An E-Sporting Chance: Stories

By ESFI World on November 27th, 2012 at 10:00 am.


This week Jeb Boone looks at the story of Flash versus Grubby, and the Electronic Sports League (ESL) Intel Extreme Masters (IEM) tournament in Singapore.

Journalists who happen to write about e-sports relentlessly search for the narrative taking place outside of the games. Admittedly, the journalist is occasionally forced to craft a narrative of their own, drawing on bits and pieces of smaller stories surrounding tournaments and competition.

It is incredibly difficult. Journalists that have found themselves stumbling into e-sports soon find that the industry has adopted a philosophy on press access akin to that of the CIA. When attempting to craft a narrative out of collection of curt conversations with players and industry figures, a story’s appeal to the general public inevitably suffers.

These narratives are vitally important for that reason. It is the charge of the journalist working (but mostly volunteering) in e-sports to demonstrate to gamers at large that professional gaming competition is an endeavor that has objective value.

It’s a hard sell.

But there are rare moments in e-sports where the narratives craft themselves.

Manuel “Grubby” Schenkhuizen is known to many as the world’s greatest WarCraft 3 player.

Playing Orc, Grubby managed to win more than 40 LAN tournaments and six world championships. Grubby was so well loved that on expeditions to China for competitions, personal bodyguards were needed to beat back hordes of adoring fans rushing to catch a glimpse of the Dutch professional gamer.

Grubby switched to StarCraft 2 at the game’s release in the summer of 2010 and began a consistent career. In spite of being one of the world’s top players, he has struggled at major tournaments, yet to take a major championship. A departure from his global dominance as a WarCraft 3 player, Grubby was grouped with the rest of “foreigners”, a StarCraft community term to denote anyone that isn’t Korean.

The consummate professional, Grubby is perpetually dissatisfied with his performance – regardless of how well he is actually playing.

Just a few weeks ago at Major League Gaming’s pro-circuit stop at Dallas, Texas Grubby was offered up in the tournament’s first match against Young Ho “Flash” Lee, StarCraft: Brood War’s most accomplished player, the winner of six of Brood War’s most coveted championships.
To fans, Flash is simply known as “God”.

“I know a secret,” said Grubby on stage to the world. “I know flash is not a god and you will know it too when I first draw blood.”


The god of Brood War, Flash preparing to face off against WarCraft 3’s greatest champion, Grubby.

What followed was difficult to watch. Grubby lost 2-0 in the best of three series against Flash. He went onto lose 2-0 against the American Zerg player, IdrA, and 2-1 against the Korean jookTo, leaving the tournament with only one map victory and zero match wins.

After his defeat, Grubby sought refuge in the calm of the press room as he does at most MLGs, choosing to remove himself from the hysteria bustling below.

Last Thursday, Grubby traveled to Singapore to compete in the Electronic Sports League (ESL) Intel Extreme Masters (IEM) tournament. In Singapore, Grubby the Champion began to show through again.

Placing into the playoff bracket, he would have to go up against Jang “MC” Min Chul – not only an Intel Extreme Masters Champion but a two-time Global StarCraft 2 League Champion, Korea’s premier tournament and the world’s most competitive e-sports arena.

Through sheer will, Grubby brought down the Korean Champion in a heated, scrappy full best of five series. Securing a spot in the semifinals, he leapt into the air and howled after his win, rushing to kiss his wife before running into the arms of adoring fans.

He went on to beat a Russian Zerg opponent in the semifinals – one that he has lost to in the majority of their past meetings, taking the series 3-2 in another full best of five. Grubby was finally in a major tournament finals. In the end, he lost the finals 3-2 but Grubby is on top of the StarCraft 2 world for the first time.

In Sweden, another return to glory was unfolding for League of Legends at Dreamhack as well. Team Fnatic, once called Shushei’s team by the League of Legends community after their team captain Maciej Ratuszniak, won Riot Games’ Season One League of Legends World Championship, the most important tournament by far for the game.

Riding high on their world finals victory, Fnatic went on to win an Intel Extreme Masters tournament in New York City. Just like Grubby and his global domination of WarCraft 3, Fnatic was beginning to install themselves as the undisputed world’s best team. Indeed, by breaking 250,000 concurrent viewers for the season one world finals, a good deal of the e-sports community began seriously following League of Legends and Fnatic acted as the games ambassadors.

But as the following season of Riot Games’ world championship series began, Fnatic’s world champion lineup started fracturing. Last January, Max “MagicFingers” Dreysse was the first to leave the team. While just a sub, fissures were beginning to broaden.


Team Fnatic at the Major League Gaming Spring Championship in Anaheim California last jun

The following summer, the Team’s Ace, Shushei, was taken off the top lane due to his poor performance. One day later, he left the team. Just one month after Shushei’s frustrated departure, long time support player Peter “Mellisan” Meisrimel left the team as well. Shortly after placing fourth at the European Regional Finals, Manuel “LamiaZealot” Mildenberger, playing the crucial attack damage carry role, departed as well.

