The 7 Most WTF Scandals In eSports History
Multimillion-dollar prize pools and televised stadium-packing events mean that eSports are finally being taken almost as seriously as physical sports. At long last, that stupid "playing games for fun" shit can be crushed under advertising dollars! It includes all the stress of turning your hobby into a job and all the job security of weekly balance patch v34.102. So when I'm not writing about giant super-science battle robots, I research even more ridiculous eSports idiocies. Behold seven of the stupidest.
Money is solvent for the human soul. Someone achieving the already ridiculous dream of "being paid to play my favorite game in front of adoring fans" will quickly ask, "Could I make MORE money by shitting on every single one of those things?" And the answer is always yes. In South Korea, nine people were arrested for fixing StarCraft II matches, which is such a tragic misuse of teamwork and playing games that it cancels out an entire season's worth of Sesame Street lessons.
Here's video of one of the matches, in case you want to see how hard it would have been to catch them just by watching:
That's why the crime could only be proven by tracing the money -- high-level players operate at so many actions per minute that Commander Data would need slow-motion replay. But tens of thousands of dollars transferred from known criminals to a team's players and coach is a tell even the n00biest Protoss could follow. It's much easier to trace mob money in meatspace than to tell when a pro player is throwing an eMatch because our world has carefully assembled only the shittiest bits of every cyberpunk story ever written.
Not all such cons even try to be clever. Dot Esports reports that Team iBUYPOWER took money to throw a major Counter-Strike match, then threw it more obviously than a drunken clown with a bucket of whitewash. They went at their enemies like a wave of puppies that had been trained to find treats in enemy gun barrels, laughing out loud while they lost by a frankly ludicrous 16-4. They couldn't have more comically fixed the result if they'd been the Harlem Globetrotters. Even stupider than the team was their managers, who had refused to pay the players and told them to make their own money from advertising. We guess they decided to make money by "advertising" that they were losing.
Who knew guys nicknamed "Anger," "Dazed," and "Skadoodle" wouldn't be criminal masterminds?
In 2015, Team Redemption somehow managed to be even dumber, actively betting against themselves online before losing a game of Dota 2, thus quickly losing all ability to ever play professional Dota 2 again. Presumably they were stunned that anyone could trace their crime of the century. "How did they find out? Did they see the same every movie ever that we saw before pulling this shit?"
Exploitation is rampant in eSports because it's a brand-new industry with tons of money, and the whole point of brand-new industries is to get as much of that money as possible before legislation makes you pay the actual workers. (See also: the entire tech sector.) eSports are particularly effective scams because it's a "dream job" for many players, in that for most it's a fantasy with no grounding in reality. Starry-eyed idiots literally line up to be exploited. It's intern idiocy without even the hope of an eventual career because eSports players age out faster than child star twins.
What could be shady about a contract that looks like it is punching you in the face?
A group called Team Immunity exploited the hell out of their players, lining them up for a punishing schedule of games and then simply not bothering to pay them, despite multiple league victories with cash prizes. The team was investigated and banned from future events, because justice can sometimes smell you from beyond its grave. Fortunately, only the managers were punished, with the players allowed to proceed and keep their qualifications if they formed another team. I don't blame them if they don't. When you've spent a fair percentage of your functional career making money for crooks, there's no shame in asking your dad if there's any openings at the company.
Dot Esports had a lawyer examine a standard eSports player contract and found it so ridiculously exploitative that by the end, the signee didn't even own the rights to their own face. The team could take their likeness for any and all advertising. To say nothing of the vicious noncompete clauses, which in an occupation as tiny as professional eSports translates to "Your career is over without us" or "In every other sport, good players make tons of money changing teams, but we're fairly sure you idiots don't know that."
"Tonight's main story is why our competitors should have paid attention to football while growing up."
That's for the players who even had some kind of agreement. Team Impulse was fined $20,000 and banned from the League of Legends Championship Series for little things like "repeatedly not paying their players" and "lying about even having given their players contracts." Which, yes, means a bunch of idiots had been winning those managers money without even a written promise that they might someday get paid. When your manager has paid more for your mouse mat than your time, you're not doing very well.
