The following piece is an editorial and does not necessarily represent the opinions of compLexity Gaming or its parent company.
Update: Angel Munoz has responded via his personal blog to the series by Tonya. The blog can be found at http://www.formspring.me/angelmunoz/q/401063142
The following article is an exclusive series of blogs written by Tonya Welch in continuation of her previous blog. Ms. Welch has a deep history with professional gaming including stints at CPL, WSVG and CGS.
Don’t Be Fooled: Parts 2 & 3
I don’t even know where to begin here…
Yesterday was exhausting. Within an hour of handing my story over to compLexity, I had to get out of the house, so I went to see a movie with my son. I just knew I was going to get publicly shredded. When I came back I was genuinely shocked at all the positive support I had waiting for me. Thank you to all of those who sent me messages or made positive comments.
Of course, as expected, there was some shredding replies too. I say “thank you” to those people as well. You are all absolutely right…I AM just as guilty for all of the lies. I DID wait too long to come out with this. I DID wait until I was secure in another life/career before finally speaking out. I don’t deny any of that, and your disapproval is justified. But this wasn’t about me getting forgiveness, or even understanding, from you…it was about you finding out the truth. And while your disgust is an exercise in “facing the music” for me (I deserve it all), at least I know you are making an INFORMED opinion. That’s all I wanted.
I do want to offer at least some explanation for why I waited. Just so you know, I was actually asked to do an interview on all of this right after I left the company. I received it, completed it, sent it back, then asked compLexity to let me sleep on it before they posted it. By the next morning I had talked myself out of it. (Thanks to the compLexity guys for honoring this decision. You guys are great people.) I really didn’t think any of you would believe me. The truth is so outrageous. And, at that time, I was still very bitter about all that had happened, and would have been doing the interview for the wrong reasons. A story is far less legitimate if it is written out of bitterness and for revenge. That would have been the case then…it’s not now.
Also, at the time, I didn’t think it would matter. Why? When I left CPL it was dead in the water. We had stopped having meetings. We had never managed to get any serious investment interest. It didn’t look like it was going anywhere. (No…this isn’t WHY I eventually left…there was a lot of other deceptions going on the background of all of this that doesn’t belong in this story.) I thought it was going to disappear with no real harm done. It wasn’t until months after I left that the company put out a press release, making it clear that they were back in business. And yes, I took some action then. I sent an email to Frank Yong informing him that any attempt to expand CPL outside of China (specifically to the US) would result in me going public. I told him I wasn’t going to let them continue to lie to you guys. (I never got a response, but I sure have to wonder why they didn’t use all the time between then and now to rectify some of this – to come out themselves and tell you guys the truth. They had to know it would come out eventually when no middle-eastern investment group showed up.) But I tell you all of this so you know that one reason I am coming out now is because I am making good on a promise.
You guys should also realize that I face the possibility of being sued for coming out with this. I was VERY CAREFUL to only include truthful information that I could back up with Email, or that others who were in our planning group could back up as witnesses. But think about it…the only real option the CPL has now to bring all of what I said into doubt is to TRY to sue me, even if they know it’s all true. I’m not too worried – it would be a waste of money as I have nothing to be sued for. And even if they managed to get a judgment against me, at least my conscience is clear. Believe it or not, that means more to me.
Anyway, I don’t deserve and probably won’t receive forgiveness, but I have some apologies to make anyway. And the first one goes to the crew who were working at CAL when all of this happened.
When we first brought CAL into the purchase agreement (through an amendment to the original LOA) we were given information (at least according to the one person dealing with the original owners) that the CAL admins were going to be difficult. And when we were locked out of the website by those admins for the league we had just taken over (which is actually pretty funny, looking back on it…), the idea that they were going to be ‘difficult’ was fully supported. So our first planned action for CAL was to fire all of the admins. I was going to be the one to do this. But then I had a conversation with one of those admins (don’t remember which one) and understood why they were so resistant. I also got a first glimpse at how much they cared about the league, and how hard they had worked to keep it going. So the plans to fire them were scrapped. Instead, I requested a planned budget amount that I could invest in the league (if we ever got money) and set about making a plan to reward the admins and get the league back on its feet.
The day came for the transfer of CAL assets from the original owners to us. The site and database were handed over. But there was a problem. Please understand that this information all came through Mr. Valencia (again, he was the only person communicating with the original owners), so I can’t claim to know for sure if it’s true. But we were told the problem had to do with some hard drive being broken. We further found out that the Anti-Cheat Manager was hard-coded to the server (by IP) on which it was running and would not work if moved to our server. So what was supposed to be a smooth transfer of the league to our servers (which would result in one day of downtime for the league), turned out to be a shutdown of the league entirely, with no real estimate of how long it would be down while we sorted out these problems.
Of course, this was one of the events we jumped on to try to claim “breach of contract” – I mentioned all of these claims in my original post. In reality, I think the original owners made a good faith effort to hand over the assets – these were just unexpected complications.
