Oceanic esports has a funny, insular community. We are so far away from other regions that it’s impossible to play against anyone except ourselves. In Europe, you have players from a multitude of diverse regions. From the west in Portugal to the east in Russia, Finland to Turkey and beyond. In Oceania, you’ve got Perth to Wellington, and a whole load of desert.
Not only that, the scene is tiny. Everyone knows everyone. Less than 1500 people are eligible to play OPL or OCS, the pinnacle of League of Legends in Oceania, by rank alone. That number is reduced when you go through people who actually want to play. Then, when you put Contenders Australia next to something like Contenders NA or Korea, it looks like nothing more than a humble online event.
So, then, why have we found ourselves in 2018 importing more talent than ever? Why are players from Europe, Korea, Japan and the US coming Down Under to play, when there are more opportunities elsewhere? It’s for the experience, and it’s for the exposure.
Legacy Esports added the first ingredient to the melting pot. Ex-KT Rolster substitute and Millenium player Min “Mimic” Ju-Sung became the first Korean player to play in the OPL. At the time of his signing Legacy’s Head of Esports Tim Wendel said that “Mimic will give us an edge over our rivals because of the time he has spent in foreign competitions.”
Then, everyone started to throw in new flavours. The Bombers picked up European Top Lane-AD Carry duo Christian “Sleeping” Tiensuu and Alan “Tiger” Roger. According to Abyss’s General Manager at the time, Nathan “Euphoria” Mathews, a “distinctive lack of talented top lane players” forced the Bombers to look abroad.
MAMMOTH signed Japan’s Unsold Stuff Gaming Korean mid-laner Kim “REMIND” Hong-Ju and NA veteran Brandon “Mash” Phan for Split 2 of the OPL. While there have been concerns surrounding team synergy, MAMMOTH is looking like a solid top 4 OPL team for splits to come.
In the world of Overwatch, Australian teams were looking for a kickstart for Season 2. While playing in Australia doesn’t have the same big prize pool to draw players in, the exposure it can provide can kickstart careers.
Kanga Esports came off a rough Season 1 Contenders. While they squeezed into playoffs after finishing 4th in their group, they were swiftly beaten by Masterminds GC. Needing a roster shake-up, they looked overseas to America. Niko “ChroNoDotA” Raisanen was their target.
A player for Arizona State University, he had helped teams with their Open Division campaigns to qualify for Contenders NA. However, he didn’t receive any offers for Contenders NA, and Open Division Season 3 was still a mile down the road.
Taking a chance, he took up the offer to play in Contenders Australia for Kanga. Brought on initially as a substitute, he quickly slotted into the lineup and made a strong case to start as their main tank.
However, ChroNoDotA isn’t your stereotypical import. Instead of being flown over to play in Australia, he plays from his home in Arizona. Even with the ping disadvantage, he has made the most of his time and made waves through the community through great leadership.
“So far, my experience with Kanga has been great. We ended the regular season off strong and are feeling confident going into playoffs.”
At the same time, Kanga signed Australian coach Thomas “Maid” Mok, who spent time with Contenders EU team Team Singularity during their Season 1 Contenders campaign. With these changes, Kanga Esports took a decent roster and made it look top 4 worthy, bringing a wealth of international experience back to Australia and adapting it into their gameplay.
“The value Kanga has given me has been immense. Players will always look international for an opportunity if they provide more value than their domestic teams, and I’m glad I stepped up for Kanga.”
This import of talent can have a massive influence on the Oceanic esports landscape. Bringing in experienced players such as Mash or ChroNoDotA allows our less experienced talent to gain an immense amount of knowledge. Players like these rub off and act as a great influence.
“One thing that I’ve noticed through getting more Australian scrim experience is that there are many strong mechanical players in Australia. However, there is a lack of strategy and leadership – and very few teams have a strong shot caller.”
Not only that, these talents are getting some crucial experience to get to the next stage in their careers. “Playing for Kanga has given me the “Contenders” experience,” said ChroNoDotA, “which can open doors to other opportunities.”
“Contenders Australia has definitely put me closer to my goals by serving as a learning experience and allowing me to meet more people. I’ve used my time to further develop my in-game leadership, and refine my shot calling.”
This talent can also increase the general skill level of the region, which in turn means the level of play grows. It wasn’t long ago since Oceania was the joke of every international League tournament. However, with a Rift Rivals trophy in the cabinet, the region is slowly showing everyone that it’s improving.
More Oceanic players have been presented with the opportunity to play internationally, too. It only took a Legacy-Echo Fox joint boot camp to see Lawrence “Lost” Hui sign to the American organisation and become Oceania’s first League of Legends export. 8 months after his signing, he made his LCS debut and is currently whipping up a storm.
Australia’s best Rainbow Six Siege team Mindfreak got picked up by one of the biggest European esports organisations in Fnatic earlier this year. After an impressive performance at the World Championships in 2017, Fnatic has not just grown the team individually but helped grow the Oceanic esports scene. This was, and still is, an unprecedented move in Oceanic esports.
While it might feel a bit off to see international players replacing local talent, it’s the way of the future. International players will always be looking for any experience possible, and our own players can benefit off the melting pot of players who look towards Oceania for a career kickstart. And how Australian is it that even our esports teams are now as multicultural as the country itself.
Photos by Oceanic Pro League