Video games are a glorious waste of time, and that's part of the pleasure. Anyone posting headlines about them promoting hand-eye coordination or developing computer skills has sadly internalized a parent's admonition that they should be doing something worthwhile with their time. So did the E-Sports Entertainment Association (ESEA), apparently, when they hijacked players' machines to make them money.
The ESEA provides anti-cheat software and unnecessary capitalization for their e-Sports league. Unfortunately, an uppercase "E" isn't the only useless thing they added to their software. In 2013, an update harnessed users' computers to crunch numbers for Bitcoins. Bitcoins are a fictional currency based not on gold or government backing but on the "wealth" of solving sums to prove that you've wasted enough computer power, basically, which is the sort of thing that makes sense when you've spent too long in a room with more supplies for power than oxygen.
The hijacked computers crunched for days to generate an ESEA employee over $3,000. When the ESEA was alerted to this, they immediately proved that the only thing players hate more than a company hijacking their computers is a company asking "Our software is doing WHAT?" A clown car of confused responses eventually settled down into blaming the unauthorized upload of a beta prototype by a single employee, which meant the whole company had been evil enough to think of doing this, and then incompetent enough to let a rogue employee take the money. I'm sure that the inspiration for a decent Iron Man villain can come out of this, somewhere.
Yeah, that headline just about sums it up.
These turned out to be the most stupidly expensive Bitcoins ever mined. Those $3,000 have so far earned the ESEA $1 million in fines. About $300 cost per dollar earned. eSports: Truly for the joy of the game.
Gaming Paradise Nightmare
Video games are fantasies. But they're meant to be fantasies like "I saved the planet Nakedulon-69 by shooting an entire evil species with my Phalloblaster!" Not "I proved that Mom was wrong about me by achieving 100 percent, instead of finishing high school." Investing your youth in Dota 2 makes magic bean farming look like a government pension. Not to say that eSports hopefuls are more gullibly short-sighted than people who believe the world is flat and only a hundred yards long, but many accepted invitations to a European eSports tournament that didn't exist. And only found out after they arrived. Which is a mistake the Football Field Flat Earthers wouldn't have traveled far enough to make.
Then again, the promotional video promised "parties" and "sun," things most players had probably never experienced.
"Gaming Paradise" promised over $60,000 in cash prizes to eSports players if they'd just fly to a central European resort for the privilege. That sounds like bored millionaires hunting humans in The Most Dangerous Game, but starting with eSports athletes as an easy tutorial level. Of course, Gaming Paradise didn't have money for the prizes. Or money to run a tournament. Gaming Paradise didn't even have money to pay the hotel bills, and the players' passports were seized by Slovenian police until they coughed up the cash themselves. It's like irony trying to eat itself.
Many action movies start with an international agent double-crossed and deprived of their legal documents in a foreign country. But the ability to spam right-clicks 20 milliseconds faster than someone else isn't going to have anyone bursting through the windows of the American embassy while clutching the last vial of Omega Serum. It's also an indication of how people with actual jobs view eSports in the wild. "We were conned and duped!" say the eSports players. "Give us real money right now," say the hotel clerk and police. We suppose the Slovenians are lucky none tried to disappear into the trees to gank passers-by for gold coins.
Related: 5 Common Nightmares We All Have
"Insider skin-gambling" sounds like a Predator scalping tickets to its own death match. The reality is much more tragic, but equally based on taking advantage of sadly inadequate prey. In Counter-Strike, players pretend to be terrorists and counterterrorists and meet like matter and antimatter: There is much light and noise and lots of annihilation. You can buy weapons with pretend money, which makes a major difference to gameplay. You can also buy weapon paint jobs for real money, which ... doesn't.
In some kind of dare to see how stupid the idea of wealth can become before people give up on it, these imaginary weapon "skins" are now effectively worth thousands of dollars. Since they're made entirely of money and stupidity, they've naturally become currency for online gambling.
Or in this case, not-gambling.
Two eSports streaming stars heavily promoted the CSGO Lotto site, uploading videos where they repeatedly won huge payouts, and some people really were stupid enough to believe it. Of course those two owned CSGO Lotto. Another YouTuber called HonorTheCall found legal documents proving that they were president and vice-president of the company, but it's honestly insulting that anyone even had to.
