Esports has undergone rapid expansion over the past two decades, and this quick growth hasn’t been without its share of controversy. As the scale and profile of the competitive gaming scene has grown, so too have the coverage and impact of social and criminal misdeeds. Some scandals are so large that they achieved infamy within in the gaming industry as a whole, or even caused changed in tournament rules and how they are enforced. This week we look at examples of major scandals that have rocked and affected the industry of Esports.
In August of 2012, the multiplayer online battle arena game League of Legends became the focus of attention of the gaming community when it was discovered that two teams had colluded to ruin the prestigious MLG Summer Championship tournament. Upon reaching the finals of the tournament, teams Curse NA and Team Dignitas, entered into a secret agreement that they would split the $40,000 prize money equally between their team members. Having effectively destroyed the stakes of the eagerly-awaited Grand Finals event, the two sides went on to offend all invested parties by selecting characters at random and rushing down the middle lane to battle one another, so changing the game from a calculated and balanced battle of strategy into a cluster of pointless and disappointing head-on fights. When their collusion came to light, both teams were stripped of their championship titles, and all prize money from the tournament was withheld.
In 2014, a major controversy proved that the relatively newly-established eSports scene was just as susceptible to corruption as traditional sporting events. As the profile and stakes of eSports competition rose, the secondary business of esports gambling began to grow; from there, it was only a matter of time before accusations of match-fixing arose. Such accusations proved to be well-founded when a member of South Korea’s AHQ League of Legends team confessed his team’s fraudulent activities, before attempting suicide.
Cheon “Promise” Min-Ki alleged that his team manager, Noh Dae Chu, had threatened members of AHQ, including himself, to ensure they would lose upcoming matches. The object of the match fixing was allegedly to pay off substantial debts incurred for the company’s equipment, housing, and salaries. Following his confession, the Min-Ki jumped from a twelve-storey building, but his fall was broken by a wooden roof on the first floor and he was taken to hospital in a non-critical condition.
The Esports Entertainment Association is an organization that runs an esports league and provides widely used anti-cheating software. In 2013, the ESEA came under fire when it was found to be using its client software to install malware on users’ computers. The malware would use its victims’ graphical processing power to mine the virtual currency, Bitcoin, as a background process.
The drain on victims’ hardware was in some cases so extensive that several of the 14,000 total affected users reported damage to their graphics cards, and ESEA was forced to resolve the issue in court. ESEA claims the malware installation was caused by a rogue employee who managed to mine $3,700 worth of Bitcoin before being discovered. ESEA consequently apologized, offered a free month of service to players affected by the mining, and donated double the value of the mined coins to the American Cancer Society. The association was also required by courts required to pay a fine of $325,000, with the stipulation that the fine will increase $1 million, should the ESEA break the law, or the terms of their settlement, within the next five years.
One of esports’ greatest scandals took place two years after the resolution of the ESEA court case, and involved a popular tournament known as Gaming Paradise 2015. The event, held in Portorož, Slovenia, got off to a poor start when arriving competitors discovered that the graphics cards in the provided computer stations weren’t powerful enough to properly run the games. Event organizers claimed this was due to a third-party driver who had disappeared with the originally intended equipment, but other reports suggested that they had been confiscated due to late rental payments. The tournament went downhill from there: police confiscated several of the visiting players’ passports due to the organizers having not paid for their guests’ hotel rooms, three members of DOTA 2 team Titan were reportedly hospitalized due to food poisoning, and visiting commentators the events went unpaid and had to arrange their own flights home.
Despite the cancellation of the scheduled DOTA 2 main event, the Counter Strike: Global Offensive matches went ahead, although in a less than professional manner due to time constraints. Several months after the conclusion of Gaming Paradise, winning teams were still awaiting their promised prize money. In December, word began to spread that the prizes wouldn’t be coming at all.
While financial gain is at the root of many of esports’ greatest scandals, cases of players being targeting for being a minority are among the highest profile. One such example occurred during the Hearthstone tournament at DreamHack 2016, an event held in Austin, Texas. Terrence Miller, a relatively unknown player at the time, surprised the viewing audience by reaching the competition finals. The entire tournament was streamed on Twitch.tv, and the live chat was overrun by racist remarks.
“I wasn’t really known at all before this event,” Terrence told PC Gamer. “So there were no other black Hearthstone players who’d had a big breakthrough. But I don’t think lack of diversity can actually be used as an excuse for racism.”
Twitch is infamous for toxic chat content, but the torrent of abuse directed toward Terrence was so severe that it became impossible for moderators to eliminate the racist content. This is not the only account of racism appearing in an esports chat service. Another notable incident occurred during the League Championship Series 2014. In this event, two members of the professional League of Legends team Ninjas in Pajamas, Erlend ‘Nukeduck’ Holm and Alfonso ‘Mithy’ Rodriguez, engaged in online harassment and racism which was acknowledged by developer Riot Games when the duo were fined $500 each. Shortly after the event, Ninjas in Pajamas ended its contract with the two pro players, each of whom was imposed brief bans from the competitive scene.
Being a woman in any male dominated environment can often be unnecessarily and inappropriately challenging, and esports is no exception. Although several reports indicate that just under half of all gamers are female, there are noticeably few women that play video games at a competitive level, and many of those that do find that their opponents’ skill is not the only issue with which they must content. As recently as 2014, South Korea’s International esports Federation was forced revise a rule that barred female Hearthstone players from competing against male players. The IeSF claimed that they had simply attempted to bring esports closer to traditional sporting activities that segregate genders, but since ability in video games is not affected to muscle-mass or any other genetic advantage, the excuse was patently baseless.
In another case of gender discrimination happened a little over a year ago when a 17 year old female Korean player known as Geguri was reported for cheating in Overwatch. The claims originated from two well-known professional players who alleged that Geguri was cheating when she entered the Nexus Cup tournament. Furthermore, both players were so convinced that she was cheating that they said they would quit if she was not cheating. Upon investigation, however, Blizzard discovered that Geguri was simply an exceptionally talented Overwatch player, something that she went on to prove to the world during a live broadcast on stage. True to their word, ELTA and Strobe from team Dizziness retired from the squad when the truth became known.
Over the course of its continuing maturation, esports has been affected by many of the same types of scandal that plague traditional sports. Moreover, as the profile and dollar value of the in the industry increase each year, and the viewing audience grows in since, opportunities for criminal and social misdeeds will grow in scale and frequency. However, one might hold hope that the far younger esports, which appeals to a generation with an arguably greater social conscience, will be able to rise above the shortcomings and inadequacies of more established traditional sports.
Further Unused Sources:
http://www.esportsheaven.com/news/view/47706 – Player used the account name of another member to bypass time-restraints and fraud the system. Both players were banned for six months and the team was penalized points.
https://www.pcgamer.com/league-of-legends-pro-organisation-banned-for-not-pa ying-players/ – LoL team banned for not paying its players, despite numerous wins.
http://pacific.network/2016/11/esports-pro-got-kicked-out-from-team-after-racis t-remark – StarCraft II player Guru was kicked from his team for racist remarks