Fighting for season two circuit points and a qualification into the world finals playoffs, their team of champions was falling apart. Since March of this year, the team has been struggling to place higher than fourth in major tournaments.

The season one world champions were floundering and no one expected that to change at the Dreamhack 2012 Winter Finals. In spite of their struggles, the team coalesced and took the tournament, the same place where they’d won the season one world championship 17 months before. Taking down one of the world’s top teams, Counter-Logic Gaming’s European League of Legends division.

As the good narratives form themselves, like Grubby’s and Fnatic’s stories, with any luck, gamers at large will begin to warm to the value and potential transcendence of professional gaming competition.

More on ESFI World.

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32 Comments »

  1. KikiJiki says:

    A story that I hope gets covered is how a Canadian kid by the handle of EternalEnvy decided to put his education on hold and see if he could become a Dota2 pro. This weekend gone his team No Tidehunter won Dreamhack in almost a clean sweep, producing some of the most spectacular plays of the tournament along the way.

    • JukeboxJoe says:

      How you can write about how hard it is to find story lines in esports, then go on to write about Dreamhack and not talk about EternalEnvy and NoTidehunter is beyond me. It’s biggest Cinderella story since Fruitdealer winning the first GSL.

      For those that don’t know, about a year ago EternalEnvy made a post on Teamliquid saying he’s thinking of dropping out of university to pursue a career in DOTA (http://www.teamliquid.net/forum/viewmessage.php?topic_id=293284). There were a few people supporting him, but most said don’t be an idiot and stay in school. Anyway, a few months ago he crops up as captain for a team called NoTidehunter, who are then joined by Loda and Akke (been pro DOTA players for years). They do OK in online tourneys, but then comes Dreamhack. They don’t drop a game until the grand finals, taking out favourites Empire and EG on the way (EG also beat arguably the strongest EU team, Na’vi). Not only that, they made the other teams look bad, with some fantastic plays throughout, and Envy’s drafting was amazing. Now there’s a storyline for you.

    • subedii says:

      Necessary:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MAWK5kNDDlM

      Talk about completely out of left field. It could only have ever worked once, but that doesn’t matter because it DID work.

  2. AmazingFly says:

    Why do they only cover starcraft and LoL. And these articles are still written in a confusing way.

    • pakoito says:

      I always wonder the same. HoN, CS and SSF4 are not mentioned or just as side-events. Bias much.

      • kaihu says:

        It all comes down to them being smaller / pulling less viewers.

      • jon_hill987 says:

        Capcom games should be high up on the list when it comes to eSports news at the moment. What with their 25th Aniversary thing they have going on. The finals are in two weeks if I remember correctly and the qualifiers have been going on for months.

      • Jamison Dance says:

        It isn’t bias. It is limited article space and limited reader attention span. They have to leave something out, and they just happened to leave out the games near and dear to your heart.

        • Hmm-Hmm. says:

          Eh.. not really. Have you ever read e-sports news on RPS? It’s mostly about Starcraft 2 and League of Legends. If it was written as you say it makes more sense to just mix it up a bit more. Starctaft 2 and LoL one time, CS and Street Fighter the next, etc.

          But it just doesn’t happen.

    • shaydeeadi says:

      What a shame. There were lots of events and games happening this weekend that could of realistically been discussed with this post and he restricts it to SC2 and LoL every time. It’s a real shame as there is plenty going on in competitive gaming to talk about what with as above; No Tidehunter claiming victory at Dreamhack. Ryan Hart almost reversed last year by resetting the bracket in grand finals of Street Fighter.

      One of the biggest tournaments in Europe and it got about 8 lines with some meaningless back-story about a team winning and losing in varying amounts sandwiched between. It is disappointing.
      I don’t mean to complain, but these articles could be much better.

      • kimadactyl says:

        This. At least the column could be retitled “SC2 news” which would be fine. E-sports gets so little mainstream coverage that a column which claims to represent it all is gonna dissapoint.

        This is also pretty consistently the worst written column on RPS.

        • KikiJiki says:

          No coincidence that it’s outsourced to ESFI World really. I actually missed that DHW2012 was included in the article at all because I don’t read about LoL stuff, but looking at that part of the article it’s: team has roster issues, news at 11.

          These columns could be so much better, but it looks like consistently the writer doesn’t respect the topic.

  3. HexagonalBolts says:

    If anyone wants to play some casual friendly DOTA or receive a bit of guidance then RPS’s Casual DOTA Chums is a great place to start. We’re a close knit group and there’s a strict rule of no raging or grumpiness. We have friendly 5 versus 5 matches every night which you can just turn up to and join in (and sometimes more competitive matches as well). We use the RPS mumble so just pop on into a DOTA channel if you see a few of our members there or give me a message on steam and I’ll get you set up (HexagonalBolts, the group admin).

