We used to think eSports meant being Frisbeed to death while wearing bright blue unitards. The reality is even more ridiculous. The ten million dollar DotA 2 International championships is video gaming's El Dorado: an impossible dream which will lead to thousands of desperately ill-prepared people being ganked in the jungle.
Some people still complain that video games can't be a sport because they're just a few twitches of the wrist and forearm connected to numbers, but those people forget that darts has been a professional sport for decades. At least video games let people pretend to be doing something worth watching.
But for proof that video games are a sport you don't need televised tournaments with prize pools which look like high scores. You just need to know that they already have insane sports scandals. The only difference between eSports and regular sports stars is that video game characters are supposed to kill people and get away with it.
When America wants to utterly dominate a world series, they don't let other countries play. In South Korea they just get better than everyone else. The rest of the planet could collaborate on a space program, travel to distant worlds, and bring back a real race of high-tech psychic warrior aliens, and we still wouldn't be able to beat Koreans at StarCraft.
They read our discussions about "eSports" the way we read about Mayans discussing "wheels." They've been televising their games for years. This attracted online gambling, and that's a better guarantee of assholes affecting victory than a tie-breaking round of Proctology Simulator. Gambling sites paid top players to throw matches. So you've got people who made a living being brilliant at their favorite game, and they took bribes to publicly fail.
It's like someone dared Mammon to prove there was nothing money couldn't ruin.
Of course they got caught. The only thing more electronically observed than pro videogames is the Higgs boson. In 2010, ten of the players were permanently banned from eSports, fined, and four of them were sentenced to jail. It turns out that once you involve a few million dollars the law doesn't care what stupid thing you're gambling about. You could turn tiddlywinks into a felony if you involve enough zeroes.
Even the unimprisoned players have effectively been sentenced to hard labour. They spent their formative years mastering pro-gaming, and are now forbidden from pro-gaming. StarCraft II build order management is a more ludicrously specialized skill than fitting horseshoes, and at least blacksmithing gives you a body able to defend itself in the real world. Pro-gaming does the exact opposite. Their only possible careers are Mountain Dew-flavored ballast and mouse sweat-resistance testing.
This one makes the people getting paid to throw matches look noble, because at least they pretended to play properly. Team Dignitas and Curse NA didn't even bother with that. They scored first and second place in the 2012 Major League Gaming Summer Championships, but cheated so badly they were both disqualified. They destroyed the concept of victory so hard that the championship didn't even have a second best.
League of Legends is a Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) where two teams of five engage in a three-lane battle of resource management, maneuver, and brutal flashpoints. Or, in the 2012 final, ten guys gathering in the center to turn "orgy" into an eSport by screwing everyone else involved.
The two teams had met before the match and agreed to play the first round as "All Random, All Mid." This is a mode where everyone picks a random character and just charges the middle path. It's the sort of lolrandom crap players do when they're sick of their favorite game but have spent so long playing it they can no longer think of anything else to do. Imagine a Super Bowl where the teams agree to play the first quarter with special teams and have a punt fake competition. It's still technically a match, but the only way they could disrespect the spectators more is by dropping their pants on the sidelines and pissing off the edge of the field. Which would be useful, because by that point the stadium would be on fire.
Dignitas and Curse didn't care because they'd agreed to split the $40,000 in prize money evenly. Feel the thrill of a final where neither team really cares who wins! This collusion disqualified them, and yes, that means these guys were offered $40,000 to play their own favorite game and decided they didn't want to. MLG had spent a fortune setting up a serious eSports league, and the celebrated champions couldn't even be bothered to play properly in the final? There are kindergarten teachers explaining that Chutes and Ladders aren't edible who aren't as disappointed in their players.
The E-Sports Entertainment Association decided that their players were just sitting around playing games, which was a safe assumption, and assumed control of their computers to mine for Bitcoins, which really wasn't. Normally, it's parents telling players they should be earning money instead of playing video games, not their own game software.
The ESEA anti-cheat software was patched to commandeer around 14,000 computers for a fortnight, using them to mine $3,700 worth of Bitcoins. Well, that's what they were worth then. By now they could be $50 million or about four cents, depending on the exact minute and source you decide to check.
