Sportsmanship and Professionalism in the Wake of MLG Raleigh

For those who weren’t aware, the first and second place team (Curse and Dignitas, respectively) were recently caught up in a “match fixing” scandal.  Major League Gaming (MLG) found evidence of ‘collusion’ or a match fix agreement to determine the winner.  The topic is red-hot right now, and many feel this is a very bad light to be shedding onto eSports, but what are the implications behind this collusion and what does it reveal about the community and eSports as a whole?

The Offense

First, let’s take a look at exactly what happened at MLG Raleigh and what went wrong. Dignitas and Curse battled through the tournament for two days to land themselves in the finals. This spot in the finals was going to take place on the following day and so the teams had some time to talk about what was going on.  They agreed upon a winner of the match and to split the prize pool.  They then played the first round of the tournament as an All Random All Mid (ARAM) style match, which as League players know, is a niche “fun” style of play and not tournament serious. Many think that the ARAM or even the prize pool splitting was the reason for the disqualification, however the agreed upon winner is the real offense here. Let’s take a look at the implications behind this seemingly exaggerated series of consequences.

The ARAM

The ARAM decision was probably the first sign that something was not completely correct.  It may have lead MLG to take a further look into things as both teams clearly were not taking this seriously. The decision to play an ARAM as the series opener is a slap in the face to the eSports scene whether or not you enjoyed it. It brings into question the professionalism of the League of Legends scene. For a comparison of offense, it would be like seeing two teams in the first game of the world series of baseball playing a game of stickball with street rules such as pitcher’s poison or no stealing bases.  It’s a format built to enjoy a different style of the game with different rules designed to make the game quirky and challenging. If this happened in Major League Baseball, there would be national outrage.

Bu..but I liked it…and so did other people!

This argument has been thrown around a lot.  Some people really enjoyed the ARAM and felt it was a nice break to the players and the viewers. And the surveys and numbers don’t lie either – this topic is trending extremely fast right now with articles just like this one popping up everywhere. However, you have to keep in mind two things:

  1. This is a major tournament.
  2. Trending and popularity doesn’t mean good.

The first point has been contested by few because TSM and CLG decided not to come to the tournament.  However, there was still a huge prize pool for a game tournament with over $40,000 on the line.  That kind of money is rarely seen outside of a very select few games, so this tournament was a real deal. The other 10 teams in this tournament were taking it very seriously and trying to earn circuit points to compete in the regional qualifier.

The second point can really be summed up by youtube.  There’s viral videos that have millions of views, but that in no way indicates something good.  There’s a video of a woman on a toilet stating she’s on a toilet with over 6 million views.  That is the way the internet works – find something very good or very bad and it will explode. Just because this topic is trending hard and people liked it does not mean it is good for the sport of LoL.

The Collusion

This is the bannable offense that MLG and Riot have come to charge the teams with.  Essentially, one team asked the other to take first place and they would split the prize pool with them.  The money itself is of nobody’s concern – the teams could give it to a homeless person outside the venue if they wanted.  The issue was with the fact that they were manipulating their seedings in the regional event.  Even if they did not change their opponent or seeding in the regional tournament, choosing a winner in advance is an extremely large offense. People in professional sports have been sent to jail over match fixing and even in Starcraft: Brood War players have been shamed, fined and banned from professional events forever.

Implications on eSports, League of Legends and the Future

So what do these things show for the “professional” scene for LoL?  It shows a complete lack of respect for the other teams, understanding of consequence and immaturity that will hold back eSports until resolved. The ARAM match was an insult to the other teams that were trying and was a cheap trick that could have been done as a fun side event.  The grand finals of a tournament aren’t to be taken as a joke in a serious sport. The collusion is inexcusable by both teams and the fact that it was public and both teams don’t realize it is an offense goes to show that they have no idea of the consequence behind their actions. 

While the pro scene is very friendly and close for LoL in particular, giving match wins to friends cannot be done in a professional scene. This was not a weekly tournament for a $1200 prize pool, it was a large event held by a professional association. These actions show the issues that eSports has and will have until players can realize that even though they’re playing a video game, it’s a sport. In order to progress and be taken seriously, the players of these games have to realize and embrace professionalism. Being professional is the most important part of organized sports, and hopefully this is a wake-up call to all of the eSports teams that think being a progamer is all fun and games.

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