GankStars: Lessons Learned, Next Steps
Cull, gabe, Oldskool
With the loss of CullTheMeek, gabevizzle, and Oldskool we started seeing negative comments from some people online. They never come from people who know how hard it is to build something (those usually come offering help/advice instead), and we all know how everyone's a keyboard warrior on the Internet. Still, perception is reality, and it's our responsibility at GankStars to take public perception seriously and do our best to address it.
First, I would be lying if I said that the departure of our two star players has no impact on GS. It does, especially short-term. I would also be lying if I said we know what that impact is/will be. Things always look morbid when something that worked well suddenly disappears; but when one door closes, another opens. We now have 2 positions available for people who want to prove themselves, same way Cull and gabe wanted to prove themselves when they first joined. They're two amazing players, no doubt about it. But it would be a disservice to all other players out there to say that there are no other 2 amazing players who can also train and succeed. The Vainglory eSports scene is becoming quite healthy in the sense that there are multiple teams and dozens of players who are very close in skill level.
The question I see asked a lot is "Why did Cull/gabe leave?" We can't answer that fully. But I will talk in generic terms about lessons learned so far, and what we're changing. Nearly every team has its internal dynamics, conflicts, and issues, no matter how good they perform. There were many-many things that worked with Sirius; there were a few that didn't, and these few meant more than we realized.
We're also seeing the older, more established orgs enter Vainglory, and for some players those orgs have a lot of appeal. We can't blame anyone wanting to join TSM or Cloud 9 or what have you; we only wish them happiness there. But I can say that we're determined to become just as notorious, that 2016 looks amazing for us, that GS offers same-if-not-better competitive salary and performance incentive opportunities in Vainglory, and that in a grassroots org you're a legend that's helping build an empire, not just another face in the crowd. GS is also heavily community-focused, and exists for a bigger purpose than just wining prize money. For some these things matter the most, and it is those players that we're looking for.
KEEP IT FUN! We were so busy building up GankStars that we almost entirely forgot how to have fun. We became a too-professional team - practices were about just that, practicing. But a team is about more than that - it's about friendships, a collective journey, and just human emotions in general. "How was your day? What did you eat last night? DISNEY! Which park are you going to, and have you been before?" It's about hanging out, making memories, taking silly pictures. For Sirius, it was just practicing, day in and day out. One of our major goals for Spring is to just have a lot more fun; after all, this is a game and YOLO!
Ground/coach the players. If humans could always see their own mistakes and issues, the world would be a whole lot better place. But we simply can't, no matter how good we are at other things. Some can do it better than others; none can do it perfectly. We all have ups and downs, bad judgements, depressions (I went through 2 of those), or pure laziness. It's not bad - it's human. Having a coach or a manager to ground the players is amazingly helpful; I owe a lot to my friends who got me through my depressions. A coach sees things that you don't for a very simple reason: because he or she isn't you. Tiger Woods has a coach. Tom Brady has a coach. Michael Jordan had a coach. And all Olympians have had coaches. And it's not because the coaches were better than the sportsmen - often they weren't, and in fact best players rarely make best coaches. No, coaches are irreplaceable for one simple reason: because their students are human. And guess what? Those coaches also have personal coaches! Embracing your humanity instead of attempting to fight it is the first step to becoming a legend. We'll be looking for a coach for both of our teams for Spring/Summer.
Solicit feedback proactively. We've asked over and over again - please let us know if anything is wrong. What we've learned is that gamers are a whole lot more introverted in this regard than people at our jobs; they often don't speak up. It's easy to say, "if they don't speak up, it's their problem." Except it's also everyone's problem. We're all in this together and we owe it to each other to show continuous, proactive concern. With the team winning and far across the globe, I often didn't ask how things are going past the surface-level response. The players themselves sometimes were afraid to speak up simply because they didn't want to lose their contracts, or because they shied away from conflict. So going forward we'll put a big emphasis on emotional well-being and making sure there's ongoing communication about any issues and concerns.
Competitive. So where is GankStars? Roster shake-ups often take a psychological toll on the remaining players. Honestly, that's our biggest obstacle right now. People blame themselves, or look too deep into what they've done wrong. There are always lessons to learn and a big change is sometimes necessary - a humble attitude never hurt anybody. But one can also spend too much time blaming themselves, trying to find something that's simply not there. Sometimes people just want a change, they just want to try something new. Sometimes they need to grow elsewhere before coming back (this happens a lot in other industries). Whatever the case is, the trick is to move on and that's what we're working on as far as our competitive side.
Community. On the casual side, GS has never been better. Our web site roster is outdated as of time of writing (should be updated soon), but we have a total of 35 members in the guild now. We launched GankStars Academy and are continuing to expand the team that works on it. We've begun work on another project that we can't yet talk about, one that will also benefit all of Vainglory community including the competitive side. And, we will start recruitment for yet another large project soon. Awesome things are happening in this area and we're very excited about this Spring and Summer.
Clash Royale? One of our members is at Supercell headquarters in Finland as I write this, asking questions about Clash Royale. It's very likely that we'll enter that game in both competitive and casual roles very soon. Our goal is to be a three-game organization by the end of 2016, but we don't want to rush it; we'd prefer to fail as much as possible in one game first so we learn the ropes with least impact. That said, Clash Royale seems to have eSports in its sights and that means we're very interested!
Merchandise will be available via this web site soon! Before, we couldn't afford to buy in bulk and distribute ourselves, and we were dependent on finding a vendor that can print and sell individual shirts at great quality and without charging you a ton. Now we can buy in bulk, and Mexi and his wife graciously agreed to handle distribution. We tested Square payments at NA Championships, so soon we'll roll them out to this web site :) Hooray!!
Miscellaneous. GankStars is on solid financial footing and we will continue to grow our position by building strong relationships with businesses, supporters, and influences that share our vision. GS is here to stay, and we are building a framework that can last. We're looking for loyal players and galaxy members who want to build and be a part of a true grassroots org with strong community focus and ideals. If helping others makes you want to wake up in the morning, whether you're in EU or NA, you should apply!
I'll end with something not related to this blog post at all, but something I found to be one of best lessons I learned in life: keep looking for those friends you can trust 100%. They're ah-mazing. Being vulnerable can hurt more than a few times, but if you find even one such friend, it's worth it. At the end of the day, life is wonderful. You'll just have to trust me on this one.