Filipinos are naturally non-confrontational and just don't want any trouble, but sometimes it's more important to step up (without contributing to the problem).

Lastly--and this is the worst problem--are the people who just want to find the whole thing funny. These are the people (especially the people who have a voice in these communities) who just step back, grab the popcorn, and go "welp, I'm not going to be a part of this mess". When something is everyone's problem, it becomes everyone's responsibility, and distancing yourself from that especially when you are a person of influence wastes your power. Remember: nihilism doesn't make you cool; it just makes you useless.

Ultimately, the battle lines were drawn and people retreated into the safety of their respective echo chambers (otherwise known as Facebook groups). KuyaNic is not being held accountable for his irresponsible handling of his fanbase, while MineskiTV has learned little from the whole affair by believing all throughout that they don't have to listen to the other side. That KuyaNic had a fair reason to be angry, considering his toil for over a year was so casually dismissed, is also true and I haven't seen many people say that yet.

Without confronting these, we're in danger of just peacefully moving on and nobody learning anything from this whole affair. Criticism is not always toxicity.

Stop Preaching Already; What's The Right Way Then?

The mentioned things are problems because regardless of each person's intentions, nothing actually gets solved. And the best way to solve a problem is to simply confront it head on. And listen, and read, and pay attention.

So here's a little bit of the truth from us at Mineski.net who watch both streams and see all the criticisms.

Why do WomboXcombo fans complain about MineskiTV? They say MineskiTV-style casting is noisy and doesn't have substance. To be perfectly fair, a lot of the time this is true, but let me explain why MineskiTV casting is the way it is. This original style of Pinoy hypecasting was pioneered by the classic Lon and TryQ duo, who drew inspiration from PBA commentary and amped it to the max for Dota 2. At the time, their casting was mostly done live in the actual LAN shops that hosted these tournaments, and this kind of loud and exciting casting was ideal for involving a noisy crowd. A lot of the MineskITV talents have been inspired by this style of casting, and they do it because they know it's a style of casting that brings a lot of viewers joy.

That isn't to say that the casters of MineskiTV don't know the value of analytical casting. We're friends with most of the MineskiTV talents and we watch them at work and they put in more effort than audiences realize into giving their casts substance. Wolf, for example, casts games on his channel in his spare time so he can practice analytical casting. Manjean and Asurai, who came from League of Legends casting, had to study every day to make sure that they don't disappoint Dota 2 fans. I'd list them all here but suffice it to say that the MineskiTV talents put a lot of work and a lot of heart into their craft and it's all for the audience.

What about complaints about WomboXcombo? People in the Barangay say their cast is boring. That's also sometimes true. I still remember last year when KuyaNic just had the one catchphrase (Steady... you know it) that eventually people got sick of hearing over and over again. What his critics may not have noticed however is that he's since stopped saying it so much and has actively tried to change up his casting style. The Cer.Mike show I think was a breakthrough for the KuyaNic character since he focused less on filling the shoes of a typical caster and just spoke as himself and laughed at his own jokes. They were corny jokes but at least he was being genuine and himself.

WomboXcombo's expanded cast of talents are also new to casting and are learning on the job. It's funny how Pao Bago can't pass up a single chance to mention that he trained them but to be fair, the training shows. Heneral Tuna, Kalbz, Alo, Rain, and company may have a slower pace of casting than MineskiTV (with the exception of Jaz Heneral Tuna Comoda's spitfire casting to rival the legendary Kuya D's), but that's because they're being taught to analyze more than specifically entertain.

Alongside all these people are the people you don't see on screen, like the stream director and engineers, observers and production assistants, graphic artists, social media managers, talent managers, and creative leaders. These are the tireless crew members who stay up just as late as the casters and the audience in every single tournament yet are so quickly blamed once a single small thing goes wrong on-screen.

Still, the criticisms have merit. For the streams in general, WomboXcombo doesn't have the explosive flavor of casting older fans are looking for, while MineskiTV struggles to entertain a segment of their audience that prefers international-style casting rather than Lon-and-TryQ style. They're already working on it, and hopefully each side realizes that about the other.

For this particular incident, here's the truth: KuyaNic really was inciting his fanbase towards anger and even Tryke's typical on-cue wall of text can't (and shouldn't) gloss over that fact. Just as equally bad on the other side: Wolf (who had something to do with the thing that started this whole mess), has shown more pride than apology so far (though the involved organization has already apologized to the public). Ideally, this gets resolved with direct communication as well once tempers flare down. For this, my favorite response so far has been Eri Neeman's statement, where he makes a point to call out both sides while reminding esports figureheads that they are responsible for the behavior of their fans.

Finally, for the fans, you have a bigger responsibility than the casters or the media. Your voices are the loudest, and your actions the most impactful. Speak up when something is wrong, but do so bravely, carefully, and respectfully. This industry exists for you so bear some responsibility as well to act in a way that can make all of us proud to be esports fans.

My personal suggestion? Join both Facebook groups and break free from your echo chamber. We're all Dota 2 fans and we share the same memes anyway.

In Conclusion, At Long Last

This has been a pretty long and heavy and preachy and, at times, hifalutin article but it's something we felt was important to say amidst all the hate going on. We at Mineski.net don't necessarily promote peace (to the endless frustration of our business developers) but we do use the platform we've been given to promote truth, and whenever possible, intelligent discourse.

Hopefully you were forced to think of something you'd never considered before, then the 30 minutes or so you spent reading this unnecessarily huge wall of text will have been worth it. If you learned nothing, at the very very least I hope you've realized that the people you may have been insulting in whichever Facebook group you're a part of are real people who deserve to be criticized, but not hurt. This has been an attempt at a constructive attack on toxicity.