ESEA explained that the code was an April Fool's joke, then blamed a server reset, an accidental upload, and a rogue employee. They didn't get as far as the wizard who knocked them all unconscious for the fortnight the software had been left running because of the court case, but I'm sure they were getting there. The best bit is how even their own excuses admitted that they'd been considering hijacking the users' computers, and had written up all the code, and got it ready to install, but decided they'd get in too much trouble. Then let it happen anyway. The last video game company to screw up and infect so many customers so expensively was Umbrella.
They were ordered to pay $325,000 fine, a markup of about 10,000% on their Bitcoin profits, and it'll go up to a full million if they try anything even remotely like it in the next decade. On the upside, gouging fans for as much money as possible proves eSports leagues really are learning from the physical ones.
Video games allow a lot of cool things you can't do in real sports. For example, we'd watch lacrosse if it involved grenade launchers. What you can't do in either is wear someone else's number and pretend to be them, because in physical sports that would be painfully obvious, and in video games it would be even more obvious because you're made entirely of numbers. Especially ones like "Gamer ID" and "IP."
FatGames wanted to field their newest member, D1ablo, who was presumably better at playing than he was at coming up with original names. Unfortunately, he hadn't been on the team long enough to qualify. So FatGamer Stat just gave D1ablo his login details and let him play instead. They couldn't have been caught more painfully if they'd put on a football jersey and tried running onto the field. At least then they'd have been caught in the tunnel before publicly embarrassing themselves.
FatGamers were publicly announcing "One of our players is a cheat, but he's better than the one who sucks!" Both players were banned for six months, and the team took major penalty points. The FatGames team was crippled and penalized. They'd have done better if Stat had spent the match smashing his own mouse-hand with the keyboard, because at least then they'd only have lost one player with no penalties.
When you're using a nickname to pretend to be a soldier, in a video game, to pretend to be someone else, and you still get caught failing, your best bet at success is probably reincarnation.
Mocking video gamers as sexless nerds is like mocking automobile-drivers for being too pansy to put a big horse between their legs: obsolete, and disturbingly focused on other people's genitals. But it's true that physical sports have sex scandals while eSports only has sexism scandals. Because athletes hone their body to be the best at physical exertion, while eSports are only a few years old. And unfortunately they still act like it.
The International e-Sports Federation (IeSF) recently refused to let women play in its Hearthstone tournaments. Which is insane. Sex could only be less related to an electronic card game if it was about Terminator microbiologists. Do they think Cooties count as 1/1 minions? There are Pigtail Pulling Little Leagues with a better attitude towards women. And less ridiculous rules about interaction between the sexes.
Maybe it's like that thing where some football teams tell their players not to have sex before a big game. Maybe they're trying to elevate the level of play throughout the league by preventing anyone from having sex ever.
Note: that would still be less stupid than their real reason.
Their excuse was that they had to divide by gender to be taken seriously by physical sports like the Olympics. Which is like a nerd throwing his own backpack in the mud to try and fit in with jocks. And based on equally childish stereotypes. The IeSF saw the light after pretty much the entire world called them jerks, and they made their main championships unisex.
Gaming and the internet are already famous for growing more damaging cultures than an abandoned biowarfare laboratory. When you get banned from video games just for being a jerk, the only reason we don't ask NASA to evict you from the planet is because if you met anyone up there, we'd have to fight Space Invaders for real.
In June of this year players Mithy and Nukeduke got banned from League of Legends for six months for no other reason than pure assholery. Such pure, refined assholery beyond the bounds of mortal reason that simply looking into their eyes counts as astral plane proctology. They were also kicked out of their team, Ninjas in Pajamas, and when people publicly calling themselves "Ninjas in Pajamas" no longer want to be associated with you then you know you've screwed up bad.
They committed every -ism we have, and a few they'd invented. They thought loading the chat with insults was more important than loading the map they were playing. They kept this up even after being fined $500 each. Imagine a life where the best thing you could think of doing with a thousand dollars is call people names. Now stop crying. Find comfort in the fact that somewhere John Romero is standing on a mountaintop, hair whipping in the wind, exulting in no longer being responsible for the worst money-wasting insult in video gaming history.
This was before Riot's recent announcement of instant bans for spamming chats with insults. Which is brilliant. We have a major gaming organization deciding that keeping their best players isn't worth dealing with the world's worst humans. Which means that eSports aren't just mature, they're already more mature than the Philadelphia Eagles, Penn State, the Baltimore Ravens, and pretty much every other physical sport there is.
Any other juicy scandals we missed? Tell us in the comments!