    Steam page: http://steamcommunity.com/groups/casualdotachums

    • Jamison Dance says:

      Not in the group, but I play some casual Dota 2 as well. I may or may not have more friendly commendations that victories, but I have lots of fun playing. My Steam id is jergason, so add me if you want to play.

  4. Milky1985 says:

    Really glad to see Grubby getting a very high placement in a major tournment, watched his stream a few times and watched him play at MLG, for some reason he seems like the sort of underdog a brit should support (despite his massive previous success), and he seems to be a really nice guy as well. I have to admit i did raise my arms in celebration when he won a game at one of the past MLGs cause it was a hard fought match , doesn’t happen often :P

    Wactehd a past cast done by husky of a Warcraft 3 match between him and stephano and they were both joking DURING the game, but still playing to their best, was great to see.

  5. SandmanXC says:

    I’d love to see more esports content around here. Not all the time. Just every now and again.

  6. dakl says:

    Scrawny guys wearing tough-guy jackets. Esports.

  7. kimadactyl says:

    No mention of the Slayers’ bust up? Biggest e-sports mess/news in years!

  8. Hatsworth says:

    “Manuel “Grubby” Schenkhuizen is known to many as the world’s greatest WarCraft 3 player.”

    While he was certainly one of the best, such a statement is kind of dumb imo. First of all comparing players between races doesn’t work very well, second there were many different orcs at his level. Even in Europe alone there was Lucifron. He occupied his top player status longer than most orcs though, that’s true. Nothing against Grubby — he’s a great guy — it just seems overly reductive to fit said narrative.

  9. eightbitrobot says:

    It annoys me that the genre that requires the least amount of individual skill is the biggest in the esports scene right now, do we really need three DotA style games in one tournament? meh..

    • KikiJiki says:

      Might want to clear your hate-o-specs mate, there’s ignorance all over them.

    • Hatsworth says:

      It’s funny, in the WC3 scene DotA was not taken seriously at all, it was seen as a simple game to relax with friends. Controlling one hero, pffff! I guess it’s kind of like how some BW players perceived WC3, or Quake players CS, though I still struggle to really respect it. I doubt LoL would be anywhere without Riot pumping money into it. In short I think it’s big because of its mainstream popularity, not because it’s a great competitive game. That kind of thing sadly happens too much in competitive gaming, but it’s the nature of being dependent on sponsors I guess. I mean for some time they tried to push competitive WoW of all things. WCG had mobile games due to Samsung etc.

      • KikiJiki says:

        Can’t speak for LoL as I neither play nor watch it but I think those of us that watched Dreamhack’s Dota2 tourney will say go watch EternalEnvy and No Tidehunter as a whole. The guy individually not only drafted consistently well and outdrafted almost every team, he then went on to play almost flawlessly in the games I saw, with one game his Shadow Demon support being present for all bar one kill and dying I think a grand total of once in an unfortunate manner.

        To say it’s the least individually skilled of all popular esport genres does Dota2 a huge disservice, especially since although SC2 has a lot of mechanical skill involved it lacks a lot of depth when you boil down most matchups (until a new patch when players will work out the decision tree for their builds again and it becomes I MAEK MARINE).

  10. Hatsworth says:

    How long will you continue to ignore competitive Catherine play? This is getting ridiculous.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IJcN1jIFh7U

    Also, no mention of Mad Matt clearing a 20-footer? This is huge!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8UCz2Qa5T2c

    • Barlk says:

      What… what did I just watch? Regarding both videos, really, but particularly the second. I’d love to hear an explanation of what happened with the platforming one, and what a 20-footer is.

      • Hatsworth says:

        Catherine is a Japanese narrative focused game by the creators of Persona with disparate puzzle segments. These have a multiplayer mode, co-opted by the fighting game community.

        Second is the natural evolution of Dance Dance Revolution being open through PC. A western clone called In the Groove was based on the free PC clone Stepmania, and the arcade cabinets ran Linux. Konami filed a lawsuit against the company and won, but for the cabinets already out there it was discovered that you could add custom songs to the cabinets, which became a thing even beyond Stepmania on PC. Difficulty is measured in amount of feet, back in the day the max DDR difficulty was 10. Now people are doing upwards of 20 steps per second to prove they are in fact more machine than man. It’s not all about superhuman difficulty though:

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YWjDT78s_ls

        • Barlk says:

          That’s awesome, thanks for that. I don’t imagine I’ll ever play some DDR derivative (though it does make for great viewing), but one day I will get good at a fighting game if only to try and recreate the glory of one of these miraculous match turnarounds I only ever see the likes of in fighting games.

  11. Zankmam says:

    If we are lucky, we get to read about another e-sport besides SC2.

    Still: Biased much?

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