I took a survey for the MLG LAN Center Initiative early this morning and wanted to express some thoughts. It will be interesting to see how the initiative will pan out, considering there are not too many LAN Centers that would make the cut. I know this after working in the LAN Center business for just under three years at arguably the most successful center in the US — eBash Video Gaming Centers. eBash is centralized around one key figure, Zack Johnson, probably one of the few LAN Center owners with some innovative ideas about competitive gaming and the direction it needs to go.
Some of the core concepts behind the MLG LAN Center Initiative sound eerily similar to an article I wrote about a year ago about the relevance of LAN centers to the MLG ecosystem. The article expresses some of the concepts Zack and I discussed along with some of my own ideas. I implore you, if you haven’t read it, please read the article to try and truly grasp the idea of what MLG is trying to accomplish with this initiative.
There are very few, and I mean very few, LAN Centers that could even run a tournament let alone a tournament sanctioned by Major League Gaming. iGames, the largest collective entity of LAN Centers, has a difficult time managing centers for their tournaments. ggCircuit, a much smaller effort (I helped manage), focused solely on competitive tournaments and struggled with nearly every tournament. The LAN Centers involved in ggCircuit were probably the “cream of the crop,” yet where they made up in hardware and equipment, they lacked in human resources and employee management.
You see, to me, ggCircuit was the “MLG LAN Center Initiative,” except it did not have the official “MLG” endorsement. It was like a pilot program of sorts that had mild success. The model works conceptually, except most LAN Center owners do not truly understand the notion of competitive gaming — not forgetting the fact that most are PC oriented with limited console gaming systems. They do not follow or understand how to enforce the rules and regulations that accompany each game. Furthermore, home town, advantage seemed to play a part in the “influence” certain teams i.e. “regular customers” had over the owners of each respective LAN Center and owners, of course, want repeat business. They forget to enforce the rules and end up letting the teams and/or individual players run them and tournament instead of referees. Even worse, the staff might not know much about the games and misinterpret rules, creating problems each match, tremendously slowing down a tournament.
Do not mistake my disposition as one that is negative. I want the MLG LAN Center Initiative to succeed! I simply want to be honest about the state of the LAN Center business model because I started reviewing LAN Centers (will continue this year) and there are quite a few pot holes down this Initiative path that need to be fixed. Taking a survey or cold calling LAN Centers is probably not the best way to go in the effort to find out which centers can actually run an MLG Sanctioned tournament. I don’t want a LAN Center to tarnish the image of what it’s “like” at an MLG event because of the one LAN Center owner that doesn’t know how to operate a tournament. There are a dozens and dozens of turds for LAN centers and it is one of the main reasons so many of them are going out of business. I think the certification process is more of a task that should be handled by someone like Zack Johnson or within the iGames staff (who would likely ask Zack to do it anyway). Someone that has a distinguished reputation within the industry and can organize the facilities needed to make the initiative succeed.
The local competitive communities definitely need something like this from Major League Gaming. For the many reasons I wrote about nearly a year ago, this needs to happen, but MLG needs to execute flawlessly and the community needs to respond!
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