Sunday eSports: Boys behaving badly, and cleaning up the image of eSports

Rage Quit

By on April 7, 2013 at 10:08 am

Competitive gaming has been around for a long time, but its players, tactics and infrastructure can be little mystifying to the layman. People scream a lot; it’s a little intimidating. There’s a lot of action on screen; it’s a little confusing. It’s very in-depth and without prior knowledge, difficult to report.

Covering gamer rage has never been a complicated matter.

Eurogamer and the Penny Arcade Report highlighted the issue recently when they examined the behaviour of players at the Electronic Sports League’s Call of Duty European Championships in Cologne.

The furore was largely provoked by a recording of what happened, so before I unload with both barrels, here’s the video so you can make your own judgement.

Putting things in perspective, the behaviour isn’t a surprise. It’s not even shocking. What’s bizarre is that it took so long for the mainstream gaming media to catch on, even with their heightened interest. Major League Gaming has regularly hosted Call of Duty tournaments for years; surely a few teams have been caught swearing blue murder at their opponents.

MLG competitors can be heavily penalised. The league specifically prohibits “excessive” profanity, defined as a “consistent” use of swearing and anything directed towards admins or fellow players is forbidden. Referees are more lenient in practice, but the regulations are there for the most extreme cases.

Australia banned swearing once. In 2004, the Intelligent Home Show at Melbourne decided to run a Counter-Strike tournament amongst hundreds of businesspeople and the unsuspecting public.

The principle is sound, proven by the Intel Extreme Masters’ numerous events in trade fairs around the world. It’s easy to sit back and watch video games after looking at gadgets all day. The model even worked in Brunei; the Brunei Cyber Games was held in the middle of a consumer fair. Mops and tile cleaners weren’t quite as spectacular as the offerings at CeBIT, but the idea works.

Nevertheless, most of the spectators will be adult professionals. I’m sure most swear in the privacy of their own home, perhaps even copiously. But you try not to do it in public, out of courtesy to bystanders.

Teenagers never quite grasped that concept. Memento Mori, one of the two best teams in Victoria at the time, had eight rounds deducted purely for profanity violations. They would have won their match by a landslide if they’d took a trick from Battlestar Galactica. Hell, they would have won their match on de_train against the West Australians at all if the captain took a swift backhand to the mouth of his teammates. Or himself. Just once.

(The link above only contains the final scores but no discussion surrounding MM’s penalties. I was in close contact with the leader of MM, who was an old friend of mine that kept trying to convince me, for a time, to move down to Melbourne. For Counter-Strike. As a 15-year-old. We were all crazy back then.)

This was more civilised behaviour. There’s a long-running story within Sydney about a player whose tyres got slashed. Many players threatened bashings. One player, who graduated from Counter-Strike 1.5 to Call of Duty, repeatedly warned me on IRC that my face would have an unfortunate meeting with the pavement if I ever showed up.

I turned up, sat my team next to his, wiped the floor with them in the quarterfinals and finished third for the day. He stopped threatening to put me in hospital afterwards, and since mellowed into a rather decent human being.

And even this was considered mild at the time. There was one tournament where a player who travelled from New Zealand was told “he would be killed” if he left a Melbourne netcafe. The threats were backed up by a bevy of insults from — and I’m not making this up — two fifteen-year-old Asian girls dressed like Gogo Yubari, minus the psychotic weaponry.

“I just want to punch that guy,” one of them said in a rather Clueless-esque voice. It would have been one of the funnier moments, had a friend of mine — normally quite a placid and laid-back character — not tried to bash someone within the confines of a Sydney netcafe.

Fortunately, my friend’s anger was negated by the limited arsenal at his disposal. Everyone broke out in laughter after we realised he was wielding a Sprite bottle as a baseball bat — although things could have gotten ugly very fast.

Most of this wasn’t a spur of the moment. It was all engendered by a liberal, and what was considered healthy back then, use of sexist, racist, bigoted, anti-Semitic and downright offensive remarks online and at LAN. If you were simply trying to throw the other team off, rattle them up a little, then hey – it’s all fair game.

