In many ways, the MLG Columbus Major was an eye-opening event for Splyce’s David “DAVEY” Stafford.
As he mentioned to Slingshot on Saturday, Davey was in awe by the magnitude of event and the atmosphere of the crowd. The week was also a learning experience for Splyce, which struggled in losing both its group stage matches for an early elimination from the $1 million tournament.
But reflecting on his career and the professional Counter-Strike scene in general, Davey has seen both come a long way.
“I remember six years ago even going to a LAN event, if you could find a sponsor who would give you a t-shirt and some gear maybe and then a couple hundred bucks maybe to help you with your travel, it was good,” Davey said. “Now it’s just grown so much where all the players are getting paid just to play. It’s a whole different level.”
The fight for players’ rights is still a contested issue, as in Counter-Strike and other esports, problems with teams paying its players continue to arise. Those are all part of the growing industry, and Davey said it’s much better than it used to be, even if there is more work to do.
Davey started his career playing Counter-Strike 1.6 and has slowly seen the scene – and entire industry – grow.
“Everyone wants there to be more stable infrastructure for the scene,” Davey said. “I think more and more infrastructure has been coming in, and it’s been better and it’s improving. The whole situation for everyone has sort of been improving in the esports scene for all games.”
The steady increase echoed sentiments from Major League Gaming executives, who also spoke to Slingshot on Saturday. All the growth to this point has been good, and it’s a buzzword that continues to be used in talking about investments and viewership entering the space. But for esports to truly progress, there must be more stability:
“We can see there’s investment coming in all over the place to the space, so if millions of dollars go into things that can’t be sustained, how does that help us long term?” said Sundance DiGiovanni, VP of Activision Blizzard and co-founder of MLG. “It can’t just be a lottery ticket for a guy who has a ton of money and thinks maybe it’ll turn into something. We’ve got to have smart investment opportunities. In order for that to happen, we have to look at the entire space.
“For a kid who’s 12 years old today, what’s his path to pro by the time he’s 16? How does he attach to this? How do parents learn about it and become comfortable with it? How does a brand introduce itself into a space in a way that is additive instead of predatory? All of these questions need to be answered in a way that isn’t fly by night, in a way that has some staying power.”