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Sandata Rants: Philippine eSports Needs to Save Itself From Visa/Passport Problems

November 1, 2016 John Paolo "Sandata" Bago

Sympathy for who?

On social media yesterday, the plight of team 1nconsistent (the team that beat Mineski CS:GO at the MPGL 8 grand finals) circulated among my colleagues. The gist: by winning the event at ESGS, the team is eligible to fly to Taiwan and compete in the WIRFORCE tournament.

The problem? Three of the five members do not have passports.

With only eight days to go before the event, the understandably distraught team turned to seek help from the office of Senator Bam Aquino, a long-time friend of the eSports community whose office has figured in some high-profile and last-minute help with passports and visas.

But I find myself having a hard time giving sympathy for the team in this situation. It’s 2016. Shouldn’t it be about time we expect people aspiring to become pros to do their due diligence?

Fairness

To be fair, let’s look at the facts:

Knowing what we know of the facts, a case could be made that 1nconsistent didn’t have enough time to secure passports in time. WIRFORCE and the Taiwan event entering the picture midway through the Leg would certainly have caught teams off-guard. In the minds of the 1nconsistent players and management, they were only playing for a final at ESGS.

But that assumption quickly breaks down when you take a look at the time involved between learning of the WIRFORCE payoff and ESGS. A standard passport application can be completed within 15 working days. Express processing will take seven working days.

The team mentioned that their problems start with players not even owning passports. This is one avenue that could have been solved almost immediately with time to spare before the finals even began.

Sure, owning a passport does not guarantee that the team will be able to secure visas to Taiwan, but due diligence begins in completing the basics; their win at ESGS and ready passports would make their case for Taiwan visas completely painless.

Sure, there are real monetary costs involved in securing those documents, but that should be a non-factor. Any job, any industry has costs and buy-ins. This is simply the cost of doing business. The cost of being a pro gamer.

I find even hard to fault the organizers, Mineski Events Team, for the faux pas. A passport should be part of your personal files, tournament or no tournament.

Bam can’t save you

Look, I am not without empathy. I can empathize with the team and the crushing feeling that you might miss your first international event. I get that.

But it’s hard to empathize when the mere action of obtaining a passport (by all means a personal and basic responsibility) isn’t even high on the list of requirements for professional players.

It’s 2016 and throughout the years, news of players and visa troubles have been popping up all over eSports with media and journalists covering their plight pretty extensively. In fact, the office of Senator Aquino only became known as an ally and a refuge for eSports visa problems because of media coverage!

The fact that the team is even beseeching the help of the senator’s office means that they know there’s an office that can help them — the question becomes: why didn’t they help themselves earlier?

It is not common knowledge to people, but the office of Senator Aquino doesn’t actually handles visa processing. That duty falls squarely with the immigration bureau and the corresponding embassies. 1nconsistent’s plight will do well to remind the eSports crowd here in the Philippines that government is not a miracle worker; Senator Aquino’s office cannot process the impossible, especially with the shortened deadline looming over the horizon.

Add the extra tragedy of misinformed fans speculating that the team missing out on the event being a conspiracy, and what you have is a shit-show pure and simple. A disaster that could have been avoided by some personal responsibility.

Prevention over cure

Some of the local scene’s biggest names have weighed in on the topic. TNC internet cafe and Pro Team owner Eric Redulfin called for a “No Passport, No Play” rule to be implemented by circuit and tournament operators. While these might help incentivize aspiring professional gamers to go out and secure passports as a minimum barrier to entry gaming, this type of measure will depend on the organizer’s goals. After all, an organizer wants players and such a rule might cut down on registrations, at least in the short term.

But one thing becomes clear when taking in what’s happening in this singular incident: the cost of being a professional in eSports — an inherently globalized industry — is well-documented in 2016. If you want to be a professional, get a damn passport.

Even PeSPA, or the Philippine eSports Association currently headed by Joebert Yu (who just threw a very successful ESGS together, my congratulations) can’t help with the timeline given. PeSPA’s job isn’t even to focus on visa and passport problems, although 2015 and 2016 has been filled with similar cases. If we want a future with a good governing body for eSports, individuals and teams need to do their part and not rely on external forces to save them.

At this point in time, I don’t care how you get a passport. Get it by yourself before you decide to practice. Get it before you ask yourself if you want to go pro. Ask your team or manager to help you secure it.

Because if you don’t help yourself and rely on government to bail you out at the last minute, then I have no sympathy for you.

To paraphrase a line the Star Wars movie Revenge of the Sith: “You have done this to yourself.”