Some were able to draw a very clear line between in-game abuse and how they treated people afterwards. Whether that makes them admirable I don’t know. There were a few that absolutely point-blank refused to trash-talk under any circumstances, believing it only egged-on your opponents and made the match even harder.

That’s largely true. The competitive atmosphere usually brings out the warrior in most, and those likely to crumble under pressure are weeded out well in advance. But that doesn’t make it acceptable to volley a torrent of racist remarks because it might improve your chances.

This is a culture that has persisted for well over a decade. Propagated by individuals who accepted and even enjoyed this behaviour, others were encouraged to follow suit. It’s particularly virulent in a team environment. Everyone wants to climb the ladder, and if they’re all doing it … well, you want to fit in, right? You want to become the next upcoming star!

This is the true under-current of eSports and the structure needs to be dismantled for its own good. Such behaviour is widespread. Australia is  lucky that more embarrassing incidents, like what happened on Cross Assault, hasn’t happened here. The conditions are ripe enough — some cases I’ve seen, especially those involving women, would sicken you.

The problem is the current crop of administrators have an unfortunate habit of sweeping things under the rug and dealing with issues behind the scenes. Handling matters quietly can indeed limit the fallout, but it also abandons an opportunity to set standards and show that actions do have consequences.

Too many currently behave without fear of repercussions. There is no strong moral compass; many players are getting bullied, too many running their mouths off without penalty. Sooner or later, someone will cause outrage to a degree that will spawn a backlash large enough to significantly damage players, admins and organisations, irrespective of how swift the response.

All we can do is to prepare for the worst, and act accordingly. Warnings are effectively useless; players know when they have gone too far. They should be replaced with harsh penalties, and organisers should have the gumption and courage to strip players and teams of wins if they step out of line. There will always be a situation where one team could be stripped of a tournament win, but integrity should never be sacrificed for the sake of appearances. And Australians should demand better of their administrators and players than the behaviour shown in the video above.

15 comments (Leave your own)

you try to keep it general by saying eSports, but the only genres I’ve seen where this is accepted or relatively common are FPS games (mainly CoD and CS as you say), and fighting games. at a professional level it seems to be extremely rare in genres like RTS and MOBA.

to get somewhere the question needs to be asked; why specific genres? is it something in the culture?

I don’t think it would be in the gameplay because dota 2 has the same sort of team format as FPS, and RTS has the same solo play as fighting games.

trash/shit talking is common in lower skill levels of both MOBA and RTS games, so at some point it disappears.

what makes these two genres stand out when it comes to abuse?


League of Legends players are just as obnoxious as everyone else. And trash talking isn’t isolated to lower levels. Arrogance is a powerful fuel, and players that get better who are already predisposed to abusing their opponents spew more vitriol as a result — because they’re the better player and have the wins/league rank/etc to prove it.


Wow, I didn’t even make it 1 minute into that video. That was terrible.

What surprises me though is what is the actual point? I don’t know if they are smack talking the opponent or each other?

I’m all for smack talk, mainly because I love it but it’s a dying art that is so close to the lowest common denominator now it isn’t fun anymore. Smack talk isn’t about swearing, insulting the other person or comments about their mothers. It’s a game, a tool used to try and make the opponent fumble. I have no problem with smack talking in eSports, smack talking is a part of any sports. That certainly wasn’t smack talk.

If their attempt at communication is to work as a team, then I have no idea how they are hoping to achieve this. Aren’t teams meant to talk to each other? I’ve never known any team sport where there isn’t communication or the point is to insult your own team mates. They weren’t communicating anything besides embarrassment.

If eSports wants to become more mainstream, the one thing they will need is a code of conduct just like any other sport. I really can’t understand why some people feel that gaming should be considered a special case but then complain when people laugh at it. You can’t have it both way.

