First, the good news: In 2015, Terence Lallave was one of the six finalists from the Philippines to qualify for the first-ever Nissan GT Academy Asia held at the legendary Silverstone race track in the United Kingdom. This year, he has qualified to be one of the drivers from the Asia/Oceania region invited to attend the “Gran Turismo World Tour 2018 Salzburg,” which will be held at Red Bull’s Hangar 7 located in Salzburg, Austria from September 20 to 23 where he will compete against other players in the world. According to Polyphony Digital, the creator of the popular Gran Turismo racing game and series and the organizer of the event, Lallave was chosen because of his “excellent results during the ‘FIA GT Gran Turismo Online Championships 2018 Series Season 1 & Season 2.'”
Now, the bad news: Lallave has been disqualified by a technicality; but not of his making though, but of Polyphony Digital itself.
When the Gran Turismo Sport video game for the PlayStation 4 (PS4) gaming console was released in October 2017, one of its most notable features was the “FIA Gran Turismo Online Championship” which allows players globally to compete against one another in two different series online: the Nations Cup, and the Manufacturer Fan Cup. What makes the two series stand out is that both will be overseen by the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), the “governing body for world motor sport and the federation of the world’s leading motoring organizations.”
Now, the problem with the online racing series is that it’s limited to countries that have its own PlayStation Network (PSN)–which the Philippines doesn’t have–which is why local players are forced to register their account in countries or territories which has one like Hong Kong. So Lallave, in his desire to play the game and participate in the racing series, was forced to register his PSN account with the autonomous territory owned by China.
Fast forward to August 27 when Lallave received that fateful email from Polyphony Digital, which he replied to, saying that he is honored and interested to join the event. By August 31 though, probably through some sleuthing on who the compatriots he will be competing against are, one Hong Kong resident found out that Lallave is actually a Filipino flying the Hong Kong flag in the series–through no fault of his own, of course, but simply of the limitations given him.
@gts_online_jp 最近FIAグランツーリスモチャンピオンシップにてあるアカウント見て，通報したいと思います>LMP_TLallave 正体はフィリピン人ですが，彼は香港アカウントを使ってFIA公式レース参加中です。そして香港プレイヤーも不公平な行動と思いますので，どうかご検討をお願い申し上げます。
— PLUTO MOK ☆爆走プルート (@PLUTONIUMOK) August 31, 2018
As expected, hate and vitriol were thrown against Lallave by other Hong Kong residents, with one saying that all Hong Kong players will report the issue to the “GT sport official” while another said that Lallave himself should be banned from participating in the Gran Turismo World Tour and by the FIA itself.
Dear Mr. Lallave,
If you tried use your HKG psn and try your luck to represent HKG to GT world tour / FIA events, just kindly let you know, all mainstream HKG players are gonna report this issue to GT sport official. We only need real HK players. Cheers
— Winson Wong (@WinsonWong13) September 1, 2018
@gts_online_jp このLMP_TLallave は香港人ない、マレーシア人でもないのに、フィリピン人です。(色んな意味で有名人ですが、彼はフィリピン人の証拠はリプライで載せます)
どうかあのプレイヤーをFIA 公式戦とGTワールドツアーからBANするご検討してお願いします！ https://t.co/OnelCqlOUh
— ネギ&FISH＠マジミラお疲れ様でした！ (@NEGIandFISH) September 1, 2018
Lallave, of course, defended himself, saying that he was forced to register his account with the Hong Kong PSN, like “most Filipino PSN gamers,” since the Philippines doesn’t have its own PSN network. Yet while the attack against Lallave continued, he remained undeterred.
“I hope that you guys stand by (the) GT Sport motto ‘Driving is for everyone.’ I have qualified with all my best efforts and dedication to your game,” Lallave said in a tweet to the Gran Turismo Sport Online Management Team. To the Hong Kong players, he said, “I would like to apologize to all Hong Kong GT Sport drivers. I would like to clear that it is not my fault there is no Philippine PSN account ever since (the) PSN was launched. I have put 100-percent effort and determination in the FIA races and it’s disappointing that all of you think of me that way.”
