The Cambridge dictionary describes esports as “The activity of playing computer games against other people on the internet, often for money, and often watched by other people using the internet, sometimes at special organized events.”
So it’s not too far-fetched to suggest that the core objective of esports competitors, is to win. That’s why we lay out stages in massive arenas, set up teams, bring players out, and have them go against each other. The trophies, the glory, and the applause are all to celebrate the best and brightest of that esport. Let’s not even get started on the increasingly large prize pools!
It's safe to assume that the entire point of competing as a pro-Dota 2 team is to win. However, is it possible to win too much?
Meet Signify - the final boss of Indian Dota 2. The Mumbai-based lineup of all-stars looks unstoppable, especially after picking up 3 more Indian LAN titles. After picking up wins in the ROG Onslaught, the ESL India Premiership 2018: Fall Season Finale, and the Taiwan Excellence Gaming Cup, they’ve brought up their tally in Indian LANS to a whopping 8 championships since their inception. As we barrel through October and towards the end of the year, they seem poised to pick up even more. It’s enough to drive some fans mad, and it’s starting a discussion about whether it’s possible for one team’s domination to lead to a stagnant scene overall.
While Signify’s wins are impressive at face value, it's important to underline just how unprecedented it is. No other team has approached this level of dominance in the Indian circuit. They’ve won every single Indian LAN they’ve competed in, to date. They’ve lost players, they’ve had new challengers approach, and they had several hiccups but they still manage to pull through. This is something that is impossible to achieve with luck: this is all talent, hard work, dedication, and determination.
Not only is this an unprecedented feat, but Signify being this good has lead to us witnessing some incredible series' over the past few years. They raise the bar merely by existing, and even if other teams can’t win, their reputations grow just that bit further with every attempt.
Even when teams lose to Signify, they can still walk away with more than when they started. In the Fall Season Finale, ROG TiTans acted as the possible usurpers to the throne, but their story quickly became about how close they were to doing so — not that they failed. Before that, LXG Esports walked away with defeat from the ROG Onslaught, but gained more attention, and respect from the Indian esports fans by simply taking one game off Signify. These examples have one fundamental element in common: their performances were emboldened by going up against Signify.
Signify’s existence raises the quality of the Indian circuit as a whole. This is the main, and most convincing argument, as to why their constant victories are a good thing, and they must be noted before we address the opposite side of the argument. That’s because there is no logical counterargument. Every problem Signify has produced seems to come from the emotional side of the Indian esports fandom who are seemingly bored of the fact that they manage to come out every tournament as the victors.
In reality, Signify’s dominance is good for the Indian esports scene as a whole. It provides a shining example for the scene: a successful team with a huge following that has consistently been on top of the rankings. Additionally, Signify’s appearances in the International scene, in tournaments like the PVP Esports Championships 2018 , Acer Predator League 2017 and the WESG 2017, go a long way toward improving the Indian esports scene’s reputation worldwide.
There comes a point where it’s painful to see the teams you’ve fallen in love with, running into the Signify meatgrinder. ROG TiTans struggled, throwing themselves against Signify and finally succeeding in the Master League of the ESL India Premiership 2018: Summer Season. They headed to Summer Season Finale undefeated, and they seemed poised and confident enough to win the event. Anxious fans tuned in to the grand finals hoping to see Signify being dethroned.
And then Signify won anyway.
That's how it has been for teams, in the Indian scene. Sure, teams can scratch them but Signify always clinches it in the end. This is reminiscent of the movie, Lagaan where a plucky band of heroes came together and played against the team of experienced British veterans, except this time, the veterans won. Okay, in fairness to Signify, they’re just a bunch of really nice folks, and not at all like the villains... but when you see them win again, and again, and again, I can see why it gets to fans of their competitors!
At this point, fans don’t even bother mustering hope for other teams like LXG Esports, ROG TiTans or WipeouT. They're just happy it wasn’t a downright slaughter!
At this point, Signify's unchecked domination has even affected the storylines and discussions that take place at Indian Dota 2 events. Every series with Signify becomes “this team made them bleed” or “they almost beat them”. The narrative and the way that we talk about Indian Dota 2 matches distorts when we talk about Signify.
On one hand, they’ve earned this level of respect. On the other hand, it can become monotonous, and we end up repeating the same stories, statements again and again. Fans who are watching solely for the spectacle of great games are pleased, but it’s lonely at the top, and Signify’s eternity in the limelight has created a section of fans who are actively rooting against them.
The narrative question surrounding Signify has become "just how long this dynasty will remain intact, and how soon will it be before they actually start doing real damage to best teams in SEA?"
The very idea of a team being on the top of the Indian scene for around two years and through multiple different rosters should baffle viewers, and the idea that Signify continues to improve despite all that success in a forever changing game is perhaps most impressive.
Around the world, dynasties have helped traditional sports more than hurt them. The Champions League remains immensely popular even now when Real Madrid has won 3 championships in a row and captured the world's attention. The same goes for the NBA with Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls, and Tennis with Roger Federer. People want to see narratives grow and greatness personified, and there's no better or simpler storyline in the world of sports than an untouchable champion on top with rivals far and wide doing anything they can to knock them off.
However dynasties don’t last forever. They wax and wane over time, and each time one does, it leaves something behind for the rest. Signify is a one of a kind in Indian esports, and it’s not certain if we will ever get to see anything else like it. We might not even see anybody topple it. But the anticipation of that moment is something that will be enough to fuel years of interest.