You can behave however you want but don’t expect people to respect you or treat you as anything more than a child that is good at pressing buttons.


As far as i’m concerned smack talk has no place in anything. To use smacktalk is an admission that you have no skill at the game and need to disrupt your opponent in ways outside of the scope of the game in order to compete. I see it as no different than grabbing the opponents controller and throwing it across the room.

As for the article itself this again shows why I don’t consider e-sports a real sport. There’s 0 professionalism. All the ‘Athletes’ are just kids who happen to be good at a game, there’s no discipline or respect in those who compete. League and MOBA’s while I haven’t seen them go crazy like that disgusting video (at least not at a tournament, there’s been a bunch of League competition players permanently banned for their behavior outside of tournaments) have their own issues, they don’t appreciate the positions they’re in let alone have any concept of what will result from actions they take. I remember the captain of TeamSoloMid announcing his retirement after losing a match only to take it back later that day because the original statement was clearly made emotionally and spontaneously. Such unprofessional nonsense, I just can’t take eSports seriously in its current form with those who currently compete in it.

Also lol @ them using controllers. XD


what i don’t get is how a game with auto aim can get this serious, let alone become a E-sport.



If you want professional e-sports athletes go and watch a StarCraft 2 Tournament. Someone refusing to shake hands at the start of a match or saying (relatively) politely that their opponent is not any good and the game will be easy are about the most extreme levels of smack talk I’ve ever seen.

All of the top SC2 pro players are just that, professional. As are the commentators and production quality at events.

From what I can tell the average age of SC2 players compared to FPS games and perhaps MOBAs seems to be higher, could this be the only reason for the difference? Perhaps the games roots in Korea also help given most eastern cultures are far more polite and respectful than western cultures.


I wouldn’t mind betting that it has a lot to do with SC being so massive in South Korea. I’ve seen a documentary or two about it and they are so serious about it over there.


Stopped video at 1:10, what a bunch of tossers. I’d pay to see one of them get KTFO for talking like that to another person.

I’m amazed people pay to watch that kind of performance.

There’s an easy solution, post a standard of conduct, kick out the idiots, SOMEONE will want the prize money. It’s all on the people holding the events.


Kinda disgusting how these guys are even called eSports champions and whatnot. Their mouth is to Lance Armstrong and ‘roids. Shouldn’t be tolerated one little bit, might be games but you’re playing on a professional and respectable level, bloody act like it.


lol, cod players.

on consoles.

that is all.


I feel we should all stop for a moment and give Mr Colwill a round of applause for what might be the most awesome and most appropriate banner image in a long time.


After watching the video, the only thought I had was whether or not someone got stabbed after that whole affair, then I read the rest of the article and the part where you mentioned tires getting slashed.

I really don’t understand how this is acceptable behaviour in any setting, but I guess it isn’t so surprising when the organiser, and the guy that took the footage/put the video together attempt to justify it, and suggest its perfectly okay and normal behaviour, and anyone that thinks otherwise is either a hypocrite, or the problem. What the hell happened to society and why are such delinquents herald as heroes amongst their peers?


teenagers, and CoD on console… LOL? remember when CoD4 came out ages ago? and there was that comp mod that only allowed iron sights, bandoiler and extreme conditioning? thats what should be paying money, not this new age shit where you get UAV’s and holo sights in a comp setting; thats just laughable. i just lost so much respect, but then again we all know how scummy/ scrubby CoD has become since its infection of the mass production money gambit


lol, cod players.
on consoles.
that is all.

I can’t help but feel this is an accurate summation of the situation.

Anyone who stopped watching the video after 1:10 didn’t miss much. The shouty children kept shouting and gesticulating with their groins at each other. Then the video narrator tried to justify the lot of it.
Light-hearted fun, this aint.
I’ve only watched SC2 tourneys myself so I only ever see respect between players. I can’t say this behaviour is surprising but yeah. These kiddies need to grow up.
If people wanted to watch tantrum kids, they’d watch supernanny.


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