Perilous Gaming are well known in UK esports, from their League of Legends team to their Dota 2 side winning at epicLAN 20 and branching into fighting games.
In recent months they have also had their struggles, with their former LoL players still being owed money. David Hollingsworth interviews Perilous Gaming's general manager Brian "DotShotgun" Houston about turning the organisation around and looking forwards.
Please tell us a bit about your background and your journey into esports.
Esports wasn't always my career of choice. From a very young age, I wanted to do drama. After a lot of education, hard work and a bit of luck I had my own theatre company and was working with a number of other theatre companies.
Unfortunately, as can happen with the creative arts scene, it all fell apart. It was after this that I discovered a little game called Dota 2.
I've been a gamer since a young age, with my first console being the Mega Drive, but never got heavily into PC gaming. To this day I'm still a total Sony fanboy but knew Valve was one of the best developers in the industry and was attracted to Dota 2 because of its free to play model. The fact you get all the heroes for free is still pretty unprecedented in the industry.
Whilst playing, I was a part of a couple of stacks that fell apart because there was no dedicated manager to do schedules and sort out disputes. I had an idea to put a team together but it wasn't until after The International 5 when I found out that the UK wasn't being represented in the international scene that I properly decided to get into esports. It was this that gave me the final push to start my own team.
I posted an article on UKDota Reddit about doing tryouts for a new team, which would become PerilousRAZE. The next day Mick [Hartley], Perilous' owner, got in touch with me about coming on board as Dota 2 team manager and the rest is history.
What does your new role within Perilous Gaming entail?
Since joining Perilous, I've had a lot of title changes. From Dota 2 Team Manager to Stream Manager to Social Media Manager to Fighting Game Division Manager. Anyone who works for an org in UK esports will tell you that you have your job title then there's everything else you do.
For the past couple of months, I've basically been doing the job as General Manager but without access to the resources I should have, such as sponsorship proposals and analytical data for our social media.
With my position now being made official, I will have more responsibilities including contacting and negotiating sponsorship deals and website management. Speaking of sponsorship deals, I would like to take this time to announce that Perilous have entered into a partnership with WebhostGB who will be providing all our servers and website hosting from now on. We're hoping it's going to be the first of many new partnerships and sponsorships to come.
"We're doing our best to make it up to the players and have learned from it. We're hoping that someday we can return to the UK League scene and that our reputation in the scene hasn't been affected too badly."
What attracted you to the role?
The whole point of this interview was for full transparency. There have been a lot of issues behind the scenes at Perilous. Being honest, I was very close to leaving. Due to Mick's redundancy last year, he had developed a communication problem.
This came to a head at the start of 2017 when he was confronted about it. He promised things would change but nothing did and more issues were caused by it. I had even already told some players I'd left and was contacting other orgs to rehouse them. In the end, though, I decided to stay with Perilous for a number of reasons.
I realised that if I moved to another org, there was a high chance I wouldn't get the freedom to support the scenes I wanted to.
The main reason I stayed, though, and to answer your question, was the control I'd gain by staying. From now on I'll be able to edit our new website, which should be launching very soon, and contact sponsors on behalf of the org.
It'll mean that a lot of the issues of the past should be eradicated since I have more time to run the org.
Perilous' former League of Legends team, who are now being slowly paid what they're owed by the org
What's happening with owner Mick now? Will you be running the org moving forwards?
Mick still owns the org but I'll be running stuff now. We're still in the process of getting everything set up though. Once it is, I'll be handling a lot of the stuff Mick used to.
Your former League of Legends players were still owed money from prior winnings last month. Has that been resolved?
I'm happy to say that we are now paying the players back on a monthly basis starting this month and they will get everything they're owed. Incidents like this are prominent in esports, especially at the grassroots level.
We're doing our best to make it up to the players and have learned from it. We're hoping that someday we can return to the UK League scene and that our reputation in the scene hasn't been affected too badly.
They've been paid £100 (£20 each) and will be paid at least £100 each month for the next four months.
It was one of the first things I done once I'd taken over as GM. We need that stuff sorted before we can start moving forward.
"The whole point of this interview was for full transparency. There have been a lot of issues behind the scenes at Perilous. Being honest, I was very close to leaving."
Perilous Gaming is well known around the UK scene, does that add to the pressure?
I'd never really thought of that. I always say the pressure in this job comes from the players rather than the org. At the end of the day, the players always come first to me.
There is a balancing act you need to do, though. Players should always come first but you always need to make sure you have the org's best interest in mind at the same time.
