It’s three days to our departure from Singapore. The team, accompanied by Tammy and myself, will be flying off on the 23rd at 2am. As The International draws closer, a slew of special ‘spotlight’ articles and ‘profiles’ have been/are being published. We, the Zenith content people, have decided that we should also hop on the bandwagon and give you one of our own special articles of insights into Team Zenith.
[Some people will probably think that my opinions are biased. It may very well be that case. But nevertheless, my observations are based upon fact – very real incidents that occur throughout my interactions with the team.]
Ant: An important distinction! It used to pain me that most people consider the only difference between a “fact” and an “opinion” is that a “fact” requires that their best friend agree with them (nowadays I find that very little on the internet causes me pain). The crucial thing to note is that Aloysius’ “biased opinions” (as he so puts it) are a result of having a lot more interaction and real-life observation with the Team – he has a lot more reliable information to work on, a lot more observations (an empirical observation is synonymous with fact, unless you pull out a more cryptic school of philosophy) to draw his opinions from.
As we begin our final countdown to one of the biggest gaming events of the year, I felt that it was important that both fans and neutral observers (see I left out haters – mainly because I think the word ‘haters’ is dumb and also, it doesn’t matter what you say to them, they’ll still be irrational in their criticism of you) understand a little more of how Team Zenith works and how the players think. It pains me when some of these guys get maligned. And recently, in my humble opinion, they have been maligned quite a lot. But it’s up to you to decide if they were maligned, misunderstood or were just plain douches after reading this piece.
Ant: It pains me… not! Clearly when dealing with his grief about the internet forum, Aloysius is still at stage 2 whereas I have progressed to stage 5 (ref: Kubler-Ross model, the 5 stages of grief, which you can honestly apply as the 5 stages of <insert emotion>)
One of the most common things that Zenith has been called recently is ‘unprofessional’. It is natural for people to expect professionalism from a team competing on an international stage – I fully agree. The management team is here to remind the players what they should and should not do. But the global community is holding this team to a standard higher than they should. Because everyone assumes that the Zenith players are being paid a salary to train and represent an organization at DotA 2 events.
Let’s make this clear once and for all: Zenith players do not receive any forms of monetary remuneration for training and playing. Razer is our only sponsor and what we get from Razer is non-monetary support. The players get a facility to train in peace and equipment to use and bring up to Seattle. Basically, when you take away the inflated expectations and fancy branding of the Zenith name, what you have is just a group of friends coming together to challenge large international gaming organizations for the cash prize at The International. Sure, they want to win a cool million bucks. Who wouldn’t? But it is also something more than that. It’s about being able to say ‘my team is the best in the world!’.
Ant: We’re all doing this pro-bono! The management included (so we’re not draining funds or anything, I swear).
They’ve been trying very hard to be professional as a team, because they’re in the spotlight of the world’s DotA community. Right smack in the middle of it. Not because they have an obligation to sponsors. Not because their livelihoods depend on it. But because it’s just the right thing to do. It seems that during the whole BTS World Tour fracas, people forgot that Zenith waited 5 hours for LGD to relocate and find another LAN facility to play against them in the Gigabyte DOTA Masters finals. And even after that, they took the eventual loss gracefully. I have never felt prouder of Team Zenith.
[I find it slightly amusing and quite offended when David ‘GoDz’ Parker calls Zenith out for being unprofessional. Other than the fact that GoDz has a vested interest in his own tournament, some of the current team Zenith lineup actually extended GoDz hospitality, going for dinner and a LAN café to train together in Thailand (ESTC 2010), because it seemed he was there casting alone. I still cannot fathom why he would air his displeasure on such a public forum when the option of contacting either the players or manager was present.]
Ant: We do exist to hear your grievances. Seriously. In theory. Because it seems only the fans like to contact the team personally. It does go to show something, doesn’t it? (I’m not too sure what that “something” is, so don’t be puzzled if you don’t get it either. Just take whatever you think the sentence implies, and know that I support you, because I’m sympathetic like that)
In this past month, Zenith has also been labeled as money-grubbers and described as greedy. To someone who knows the players well, I feel that these remarks are more sad than offensive. More worthy of a facepalm than an angst-filled retort. Prior to forming Zenith, players like hyhy and iceiceice were approached by an organization (that I will not name) to play competitive League of Legends for a monthly salary that exceeds a fresh Singaporean graduate’s starting pay. An offer like this was unprecedented in the history of e-sports in Singapore. Yet the players chose to turn down these offers, because their interests lie with DotA 2 and not League of Legends.
Ant: I too knew about this and, I kid you not, I would quit school for that pretty ludicrous salary (ok, maybe I would “consider” temporarily suspending my education).
As I penned the first paragraphs of this article, I asked myself – “what exactly is the point of writing something like this?”. I believe I have the answer now. The objective of this article is not to portray the Zenith players as saints. No, they need work on their punctuality. They need to respect deadlines. They should give opponents more respect. But to describe them as ‘unprofessional’, ‘bad-mannered’ and ‘greedy’ isn’t fair. The point of this article is to show the people out there who bother and care that the Zenith players are not like that, to let them understand these players that they adore a little bit more.
Ant: The point is that we spend so much time with the team, and we know so much stuff about them, that hearing people comment with incomplete information (thus drawing false conclusions) make us feel like we need to do some charity and give away information (which wants to be free, yo)! Also, as far as needing to work on punctuality goes, holy shit have they made drastic improvements over the years.
Tammy, Ant and myself have spent more time with these guys than anyone else. We are working for free. Ant goes back to Boston to further his studies in two weeks, I start my full-time banking job in September while Tammy will be focusing on work as well as her PMS Asterisk team. We are not holding out for any kind of incentive or reward. We are in this as well because we believe in the five of them. Zenith started out as underdogs. No monetary sponsorship. No professional administrative and content team for support. No full-time manager to plan schedules, fix matches and coordinate with various tournament organizers. Having achieved this much, at this point in time…. I would credit it to the five players who have put in extraordinary effort to chase a dream. Using whatever remains of their free time outside of National Service (iceiceice/xy-) or school (hyhy/xFreedom).
Call them cocky or arrogant, that’s fine by me. These guys earned it. But just think it through the next time you want to call them ‘unprofessional’. They have made sacrifices that you, the spectators, would never know about.