I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but when it comes to eSports the self-congratulatory end of year scenes are akin to what the average British public schoolboy would encounter in the dorm after dark: a sweaty, frenzied mass of guilt-free circle-jerking where everyone gets their turn, a blend of giddy exhaustion and gratification leaving the group satisfied.
Yes, we did it folks. This year is the year that eSports became legitimatised… again. And we owe all of ourselves a collective pat on the back. Without us, none of this would have been possible. Award after award, reams of press releases that read like balance sheets, fixed mannequin grins until someone cracks and growls “now cut me my fucking paycheque” to the highest bidder.
It’s grotesque bullshit for anyone that can see through it, and I know, like me, many of you can. The Gonzo Awards are for you. Spanning five years and four publications, these have been my alternative awards designed to recognise the bungled and botched, the great failures, the disgusting excesses and the comedic amateurishness that only eSports can throw up. No voting, no criteria, just one man’s bitterness and vitriol coupled with the ash of bridges burned.
Most Pointless E-Drama Award
2011: Naniwa Probe Rush
2012: Not listed
2013: Not listed
2014: DeMuslim Vs Major
2015: Rahim Gets Bullied
Already criticised for not mentioning myself in the first part of my annual awards, 2015 saw me embroiled in a number of dramas that still leave me perplexed as I sit here in 2016. The most ridiculous saw me accused of bullying a grown man by simply trying to encourage him to do the job he was actually being paid to do.
In order to set the scene, it was at the Acer Predator Masters, an event ran by German eSports legend Dennis “TaKe” Gehlen. The spirit of his events are all the same: it’s a tournament played in his living room, watched by eSports personalities and players who commentate the action while having a few beers. This makes up the bulk of the broadcast, the unlikely commentary partnerships and drunken antics as much a part of the entertainment as the competition itself.
It was a style I thought would be embraced by the Counter-Strike community entirely. Even the stuffy StarCraft community learned to love Gehlen’s tournaments. Sadly, with a mostly new audience coming from other eSports titles like League of Legends to see what the fuss was about, and having been shown only one way of doing tournament broadcasts, the reaction was far from positive.
“What’s that big, bald asshole doing” people asked. “Why is he drinking beer during an event? This is unprofessional. He’s wasted too.”
That big, bald asshole was of course me. And what was I doing? Exactly what my longstanding friend Dennis asked me to: go on camera, drink a FEW beers, and try and entertain an audience. Everyone at the event was having a good time; I didn’t see any reason why the viewers wouldn’t warm to this style. I’d seen StarCraft players necking neat vodka while playing children’s board game Loopin’ Louie and it be considered one of the viewing highlights of the year.
Alas, the schedule was punishing, and people started to drop out as it got later into the night. The last game saw myself, Henry “HenryG” Greer, German player Marcus “J0hnny” Gabriel, and novelty caster Rahim “Babam” Abdullaev on a couch together.
It’s fair to say if you’ve ever watched any eSports broadcasts you won’t have come across anything like Abdullaev before. A walking soundboard, he takes the tactical shooter and turns it into a children’s broadcast. Nothing wrong with that, age restrictions not withstanding, but having never done an event before and being used to solo commentary, he didn’t enjoy this drunken quad cast at all. Unfortunately for him, it was his turn up to bat, Dennis wanted the four of us on the sofa, and he was being paid to do a job.
Trying to bring him out of his shell, I asked him to do his “babam stuff,” which he didn’t do. It was car crash television, I’m sure. Henry tweeted it was as close to hell as he’d ever been. I didn’t think anything of it though. A healthy dose of cringe never hurt anyone, and the Gehlen formula guaranteed mixed results by definition. Who could possibly be upset? I hadn’t banked on Reddit of course.
One of Abdullaev’s fans made a thread alleging the caster was being bullied by yours truly. He theorised that by looking into the eyes of his hero, the redditor could tell Abdullaev was indeed incredibly sad and intimidated. In reality, we got treated to a diva-ish outburst of epic proportions by our supposedly intimidated co-worker. He demanded not to work with any of us, only wanting to partner up with one other person who wasn’t even added to the English speaking talent list, and if we didn’t agree with everything he said he would go on Twitter and Reddit and feed us to the wolves. Given that I had already received dozens of threats and hundreds of abusive messages, we just agreed and left him to it.
The problems didn’t end there. Refusing to bend the knee to the mob. I spent my night pointing out how idiotic all the people who were telling me to kill myself on Twitter actually were and how little their opinion actually mattered. The goalposts suddenly moved. The issue wasn’t that I was bullying someone. Now I was being “unprofessional” on Twitter by reacting to abuse. “Is this the man YOU want representing eSports?” they cried. “Why does anyone hire him for events. I won’t watch any tournament that hires him,” others lied.
