Recognition from Valve is perhaps one of the more delicate topics in the backroom of competitive TF2. Generally, however, it hasn’t really meant anything except being a little validation for someone making a difference, so there really hasn’t been a reason to complain about it audibly.
Recently, however, it’s had much more of an impact, with Valve now allowing those owning Community or Self-Made items to access the competitive matchmaking beta. This is in addition to the initial passes granted to community representatives late last year for the private beta test, passes granted to friends and family, and passes recently granted to mapmakers. Taken together, it’s a clear indication that that Valve is granting VIPs advanced access to the beta outside of the randomly distributed beta passes. I’m not going to argue against this policy in general, because these people certainly have some claim to deserving an invite for their contributions.
What I do have an issue with is the distribution of Community items, especially now that they’re having an impact on access to matchmaking beta. As of late, the distribution of these items to recognize contributors to the competitive scene has been nonexistent, despite many people certainly deserving them, including the following:
- Airon: audio engineer for many LANs and post-produced content by eXtelevision and teamfortress.tv
- Beater: editor of many frag videos, including Legacy videos for top players and teamfortress.tv highlights
- bluee: creator of AdvSpec, the first competitive casting plugin, and founder of NodeCG, the live graphics system revolutionalizing TF2 casts
- bones: frag video editor and producer for many competitive LANs
- cbear: caster and general staff for teamfortress.tv in earlier days
- dashner: producer for many competitive LANs and other events
- gentlemanjon: Spec Tools plugin developer and creator of services like TF2 Player Rankings and Fantasy TF2
- nymthae: tournament coordinator and admin for yearly Insomnia championships
- seanbud, truktruk, Whisker: founding Tip of the Hats, the top TF2-related charity event for years running
- Sideshow: caster, event coordinator, interview show host, tournament organizer, writer
- tagg: photographer for many competitive LANs like ESEA LAN
- TheFragile: tournament organizer of yearly North American community LAN GXL
- uberchain: graphics designer and SFM producer for many competitive LANs and other events
These are just the first examples I thought of when it comes to people definitely worthy of receiving a Community item—there are many others not listed who I didn’t think of or who I’m not aware of. In addition to all of these people, there are many times more people who deserve consideration for such an honor. Despite this, Valve has been arbitrary and incomplete in the distribution of the items in recent years. I am not disputing that those who have received an item deserve it, because they do, but there are many people who have just been forgotten.
This is a major problem because Community items are the only way certain types of contributors can be recognized. Item creators can have their items accepted into the game, map makers can have their maps bought and included in the game, and even SFM makers have a chance to compete and win awards in the Saxxies. In contrast, other contributors have to hope that their work somehow gets recognized by Valve and that they appreciate it enough to consider granting a Community weapon for it. It’s a much higher bar to clear, if only for the fact that it’s not clear what Valve will consider worthy enough.
Of course, many people working in the competitive scene didn’t have to be worried about it; after all, Community items are just pixels, and even if Valve didn’t recognize their hard work the community certainly did. However, it makes a huge difference now: some major contributors to the competitive scene, who spent a lot of effort in advancing the scene when there was no bright future to look forward to, are now being excluded from one of the biggest developments in the scene’s history. This is a major slap-in-the-face to those contributors, especially with others who have had no involvement in the competitive scene whatsoever (or even have vilified it) gaining access before them.
Those major contributors, not lucky enough to be one of those named to receive one of the first beta passes last year or to be involved in a project which granted them a Self-Made item, are really left out in the cold—given that the beta is now starting, it is unlikely that Valve is going to manually grant any more passes, leaving the only chance for these contributors to enter the beta being through a random and blind process. Now, competitive players not receiving any prioritization over other players for the bulk of beta access distribution makes sense, as it’s important for Valve to test the beta with a wide variety of players, but competitive contributors not receiving VIP access over other contributors definitely doesn’t make any sense. It also raises the question: are these contributors ever going to get the recognition they deserve for helping the scene in its periods of uncertainty? I don’t know, but I am certainly not holding my breath.