Mind Sports South Africa "stronger than ever" in 2011

Mind Sports South Africa is the official governing body for competitive gaming in SA, and with access to government resources, it is able to send local gamers all over the globe to compete against the best gamers in the world in international events. 

Given these credentials, one might expect the majority of SA’s top gamers to be getting involved, but this is simply not the case at the moment. 

We caught up with the organisation’s president Colin Webster to discuss MSSA’s current standing, and find out more about how it works, and why so many local gamers are opposed to it. 

MyGaming: Firstly, would you like to start by introducing yourself, and explaining your role at MSSA?

Colin Webster: I am Colin Webster. I have had a long association in sports, having been involved in competitive swimming and competitive wargames as well as having been involved in administration of sport at club, provincial, national and international levels. However, my involvement in the MSSA starts in 1979, when, as a student at Wits University I became involved in wargames – or as I like to think of it – proto eSports. The club at Wits University grew quickly and because it attracted a very competitive group, the club was the driving force in founding the Transvaal Wargames Association in 1980. The Transvaal Wargames Association became the founding block of the MSSA. The MSSA was then founded by the Transvaal, Eastern Transvaal, and Natal Wargames Associations in 1984.

My role within the MSSA is that of President. The President chairs Council Meetings, Executive Meetings and Management Board Meetings. It should be noted that the people who occupy the position of President and all those who occupy the positions of Vice President can also ex officio sit on any sub-committee but without voting privileges. As president, I am also de facto the public officer of the MSSA.

What do you think the MSSA has to offer local competitive gamers?

Colin Webster: Gosh where do I begin? The MSSA offers a huge amount to local competitive gamers.

It has taken years to get the government and older sports bodies to take gaming seriously. To give you an example, in 1987 when the MSSA requested to become affiliated to the Confederation of South African Sport (COSAS), the request was initially denied. By sheer perseverance and determination (allied with strong arguments), COSAS finally acceded to the MSSA’s reQuest and granted the MSSA membership into the greater body of sport. This was indeed a huge triumph as the Springbok Colours Board also accepted the MSSA as a result thereof and granted Springbok Colours to the MSSA’s team. Through careful politicking, the MSSA also joined the anti-establishment National Olympic Committee of South Africa (NOCSA) and formed a firm friendship with the late Bill Jardim.

As a result of being an affiliate of both COSAS and NOCSA, the MSSA was able to contribute to the equalisation of sport in South Africa and has been an affiliate of every macro sport body in South Africa since then, such as:

The National Sports Council (1994 to 1999)

The South African Sports Commission (1999 to 2002), and

The South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) 

With such recognition comes total accreditation of eSports as a sport. Thus Protea Colours are awarded to deserving teams which represent South Africa in international events.

Some gamers may scoff at the fact that Protea Colours are now awarded, but they are those who have never experienced the joy and full benefits of being part of that select few that have officially represented South Africa overseas.

Apart from Protea Colours, there are National, Provincial, and Provincial School colours that can be earned. Allied to the colours awarded by the MSSA, there are the sporting colours that are awarded by both Universities and Schools alike. There too are the bursaries for which well deserving gamers can apply. The amounts differ from university to university, but such bursaries make a substantial difference to the costs of studying at university.

Other benefits include National Lottery Funding, the improved ability of obtaining sponsorship, local government support, and most importantly… having a voice to direct the future of eSports.

With the MSSA being an Universitas all clubs that are fully-paid-up members have rights in voting on issues and have the right to propose issues. This means that the gamer actually takes control over the games which they play and love. The MSSA is NOT a monolithic structure and has to comply with the wishes of the majority of its members.

Thus whatever the MSSA does, it is because the majority of the membership wish it to be done so.

In this way the MSSA is unique. The MSSA is not driven by market forces and by pursuing profits at every turn, but is instead driven by what its membership wants.

MyGaming: Please explain how the MSSA functions, and its role within E-Sports in SA?

Colin Webster:  The MSSA is the governing body for eSports, along with a number of Board Games and Wargames. eSports, Board Games, and wargames all have their own boards of control which determine competition rules, budgets, etc. for their discipline. Such eSports Board of Controlis directly responsible to the Management Board and the Chairman of the eSports Board of Control has a seat on the Management Board.

While people are elected for three-year terms for the Management Board, players elected on to the Boards of Control have terms of one year.

Suffice it to say that all member clubs (in good standing) have the ability to vote at all Executive and Council Meetings.

MyGaming: How do you feel about the current state of the MSSA?

Colin Webster:  The MSSA is stronger than ever. Membership has increased consistently over the past few years, and government accreditation is opening doors that have hitherto remained shut to eSports. The MSSA’s commitment to eSports is also growing, with eSports becoming the dominant discipline in the MSSA. To illustrate this, please note the following numbers of gamers sent to officially represent South Africa in international competition:

2005 – 6 gamers (Protea Colours)

2006 – 8 gamers (National Colours)

2007 – 1 gamer (National Colours)

2008 – 7 gamers (Protea Colours)

2009 – 4 gamers (National Colours)

2010 – 13 gamers (2 x National Colours, and 11 with Protea Colours)

2011 – 3 gamers ((Protea Colours)

Certainly, the MSSA has a bright future ahead of it with eSports, and should the current projects come to fruition, eSports could easily become the largest sport in South Africa.

MyGaming: What do you make of the perceived negative attitude which some local gamers seem to have towards MSSA?

Colin Webster: Everyone is entitled to their own opinions. However, the majority of ‘naysayers’ seem to be reacting to hearsay – to something that someone else has said – and not to their own experiences. Yes, certainly the MSSA does make mistakes at times, but it also tries to correct such mistakes.

The opposition to the MSSA seems to be most apparent in quarters that have a vested financial interest in eSports and are running it purely for their own profit. If you look at the scene, the MSSA has been around for years where other groups have come and gone as interests change or profit margins disappear.

The other problem that the MSSA has is that there are individuals who see themselves as community leaders, and I admit such gamers have vast knowledge, but do not want to be bothered with democracy. Such gamers certainly do not want to stand for elections, be accountable for their actions, or have their ideas voted upon by mere mortals.

However, the MSSA is an association that is open to any club that wishes to affiliate. 

It is hoped that the gamers who are negative will slowly come round and register in order to experience the full benefits offered.

MyGaming: If you could say one thing to those gamers that are against MSSA, what would it be?

Colin Webster: Since the MSSA is purely a vehicle for the gamers to use, it is sad that that a few gamers do not see the advantage of being accredited and working within current legislation to realise their own ambitions.

MyGaming: Anything else?

Colin Webster:  Thank you for the interview.

MyGaming: Pleasure Colin, thank you for your time. 

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Mind Sports South Africa "stronger than ever" in 2011