The whole situation was beyond surreal, leaving the other members of the talent team I was working with baffled. Unfortunately, fearing a similar mob attack on them, they elected for the wise course of silence rather than challenging the rabid Rahim fans. Long term it hasn’t done me any harm, and for the most part it seems to have, rightly, tarnished his reputation. At the time though it was another reminder that bored eSports fans can be among the most unreasonable people on the planet.
Wasted Opportunity of the Year
2010: Robert “TORNADOTONI” Radosevic
2011: Heroes of Newerth
2012: Not Listed
2013: Blizzard’s WCS
2015: Esports Express
As anyone who has followed my work down the years will know, eSports is both absurd and surreal, a rolling carnival of the weird and incompetent. It is ripe for lampooning, targets seemingly coming along every week, and yet Esports Express has fallen consistently short of the mark. I myself championed the satirical publication, supporting its Kickstarter campaign stretch-goals. but the direction the publication has gone in has left me incredibly disappointed. By the claim of the former editor, they reportedly spend their time reading the front page threads of the League of Legends subreddit and pander accordingly.
Bizarrely, their targets rarely seem to be bumbling incompetents or malicious swine. A significant part of their energy seems to be channeled into attacking the few legitimate journalists the eSports industry has managed to cultivate.
Not convinced? Let’s show you an example of their dedication to using their anonymity to punching upwards. In the same week that members of organisation Ninjas In Pyjamas were in court for financial irregularities and it was reported that Swedish media group MTG was looking likely to increase their already sizeable market share in the esports space, the story that ESEX went with was… Jacob Wolf’s report about Team Liquid swapping out a star player being incorrect.
Now this could be as easily dismissed as bitterness from some of their failed junior writers like Joe Huang, who has repeatedly used his position of anonymity to attack writers whose achievements easily eclipse his own, despite having achieved little of merit beyond a few articles for ESL. It is strange they focus so much on journalistic accuracy in a lot of their hilarious pieces as another of their number, Hal Jin, doesn’t even manage to get his own job description correct on his LinkedIn Profile. There, he lists himself as an “Executive Editor” for the Northwestern Interdisciplinary Law Review. The website lists him as a less grandiose “Associate Editor.” A weird lapse coming from a publication that once compared me to Brian Williams.
Still, the reasons for this thinly-veiled hit piece can’t be dismissed quite so easily. The publication, which was originally funded by Team Liquid before a series of Kickstarters, has a number of staff with ties to the Team Liquid brand, most notably former editor Ken “Hotbid” Chen, who held numerous positions at the organisation over the years and made his name there. Other contributors include Kelvin “Zess” Si, a former editor for TL; Jorgen Kursk, a designer who works for Team Liquid; and Marc “SirJolt” McEntegart, another writer and editor from the Team Liquid stable. Given that the Team Liquid organisation have gone out of their way to discredit journalists every time any reporting has been done in 2015, how fortunate it is to have friends who share your priorities.
Ultimately, the publication seems to veer between meme-driven comedy or just spiteful attacks on individuals. It hasn’t punched up for a long, long time, and it rarely throws a punch at all these days. A shame, because it could have been so much more than just another eSports treehouse.
The Riot Games Award for “Great Game Balance”
2015: Valve introduces the R8 to Counter-Strike
One of the most stupefyingly bad additions to any game I have played, the concept behind the R8 revolver beggars belief in a Counter-Strike context. An entirely accurate one-shot-to-kill weapon that can penetrate full armour and only costs $850? Anyone with a cursory understanding of the game would surely know this was a bad idea. Yet, the gun was introduced in exactly that state, with the average game devolving into more fatal revolver shots than a Sam Peckinpah movie.
In isolation, it would have been bad enough, but the patch also brought in a wild bunch of changes, including decreasing the accuracy of the rifles and pistols, making controlled spraying more difficult, and rendering any purchase apart from the R8 a waste of money. Match making became a ridiculous affair, the BOMF BOMF BOMF of R8 spam a haunting sound none of us who played at that time will ever forget.
The patch was so brutal it even impacted the competitive scene, with leagues saying they would have to play on a previous patch rather than adopt these new changes. The fact it had been rolled out with a few critical bugs, such as being able to shoot the R8 while defusing, just showed how slipshod it was. The whole patch was so bad that even after some hotfixes players simply refused to accept the game in this greatly damaged state, prompting Valve to do something that was unprecedented; they rolled back the patch and issued an apology to the community.