Meanwhile, we planned a meeting with the CAL head admins. I remember ASKING FOR PERMISSION to be honest with these guys. To tell them all the truth I could without going into confidential stuff related to ongoing contract negotiations. We needed these guys. We wanted them to help us make something good out of CAL, and even give input on our plans for CPL. So the meeting occurred, and I and some of the other people involved with our planning laid out our hopes for CAL and asked them to help us. I also made a lot of promises to them about how they would receive our full support, how a rewards program was being put in place for them, how we were going to actually invest some money in the league.
To the CAL admins…I swear to you that everything I told you in that meeting was the truth as I understood it at the time. I was really hopeful for our future working together. I looked forward to rewarding your hard work and dedication. And I told you that I would be there to communicate with you…you could come to me any time and I would be there. When I said it, I meant every word of it.
And then I disappeared on you. I am very sorry for this. It’s no excuse, but I was dealing with all of the other stuff happening internally within the company that led to my eventual departure. And I couldn’t face you, so I ignored you. It was weak and shameful. Again, I’m sorry.
To those reading, I would like to tell you that the CAL admins were a group of very-hard working people who truly cared about the league, who truly cared about you, and who were dedicated to keeping it going for you. You would be lucky to have them at the helm of a league again.
I want to put one more apology in this post. I know I write too much, so thanks to all of you who take the time to read…
To Craig Levine (Torbull) and Han and the others in this group that worked with CGS. Also to Mike Burks and his crew (though I doubt they frequent gaming sites and will ever see this). There’s no need to go into detail, but I can tell you that I was given a continuous stream of information about you guys while at CGS meant to make me believe you hated me, were trying to get me fired, were trying to get the operations department eliminated or encroach on our duties so we would be unnecessary to the company. You were the enemy, from day one of my experience with CGS. Did I ever come to you to ask if any of it was true? Nope. Who knows how much animosity I perpetuated because I believed there was animosity directed at me? I offer sincere apologies for this too.
You readers should know that Craig Levine is, hands down, the most brilliant business mind I have ever worked with. Also, the genius of Mike Burks and his crew deserve a ton of credit for CGS doing as well as it did. Yes, everyone, CGS did well. Even though it eventually went down, the ratings for the show far exceeded expectations, and the vision of Mike Burks made it happen. The growth just didn’t happen fast enough.
So that’s it for today…more to come.
CompLexity is putting these up more slowly than I’m writing them to give you guys a chance to “ingest” it all. I guess that’s a good idea. Me…I want to get it all out.
Just like last time, I’d like to address some comments/questions I’ve seen. Several people have asked why I was continuing to work with Mr. Valencia when I had seen what he did to CPL and WSVG. Allow me to prove to you how naive I was really was…and make a couple of apologies in the process.
Through all of my time working with Mr. Valencia at CPL and WSVG I literally thought this man walked on water. I would read all of the comments gamers would write about him on various sites and think everyone just misunderstood this wonderful guy. Hell, he was like a father-figure to me in many ways.
I can’t give any details about why, but I left CPL abruptly in August of 2005. I quit without having any leads on new employment. It was not the most responsible thing to do when I had two children to support. When Mr. Valencia heard I had left, he had already moved on to WSVG, and for months until I could be brought on in a full-time contract position with the new league, Mr. Valencia tossed me “odd-jobs” for one-time payments. These included things like creating marketing materials and websites for small tournaments GameRiot was hosting (GameRiot and WSVG were both subsidiaries of GamesMedia.) Sometimes I felt like he was just making up little stuff for me to do just so he could get me a paycheck. It was through these “odd-jobs” that I was able to avoid getting evicted from my home and continue to feed my kids.
And I was SOOOOO thankful. Hell, despite everything I know now, I am still thankful. But, I am, by nature, a fiercely loyal person – loyal to a fault – and from this point forward this man probably could have convinced me it was OK to commit national treason and I would have believed whatever justification he gave for it.
And I rode the wave of this loyalty through many things that I initially thought were “not quite right” by reminding myself that he was the person who had looked out for me during those hard times. So when he made decisions – even if they seemed wrong – I went along with them, telling myself that I obviously just didn’t understand how things worked, or HE would tell me directly that I just didn’t understand how things worked. The man could do no wrong.
Moving along to our departure from WSVG…
I want to preface this next bit of information with a disclaimer. Please remember that my access to first-hand information was limited. Everything I knew about the upper-level things going on in companies in which I worked all came from one person – Mr. Valencia – so while the things I’m about to tell you are the truth AS I KNOW IT, I have no proof that they are the truth in actuality. (But there are witnesses who can back up that we were told these things.)
Having had a fairly successful (attendance and media-wise) first year, but having not generated sufficient revenue to continue, WSVG sought new funding. It found this funding, but the new investment company wanted to put a new person in charge of the league – someone who had no experience with competitive gaming at all. (I think the guy’s name was Green?) This new person’s intentions were to switch the league’s focus exclusively to mass-population games, make loads of money in year two, then sell the league off to God-knows what company that would ALSO have no understanding of competitive gaming at all. Mr. Valencia predicted it would all fall apart in less than a year.
Obviously, on hearing this, I and the others (Nick Hale and Justin Blanchard) had little interest in continuing on with the league, especially since we were convinced by Mr. Valencia that it was likely that the new person leading the league would dismiss the current operations crew and we’d all be unemployed (yet again).
