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MWEB GameZone Interviews Tammy Tang: Dota 2 legend, eSports Manager, Pro Female Gamer

I’ve written about the dangers of eSports for those talented and brave enough to venture into it, however that comes with an outsider’s perspective. It goes without saying that only so much can be seen from the outside, whereas those who are “in” have far more knowledge, experience and insight into the inner workings of the eSports scene.

That is why I approached Tammy ‘furryfish*’ Tang, so that she could share her knowledge and shed some experienced light on the issue of eSports and the risks that come with it. For those of you unfamiliar with who she is, Tammy Tang is the founder and leader of PMS Asterisk*, an all-female Dota 2 team based in Singapore, and the former community and eSports executive at Razer.

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She also used to be the manager of Team Zenith, a Dota 2 team, also in Singapore, who were fairly successful in both the local and international scene, before disbanding in 2013. You may have more recently seen her in Valve’s Free To Play documentary, where they covered The International 2011.

With so much experience in the competitive scene, I felt she would give valuable insight with her answers to my questions surrounding eSports and she did not fail to deliver. Join me as we climb into the mind of this exceptional gamer.

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Do you think there is enough protection for players in eSports, in terms of contracts & protecting them from being exploited? If there isn’t, what is lacking?

Most contracts with sponsors are signed with the team owner, or manager, because the line-up does change from time to time. So if a player is not performing, it’s usually up to the team owner/manager to switch him out. Sponsors won't and can't really sign with individual players, unless they're really big names, who have proven track records, simply because they want the brand to be associated with them.

Not all pro players have contracts with the team owners, so sometimes their position can be a little shaky. On the other hand, I understand why team owners might be hesitant to give a contract to players because that will bind them to the team, which might turn out to be a bad thing (if they start underperforming/giving trouble) and the additional paperwork is troublesome. Perhaps [what is lacking is] a regional/international organisation for gamers to lay down some ground rules and enforce them.

Often managers are given the blame for players being abused or not properly looked after, yet people fail to mention the parents of pro players. Do you think parents have a responsibility in terms of looking after their children in eSports?

It depends on the age of the child I guess. If the gamer is still considered a child, then perhaps the parent should take some active steps in ensuring he/she is protected. (proper contracts etc) Obviously if the gamer is abused in a team, it's gotta be the manager's fault. It's the same as asking if your CEO/HR should be held responsible or your parents if you're treated badly at work.

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In the Valve documentary, Free To Play, you mention that as gamers grow up and have children of their own, it will be easier for young gamers to pursue their dreams as their parents will understand the scene and how it works. Do you think this will also allow for better protection of players? 

Probably. Simply because the current generation, who are the ground breakers, would be more familiar with the scene than our parents are. But then again, it also depends on how involved the gamer is now, in all these politics and relations in the gaming scene.

If you had to list the 3 most difficult aspects of being a manager, what would it be?

  • Handling the relationships between the players. I don't mean romantic relationships... I mean just how they interact and treat each other. Sometimes you can step in, sometimes you shouldn't.
  • Separating your own personal relationships with the members. ie, if you're particularly close to one or two, the rest might feel you're biased.
  • Being unable to help out in terms of coaching, or giving opinions about the game. Usually relevant to a high skilled team, hence [the] need for a separate coach. 

What responsibility do you think a company like Valve has in terms of looking after the best interests of pro players, if any?

I think they're already doing more than their fair share. They don't need to give the community an economy, they don't need to host an annual tournament with such a huge prize pool. I see all this as a plus. Everything they're doing is helping to contribute to a self-sufficient, pro-active community.

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What are your views on a players' association in eSports? Do you think it is viable or even necessary?

It might not be viable, but I think in the long run it will be necessary. There's an Olympic committee, so once eSports gets closer to that, there should be one for gamers too.

Overall, what are your views on the general direction eSports is taking? Are you optimistic?

Of course on a whole I'm optimistic, but in certain regions, I can see it's on the decline. In Singapore, for example, there's hardly any live spectatorship, there are fewer and fewer and less regular LAN tournaments, there are fewer sponsorships offered, players are going overseas to try to eke out a living there. But the fact that there are opportunities overseas is a good sign. Hopefully locally things will pick up.

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A big thank you to Tammy for taking the time out to answer my questions. If you want to find out more about her, find her on Twitter here, or on Facebook here.

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Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not MWEB Connect (Pty) Ltd

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