That isn't exactly an Oscar-worthy performance.
Once they were found out, the pair went into full non-apology mode with a complicated explanation of how vigorously promoting a site they secretly owned with rigged competitions was absolutely fine. Probably on the grounds that anyone dumb enough to believe them the first time just had to be told it was OK again a second time. And that's optimistically assuming said customers' memory even extended long enough to remember the first, or that their brains could count as high as the second. The videos showed they were the most obvious snake oil salesmen imaginable, except snake oil salesmen at least sell useful glass bottles.
Staggering Levels Of Racism
Racism is so endemic online that anyone demanding proof is probably your enemy. They're pissing in your face and demanding you prove water is wet before complaining, showing total contempt for you and obvious facts. There are countless examples. Relative underdog Hearthstone player TerrenceM played some spectacular games at Dreamhack Austin last year, scoring second place in the Hearthstone tournament. He's also black. That really shouldn't be relevant, but you already know what happened next. The tournament's Twitch chat channel was flooded with more shit than the Aegean stables.
I'm so sorry.
The stream was overloaded with so much racist abuse that even dedicated moderators simply couldn't keep it all out. This wasn't part-time moderation like a forum, or deliberate refusal to moderate like Twitter (it turns out a million actual Nazis still count as another million ad views). This was full-time employees immediately deleting racist hate as soon as it appeared, and they simply couldn't keep up. Racist assholes accused TerrenceM of stealing everything from his own computer to the post-tournament interviewer's wallet. There were more N-words than the second half of a dictionary, more primate references than a history of evolution, and everyone involved was asking for a mulligan on any good karma that they'd ever received in their lives.
Except TerrenceM. I'm sure he's lovely.
This isn't even nearly the only example. StarCraft II player Guru was kicked from his team for truly idiotic levels of racism. Specifically, "You will earn thousands of dollars at your dream job as long as you don't type 'I hate Muslims' in the middle of a game in a public feed" racism. League of Legends players Mithy and Nukeduck were so spectacularly toxic, they drove their own team's owner to permanently quit the game and return to the relatively friendly world of eternal terrorist-murder that is Counter-Strike. Both faced permanent bans from the game, reduced to several months when they demonstrated improvement. Because it turns out you CAN stop racists if you severely ban the hell out of them. AHEM, Twitter.
Woman Kicks So Much Ass, Sexist Guys Are Forced To Quit
In the most sincere gaming dick move ever achieved, two asshole guys screwed themselves out of a game with pure sexism. Geguri is a 17-year-old Korean woman and probably the best Zarya player on the planet. Zarya is an energy-weapon-wielding tank in Overwatch, and Geguri plays her like a Stradivarius of enemy energy blasting. A whole horde of assholes refused to believe that a girl could play that well, because inside their shitty little skulls, they're all 5 fucking years old, with major eSports players ELTA and Strobe accusing her of cheating and even issuing death threats. Both literally bet their careers that she couldn't possibly be both a girl and that good. If you've ever seen a Disney movie, you know what happened next.
And if you have time to watch a Disney movie, here you go.
Blizzard stated that they'd checked and that she absolutely wasn't cheating. She went further and played a public stream at a Blizzard event. When she was simply That Good, both ELTA and Strobe were forced to retire from the game permanently.
It's important to note that this isn't a victory. This was a woman subjected to a vast harassment campaign for daring to not only play a game, but also be excellent at it. Her "triumph" was being forced to endure said harassment campaign and then publicly prove herself in a gigantically stressful way. And, in a deeply un-Disney aspect, she wore a mask during her public stream because gaming is full of demented guys who issue death threats to women for gaming. Geguri's victory wasn't a feel-good triumph, it was a fight for survival for her, and a gigantic failure for almost everyone else involved in the gaming industry.
Video games are meant to be about having fun, playing together, and firing electronic weapons to make simple-minded violent enemies disappear. Let's get better at that.
Enjoy more expensive electronic idiocy with The 5 Most Absurdly Expensive Items In Online Gaming and The 6 Most Spectacular Dick Moves In Online Gaming History.
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