Meanwhile, DirecTV had approached WSVG and offered to partner with the league – they would broadcast content from the league’s tournaments. (We were told that WSVG asked for too much money to agree to this partnership, though I don’t know if this is true.) So Mr. Valencia hatched a plan to go around Matt Ringel and speak to DirecTV himself, offering to bring his ‘world-famous’ operations crew to help DirecTV launch its own league. He had a meeting with us (me, Justin Blanchard and Nick Hale), at the London event in October of 2006 and told us that he was going to make a deal with DirecTV that would take care of us. (Justin, Nick and I also wanted to bring along Monte Fontenot – we were a team – but despite our many requests to Mr. Valencia to include him, he wouldn’t.)
It all seemed like a crappy thing to do to Matt Ringel, but here is one of those instances in which I dismissed my concern out of loyalty. Combine my loyalty with the fact that the eventual offer from DirecTV was very attractive, and certainly more attractive than the unemployment we were told was inevitable, we went along with Mr. Valencia’s plan.
He scripted our departure from WSVG from beginning to end. We had to do it in a way that would not let Mr. Ringel know that Mr. Valencia had gone around him, or that he had intentions to move to a competing company, or that he planned to take the rest of us from WSVG. So he came up with ‘exit strategies’ (as he called them) for all of us, down to when we would leave, in what order, and the excuses we would give for leaving.
So my first apology today goes to Mr. Matt Ringel. I knew on some deep level that what we were doing was wrong, but I was frightened of being unemployed AGAIN, had a ‘hard to believe’ offer for a new job in front of me, and truly trusted the person who was maneuvering it all to know right and wrong in business better than I did. I now know that none of those are sufficient excuses for compromising my ethics or doing what we did to you. I hope that you accept my apology.
For the record, Matt Ringel was a good man who had good intentions toward gamers. He was stuck in a bad position because he wanted to court the traditional gamer but needed the investment interest that came from mainstream gaming. In the end it didn’t work, but there was no greed or malice on the part of Matt Ringel. To me it seemed he had a genuine fascination with you all, and he only wanted good things for you.
When WSVG finally went down, it was further proof to me that Mr. Valencia had once again “protected” me (and the others) from being jobless by knowing how to be a good businessman. It never even occurred to me that we might have been in some way responsible for WSVG’s downfall, because the closing of the league was predicted by Mr. Valencia well before we left. (And I’m still not sure our departure played a role.)
So I was even further invested in being loyal to Scott Valencia, and this continued through most of my time with CGS, though things DID happen that at least started putting doubts in the back of my mind. It would take almost two years and a cascade of discoveries of deceit before the truth was able to outweigh my deeply ingrained sense of loyalty.
I remember the very first time I realized that Mr. Valencia was capable of telling an outright lie, and this story may be interesting to you.
CGS draft in London, in September, 2007. We were down to the final 4 teams for CS:Source, and the brackets for the final matches to occur were handed out. It was pointed out to me by one of the remaining teams that the match-ups were wrong based on the quarter-semi-final results. So I went to the producers of the show and showed this to them. I was told point-blank that they were manipulating the brackets to make sure that two specific teams would end up in the finals. These teams were more ‘television friendly’ and so they wanted them in the finals to make sure the show had the intensity and appeal they wanted.
So then I went to the crew running the tournaments and told them this was not how things worked – that we didn’t compromise the integrity of the tournament for show ratings. I was turned away.
So then I did what I was supposed to do – I went to my boss, Mr. Valencia. He tried to explain to me that once again, I was being naïve and needed to learn to prioritize the needs of the company over my sense of ethics. But I persisted and told him that I was going to go to Andy Reif if the brackets were not changed. He told me I could not do this, but – to make me feel better – he would go talk to Mr. Reif and make sure they were in agreement that the show should go on with the schedule as written.
Mr. Valencia then came back and told me he had talked to Mr. Reif and that they had agreed that the schedule would remain as it was. At that point, I was instructed to drop the subject, and reminded that I was not experienced enough in business to understand the ‘big picture’.
I was pissed for the rest of the day. I had taken this job believing it would present gaming as a legitimate sport, not as a popularity show.
Later that day, and after the last match had already started, Mr. Reif, Mr. Valencia and I were all sitting at a table and the subject came up again. Andy asked me what had happened (as if Mr. Valencia had never even discussed it with him) and I recounted the story to him. He responded by telling me that I had been right all along and that I should have kept pushing the issue until the right teams were playing each other.
It was then that I realized that either Mr. Valencia had never discussed the situation with Mr. Reif, or that he had given him incomplete information to sway Mr. Reif’s decision to keep the schedule as written.
Mr. Valencia and I argued after this, and he apologized, admitting that he had presented things to Mr. Reif in a way that made him agree with Mr. Valencia’s opinion. I, of course, accepted his apology and told myself that one lie did not discount all of the “good” he had done for me. But it rested in the back of my mind.
So just a quick apology to those teams…I did what I could, but my hands were tied. If only I had gone to Andy Reif myself, two different teams would have had a fair chance at being CGS teams for that year.