The MESA (Malta Esports Association) was formed recently with Nicolai Gauci as Chairman.
Its objective is to ‘nurture, promote, and improve the culture and recognition of esports in Malta, to represent the country as an association with its international counterparts, to regulate esports competitions, and to engage in educational campaigns relating to healthy lifestyle, cyber-bullying, and match-fixing’.
As more of these pop up and national bodies emerge to ‘recognise’ and help grow esports in that country, we thought it sensible to have a chat with Nicolai about the organisation’s formations, plans and Maltese esports.
Esports Insider: The MESA was formed recently to help grow esports in Malta, and Maltese players internationally. Who is involved, what are their backgrounds and what are the primary aims for 2017?
Nicolai: We’ve got a good mix of local community admins and organisations. The founding members have been in the local scene for a number of years, some having around 9 to 10 years of working with the community and hosting events.
“MESA is not just here for the players, it’s here for the whole industry, and we intend to stick to that as much as possible”
There’s pretty much everyone involved, and we’re currently working to bring on board as many remaining stakeholders as we can. The Maltese gaming community is relatively small due to our population, but that allows us to centralise. For example, we have ‘national’ game communities, such as LoL, CS:GO and Overwatch, which are the biggest three games played here.
With respect to our aims, we’re still brainstorming what is best to target since there’s a lot of ground to cover. We’re virtually starting from zero. So far we’ve discussed the possibility of holding workshops, training camps, a national league and also branching out to offer help related to streaming and video editing. MESA is not just here for the players, it’s here for the whole industry, and we intend to stick to that as much as possible.
Esports Insider: More countries are recognising esports ‘as a sport’ with Finland joining this list this month. Is that the plan for Malta, and is the Olympics a longer term aim?
Nicolai: Definitely. We’re already obtained the support of the national sport council prior to our official launch. However, as in other countries, there’s a long way to go with shifting the public’s mentality from “waste of time” to sporting activity.
“Only when we’ve got a rock-solid foundation can we even start to consider the Olympics”
We’re certainly aiming for an esports delegation for an Olympic competition, but we feel that the scene still needs to mature and take a more professional view of their activities. Up until a few years ago, the LAN/competitive scene was virtually dead (our biggest LANs are typically 100 – 150pax), so even in terms of the scenes themselves, there’s still work to be done. Only when we’ve got a rock-solid foundation can we even start to consider the Olympics.
Esports Insider: Which of the esports communities is the most established in Malta? Is it more a PC or console nation?
Nicolai: Funnily enough, pockets of people who play certain games are hidden away, even in a nation of this size. Sometimes you speak to people who’ve been active in the game for years, but never even thought of looking up or joining the Maltese community.
Like I said before, the whole concept of esports is still quite raw here, so in all likelihood there are people who are obsessed and are very good at a certain game, but don’t identify as “esports players”.
For consoles, FIFA takes the biscuit. On PC, it’s LoL by a long way, followed by Overwatch and thirdly CS. Fighting game communities (eg. SSB, SFV, MKX) are non-existent, which is a shame. LAN and event organisers typically target PC gamers, but recent efforts have included console tournaments as well. For ‘dedicated’ console competitions you’d have your band club doing a fundraising FIFA tournament with a trophy and some cash, but nothing too serious. We’re actually looking to set up an esports circuit which will hopefully involve these grassroots organisers doing MESA-sanctioned events.
Esports Insider: Can you tell us some more about the plans for a National League?
Nicolai: The National League is going to be a by-product of several structures we’d like to have in place. We’ll be looking at registering active players and teams into our central database, which sign up to certain conditions, such as transfer markets, team rules, and so on.
The idea is not to be overbearing, but to empower players and teams to be professional and not disband the team just because they placed poorly in the last LAN. The pool of available teams is already stretched thin as it is, so maintaining stability is the first step to establishing the League. It’s useless to host something along those lines and then have half the teams either forfeit or disband mid-way.
“The idea is not to be overbearing, but to empower players and teams to be professional and not disband the team just because they placed poorly in the last LAN”
Apart from the National League, we’ll also be introducing a system of circuit points that local organisers can tap into and offer as an incentive to add to their events. Winning a sanctioned tournament will net you circuit points that go into a final classification and award the best-performing Maltese teams overall in their respective games. We also think that it’s just as much an incentive for organisers as much as the players to come on board with us, since players would be looking to compete in as many events as possible for circuit points which would automatically put their event on gamers’ radars.
As for the points themselves, we’ll probably be hosting some sort of awards night for starters, but there’s definitely the possibility that they can be used for other things as well, but we haven’t gotten to that stage quite yet.
Esports Insider: How can Malta seek to compete ‘as a destination for esports events and large scale tournaments’?
Nicolai: Good question. Despite our size, the country has got its perks – fine weather, stable internet infrastructure and a good party scene.
“We’re certainly shooting for foreign esports clubs to set up shop here on a permanent basis, but that will come at a later stage..”
A lot of foreign nationals come here to learn English over the summer months, so in terms of entertainment there’s a lot that Malta already offers. In the past, big football teams have used Malta as a boot camp prior to a competition, and there’s definitely no reason why that cannot be the case for esports.
The tax structure in Malta is also very favourable to sports-related income, and actually a lot of poker players are based in Malta for this reason. We’re certainly shooting for foreign esports clubs to set up shop here on a permanent basis, but that will come at a later stage, since we’d need to come to an agreement with government entities.
Speaking of poker, we already host a lot of high-value tournaments such as the Battle of Malta and big events such as Isle of MTV, so it’s definitely not beyond our capability to also host large esports events!