The retirement of Greg “IdrA” Fields gives the world of eSports an opportunity to address a deeply uncomfortable topic.
By Alex Walker on May 26, 2013 at 2:53 pm
The writing was always on the wall: the minute you start abusing your own fans, whatever respect, whatever favours you had courted up to that point, begins to disappear very quickly.
That was the situation Greg “IdrA” Fields found himself in recently after describing fans on the TeamLiquid forums as “a bunch of *****”, and that he was “paid” to treat fans as such. Before the sun had set, Evil Geniuses booted the American Zerg, an iconic player on their roster for the last three years, out the door.
EG CEO Alex Garfield put it very simply. “There’s a very big difference between a player being disrespectful to an opponent in a ladder match, and a player being disrespectful to the entire community of people who, via their own enthusiasm and passion for the entertainment product he creates, actually make his profession possible,” Garfield posted on TeamLiquid.
But Fields’ termination was merely the final act for a long-running series of mental complications, which ranged from videos of Fields abusing opponents to him throwing away games unnecessarily. EG even hired a sports psychologist to address the issues, although Fields revealed he only met with the therapist once, she didn’t really have any interest in eSports and that no progress was made.
Fields was a troubled individual. Even in his Brood War days, he was a moody, disconsolate character, traits that were highlighted even more after his switch to StarCraft 2. He didn’t like the game as much as its predecessor, and didn’t respect it nor the people who played.
EG, the behemoth that it is, could not help their once-bright star through the issues. Perhaps what Fields needed was an actual psychologist, one better trained to help him with his anger. Instead of focusing on the performance, maybe the money was better spent treating what troubled Fields as a human.
But I digress. Discussing the mental anguish and the many trials and tribulations of one of the StarCraft community’s most popular, and polarising, characters is not the point of this week’s column
What I find more interesting is where Fields goes from here. He’s already announced his intention to take a backseat from competitive gaming, although he’s continued to stream in the interim. His severance from EG will certainly help: the pro-gaming team have generously decided to pay his rent for an entire year.
I still remember cheering on EG’s Canadian Counter-Strike team almost a decade ago. The film that covered some of that team’s journey was called About Average, an apt description for the team’s international standing. And yet EG is now wealthy enough to be able to afford an extravagance others could only dream of. How times have changed.
Fields reportedly turned down a scholarship in theoretical physics when he moved to South Korea to join the eSTRO pro-gaming team. That career path is undoubtedly gone now, although several years of study may alter the equation somewhat.
It’s a problem faced by pro-gamers all over the world. Dreams of playing in The International, the League of Legends Championship Series, the Global StarCraft 2 League and more prestigious, global tournaments entrance gamers from a very young age.
Despite the guffaws from some, it is legitimately possible to earn a living from pro-gaming. The bigger problem is that there’s no support network for former players, and the drop off from a lucrative contract with a major team to the dole queue is difficult.
What do you do when gaming has been the sole focus of your life? The skills aren’t translatable in a way that opens doors; sure, there are plenty of lessons to be learned about dealing with pressure, decision-making, working in a team environment, coping with difficult situations and so on. But they don’t equate to a degree, a diploma, or something that can sit proudly on a resume.
The mental stresses faced by Fields are not insignificant, and they should be discussed at length to help others face their own demons. But they pale in comparison to the abyss that gamers years from now will be diving head-first into.
Header image courtesy MLG.