It's especially hard when your org is grassroots, considering there is a lot you can't do for players because of limited funding. I do often forget how well-known Perilous are in the scene. I think it's one of the advantages of coming in as an outsider.
When I meet people outside of LANs that have heard of us, I always have a shocked look on my face.
You came first at epicLANs Dota 2 Tournament, is this just the start of something big for Perilous Gaming in Dota 2?
UKDota was the reason I got into esports so to be successful in that scene is pretty important to me. Having both the Raze and Ruin rosters active at the moment was a long time coming.
We have a new Raze roster who are taking part in season four of the BlinkDota League and are tipped as one of the favourites. Both teams will also be playing in UKDota March Open. Winning Epic was massive for us though.
It's the first time a Perilous team has ever won at Epic and our first Dota win at LAN. All praise needs to go to the players though. Those guys played amazingly and it was fantastic to see them in action.
We're hoping to keep as many of them as possible for future LANs but will need to see what happens. Locking in a full five-player roster is pretty tough in UK Dota especially when you get into the higher-tiered players of the scene. We've got a good reputation in the scene though so expect to see us at all future UK LANs that host a Dota tournament this year.
The Perilous Ruin Dota 2 team won the tournament at epicLAN 20 last month
Dota 2 in the UK gets largely overshadowed by LoL, and Multiplay recently ditched its Dota tournaments from Insomnia. Does Dota still have a place in the UK scene?
It definitely does have a place in the UK but it's going to take a bit longer until it receives the same kind of support that LoL does.
I'd love for there to be a UKDota Premiership or Masters but chances of it happening are low for multiple reasons. This has had a knock-on effect, though. Instead of being handed tournaments, the scene has had to create its own.
It's led to the creation of weeklies like the British Gaming League and seasonal tournaments like BlinkDota League. The BlinkDota League is especially close to my heart and we've supported them since day one. Watching them grow and learn from each season they've done has been amazing.
With these tournaments, as well as the continued support of Epic, the scene is still producing talented players who, with the right support and funding, could become regulars on the international stage one day.
'UK Dota is dead' is an ongoing meme in the scene. The thing is, as long as there are LANs willing to support the game and tournaments running, then I don't think the scene will ever die.
"Expect to see us at all future UK LANs that host a Dota tournament this year."
Moving onto the fighting game scene, what games will be your focus in 2017?
The Fighting Game Community is really important to me. I've always considered fighting games my scene which is why I was adamant in creating an FGC team for Perilous.
Unfortunately, we have had some departures recently with our main Street Fighter V players Afii and Packz leaving, as well as one of our Smash players with TimeMuffin. It's gutting to lose these guys but I know their going to be alright and you haven't heard the last of them especially Afii and Packz.
That's not to say you're not going to hear from TimeMuffin but I can easily see both Afii and Packz becoming massive worldwide. I think their two of the most talented esports players we have in the country.
Our plans for this year though are to focus on the players that are still with us with 0Naught and Suleymon in SFV and Yakabean in Smash, as well as Faisal Dante in Marvel vs Capcom.
With Marvel vs Capcom Infinite due to release later this year, you'll be hearing a lot more from Faisal. We have no plans to move into other fighting games for the foreseeable future, though.
Does the scene need more support in the UK at a grassroots level?
Definitely. The grassroots scene in the UK is such a tough part of UK esports. Almost everyone is doing their main job or in education, or both, on top of trying to either practice their game or run their org. This is fine for people that treat it as a hobby but for those of us that want to break through, and have careers in the scene, it's pretty tough to balance everything.
Then you have the headache of trying to secure players for teams with very little funding. Even something as simple as buying hoodies becomes nearly impossible. I'm hoping in the future there will be new funding and educational resources available for UK esports that'll help the grassroots scene.
Esports is a very new industry and the UK is still to have an esports boom similar to North America. It will happen one day I'm sure, but when you have long running and respected orgs like uFrag going under, then something needs to change soon or else we might be losing a lot more.
"'UK Dota is dead' is an ongoing meme in the scene. The thing is, as long as there are LANs willing to support the game and tournaments running, then I don't think the scene will ever die."
What change would you make to the UK scene if you had the chance?
I'd grant the British Esports Association the funding they need in order to deliver on their pledges. This would not only open up funding for the scene but would allow them to start offering training and education. It would also mean that we would finally have a governing body to deal with disputes.
Currently, there is no board that governs UK esports and it's led to a lot of dodgy stuff happening to both players and orgs. To have an official board, like what UK sport has, to deal with disputes, would do wonders for the scene and be the start of the UK esports boom I'm sure.