In 2005, an up-and-coming cosplayer and gamer named Alodia Gosiengfiao was crowned R.O.S.E. It Girl in a competition held by Philippine game publisher Level Up! Inc. for the massively multiplayer online role-playing game R.O.S.E. Online. Who could have known then that in 2021, Tier One Entertainment, the company Alodia co-founded with esports veteran Tryke Gutierrez in 2017, would launch its gaming reality TV show called “The Gaming House” that will stream on ABS-CBN’s digital platforms and help discover the next generation of gaming and online superstars?
“It feels really surreal. I always say that to myself every single day. Actually, I never planned for this. I just do what I do, and I’m just very happy to help people and eventually I found people who also shared the same values, so I’m just very lucky and humbled to be here, to give the power to make other people’s dreams come true. So ‘yun talaga, sobrang nakakataba ng puso na minsan (that’s really it, it’s so heartwarming that sometimes), I’m pinching myself. Totoo ba ito (Is this real)? May Tier One ba talaga (Is there really a Tier One)?” Alodia said when she replied to my question at “The Gaming House” virtual media launch.
Making dreams come true
“Meron, meron, meron. Hindi ito panaginip (There is, there is, there is. This isn’t a dream),” Tryke quipped in response to what Alodia said, to everyone’s merriment.
But yes, dreams do come true. Just look at Tier One. This Southeast Asian esports and gaming entertainment company has its Regional Operating Headquarters in the Philippines and is operationally active in Myanmar, Malaysia, and Singapore. It’s also a venture-funded company, whose investors include Singapore-based Atlas Ventures and BITKRAFT Ventures, which is based in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Berlin, London, and Madrid. As the name of the company makes clear, it wants to become the top tier destination for new and established gaming talents, helping them realize their full potential, level up their skills, and make their dreams come true.
With “The Gaming House”, the company is now literally opening the doors to the next generation of streamers, content creators, and aspiring gamers, who will compete for a shot at becoming a Tier One talent. Literally, because after a round of auditions, 10 contestants will be allowed to stay in the historic Payamansion, the original house where Lincoln “CongTV” Velasquez and his vlogging squad built their YouTube empire. They will then undergo training, and run through a series of tasks and challenges over the course of three months from September to November. Payamansion will also be leveled up, as one of “The Gaming House” sponsors is IKEA Philippines, which is giving this house a makeover.
The gamer as storyteller
“The Gaming House”, which is co-presented by Grab Philippines, will be shown on the digital platforms of official media partner ABS-CBN and Tier One’s social media channels every week. Meanwhile, Predator Gaming is the show’s official gaming partner, and other sponsors include Condura, Mad House, and Arcanum.
Like Alodia, Tryke emphasized values. He pointed out that winning means joining the Tier One family, which is united by shared values. So he said they are looking for people who want to lift others up and give back to the gaming community.
Tryke also said it’s important that they should be passionate content creators and storytellers who are skilled in using different platforms, pointing out that influencers can no longer be one-dimensional because the digital world is now a much more competitive space.
“I think important sa lahat (what’s most important) is they have fun doing it. Kasi ‘pag yung mga tao na gumagawa ng mga ganoon tapos feeling nila trabaho lang nila gagawin yun (Because if people are creating content but they feel what they’re doing is just a job), it’s not gonna be fun. Wala namang magre-resonate sa tao na parang feeling niya na deliverable lang talaga yun (Their content won’t resonate with the audience if they feel the content creator is just doing it as a deliverable). So ‘yung someone talaga na gustong mag-express (So we want someone who really wants to express herself or himself) through content on the multiple platforms through gaming,” Tryke said.
Breaking down walls
“Pagdating sa gaming naman talaga, alam mo ‘yung feeling na naglalaro ka sa computer café tapos may nanonood sa likod mo (When it comes to gaming, you know that feeling when you’re playing at a computer café and people behind you are watching you play)? Parang nagi-i-storytell ka nang nilalaro mo (It’s like you’re storytelling the game you’re playing). I think at the end of the day, that’s what streaming is today. It’s just multiple people na lang ang nanonood ngayon (are the ones watching). And I think having that storytelling skill is very, very important too kasi (because) being an influencer is being a storyteller,” he added.
Speaking of storytellers, the virtual media launch was hosted by Twitch streamer, cosplayer and gamer Aya Ezmaria, whom I featured before on Digital Life Asia because of her engaging storytelling during her streams.