@gts_online_jp i hope that you guys stand by GT Sport motto "driving is for everyone" i have qualified with all my best efforts and dedication to your game. I still have a pending application with the Austrian Embassy for my VISA and i am still waiting for your response. Thanks
— Terence Lallave (@LallaveTerence) September 2, 2018
Lallave also has his share of defenders, not only from the Philippines but from other countries as well, who voiced their support for him.
@gts_online_jp Let Terence compete under PSN Philippines in Gran Turismo World Tour 2018 in Salzburg!
— JDMUnderground PH (@jdmu) September 3, 2018
— Marc Helpenstell (@humanzee91) September 3, 2018
@gts_online_jp what's all this about @LallaveTerence not being able to race because of his country's psn limitations.. Terence is a bit of a legend.. Works very hard to be as fast as he is and deserves his place. I've learnt a lot from Terence.
— NGR_Robinson (@djdaverob) September 3, 2018
@LallaveTerence @gts_online_jp give this man a place to race! This is disgusting what you have done. DQ a racer who has dedicated more of his time to GT like no other person I know… Talk about kick a man when his down… Not nice guys not nice….
— lee southall (@lee_southall_89) September 3, 2018
Here’s the thing: Lallave never hid the fact that he’s a Filipino. As a matter of fact, in the “About Me” section of his Gran Turismo Sport profile, it says “2015 Nissan GT Academy Asia finalist from Philippines.” In one of his follow-up emails to Polyphony Digital where he was asking for documents like a hard copy of the invitation and the event’s itinerary to support his Schengen Visa application, Lallave also informed the company that he is from the Philippines and is only using the Hong Kong PSN because the Philippines doesn’t have its own.
Lallave remained hopeful until the very last minute, hoping that his predicament will be understood and considered by Polyphony Digital. Yet just past the stroke of midnight local time today, Lallave received the bad news; the Gran Turismo Sport Online Operations Team said he is “not eligible to participate in the World Tour, Regional Finals, and World Finals in 2018.”
As we’ve said earlier, the only reason that Lallave registered his account with the Hong Kong PSN is that it was one of the two countries with a PSN–the other country being Singapore–suggested by local sellers of the PS4 console to register your account in to be able to buy something online on the PSN Store, like a new game or add-ons to a game. To double-check, we tried registering a new PSN account today and, as expected, Philippines still isn’t in the list of countries with a PSN.
So Lallave registered his PS4 account with the Hong Kong PSN simply because the Philippines doesn’t have one, and because of his desire to play the game he loves and to compete with the best the world has to offer. And now, because he’s a Filipino, because the country that issued his passport is different from the country registered in his PSN account, he has been disqualified from competing as a representative of the Asia/Oceania region.
That’s right, the Philippines, the country whose eSport gamers–yes, there is such a thing as recognized by the Gaming and Amusements Board (GAB), which is under the Office of the President, no less–have proven themselves time and again as worthy competitors in various online multiplayer game tournaments all over the world–even taking in PHP18 million in one such venture–is not recognized by Sony, the manufacturer of the PS4 console, as a viable market worthy of putting up a PSN in.
Rebuked by Polyphony Digital, Lallave is at a loss now on what to do as he feels the time and effort he put into the game and the racing series was all for naught.
“All the effort I put into the game was useless,” Lallave confided to us.
We asked Lallave a hypothetical question, if he was allowed to race by Polyphony Digital but he’d have do it under the Hong Kong flag, would he do it?
“No, I don’t think so,” Lallave replied. “I’ve always wanted to race with the Philippine flag but I can’t because we don’t have a PSN. And besides, the Hong Kong players wouldn’t like that.”
Lallave though looks forward to Sony finally establishing a Philippine PSN, maybe not for himself, but definitely for our local gamers.
“If they would put up one, it will be an eye-opener and it will broaden the hopes of all Filipino gamers as the opportunity to get into their eSports dreams will now be achievable,” he said in conclusion.
In one of the video clips Polyphony Digital released in support of Gran Turismo Sport, the phrase “Driving is for Everyone” is shown on screen. After what happened to Lallave–and for everyone whose country has no PSN, like Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam in the ASEAN region alone–it seems the video game developer owes it to them to change its supposed ethos to something more apt, more concise, to prevent players from going through a similar heartbreaking experience, like “Driving is for Everyone…who lives in a country with a PlayStation Network.”
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