One thing I really like about Tier One is how the company is breaking down walls and making gaming more inclusive. Tryke is a pioneer in the Philippine esports industry. In fact, he was in esports long before the term “esports” was even coined, and has grown as a gamer and given back to the gaming community throughout the years. From his days as a pioneering shoutcaster, to founding MSI’s first professional gaming team, to organizing the biggest gaming tournaments in the country, to establishing Tier One, Tryke has been making gaming part of the lives of more and more people.
Saying no to gatekeeping
Meanwhile, as I mentioned, Alodia was crowned as R.O.S.E. It Girl in 2005. That was actually the first story i wrote about her, back when I was the editor of INQUIRER.net‘s gaming site hackenslash.
One of the things I always said at hackenslash, particularly at the end of every episode of our podcast, was: “Everyone is a gamer. They just don’t know it yet.”
I asked them how they feel about gatekeeping. For instance, so-called hardcore gamers or PC Master Race types, who look down on console gamers and mobile gamers, saying they’re not “real gamers”.
“Nag-post na ako about dito sa page ko before na parang (I posted about this before on my page, saying) don’t try to create new walls. Kasi (Because) we’ve been trying to break down walls for the past years. And I think the whole concept of gatekeeping is, sobrang pure kasi ng passion na meron dito sa industriya na ito (there’s so much pure passion in this industry). And sometimes, there’s a certain aspect na parang naaamoy noong mga gamers pag feeling nila pumapasok lang ‘yung mga tao because hindi genuine yung mga intent ng mga gustong pumasok (that it’s like gamers can sense when the people who are going into gaming don’t have genuine intentions). And I think that’s just natural, trying to protect a space that you love, right?” Tryke said.
Gaming is for everyone
“Pero (But) at the end of the day, we can really change our mindset on welcoming new things, because if we really want to make this mainstream and gusto nating mas ma-a-accept ito ng tao, it needs to start sa atin (we want more people to accept gaming, it needs to start with us). Kailangan tayo mismo tanggapin natin na (We gamers ourselves need to accept that) this is becoming big, three out of four Filipinos right now are gamers… So for me, let’s just be more welcoming. Kasi (Because) gaming is becoming a way to socialize. The more friends, the better,” Tryke said.
Alodia said she also posted something about this around a month ago.
“What is the essence of being a gamer? It’s to play games. I mean, you don’t have to be a pro. Basta gamer, naglalaro ka ng games (If you’re playing games, you’re a gamer). Hindi naman kailangang 100 games ang nilaro mo (You don’t need to have played 100 games).
“E sige, kung ikaw 100 games, e yung nagpo-pro gamer, isang game lang (So, OK, you play 100 games, but look, a pro gamer only focuses on one game). So everyone’s still a gamer. So I guess we have to accept the fact that everyone is not the same,” Alodia said.
Acceptance and empathy
For his part, Tier One Director of Commercial Partnerships Brian Dacanay pointed out that esports has also helped give more credibility to mobile gaming.
“Ako (Me), I’m a console gamer, hindi ko na-feel actually yung pag-look down ng (I didn’t feel looked down upon by) PC gamers. By the way, shout out pala sa GTA Online crew ko (to my GTA Online crew). Nanonood kasi sila sa atin, nag-text sila (They’re watching us right now, they texted). So may crew ako sa (I have a crew on) GTA Online, PS4. Anyway, I didn’t feel that. Now, for mobile gaming, I really think that what esports did, with the MPL (Mobile Legends: Bang Bang Professional League), and what the MPLI (Mobile Legends Professional League Invitational) is now doing, and MSC (Mobile Legends: Bang Bang Southeast Asia Cup) is doing, is really lowering the gate and drives up the credibility of mobile gaming,” Brian said.
Tryke also said that probably, while growing up, longtime gamers felt that people didn’t give them recognition, or looked down upon gaming. So it might be tempting to also make new gamers feel the same hardship they experienced.
“We really need to have the empathy to not let other people feel that. Because that’s exactly what we experienced in the past, and for mobile gaming, it’s the same thing,” Tryke said.
Building a legacy
Since I’m Hamiltrash, these words from the musical “Hamilton” have resonated with me: “Legacy. What is a legacy? It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see.”
And building a legacy is exactly what Tier One is doing by helping the next generation and discovering the new talents who will keep this industry and community moving forward.
“It feels really heartwarming that maski (even if) we’re not here, maybe in the next generation, at least we left a legacy,” Alodia said.
Back in 2013, highly-respected journalist and Rappler Co-Founder and CEO Maria Ressa, who was also included in TIME’s Person of the Year 2018, encouraged me to write a book on cosplay featuring Alodia in a Twitter conversation.
Maybe one day I will.