Before I say anything, I want everyone to understand that I do not believe that we should simply get rid of CS:GO gambling. That would be ridiculous. But recently, the Australian professional player Chad “SPUNJ” Burchill decided to disable his Twitter account after failing to qualify for MLG Columbus.
I can’t take all the abuse, I wish I was strong enough to but I can’t do it!
A man had to cut off a tie that he had with the world, just so that he doesn’t get overloaded with hate and threats. He even said this at RGN Pro Series, which is about messages that he received from bettors back then:
…hundreds of people messaging us on Twitter, like death threats and saying fuck you for losing all my skins.
There were more people threatening his life that there are people that will probably read this sentence. This number may seem small, especially compared to the amount of fans and viewers that there are overall, but I ask you to imagine yourself waking up as a professional player.
The day before, you lost a game that you were supposed to win, and that alone made you extremely depressed. You went out and tried to forget it, but you’re still miserable, because you really love the game. It’s morning now, so once you are awake, you go onto Facebook and Twitter, because that’s what most people do, and there it is. You have dozens, if not hundreds, of death threats on Facebook from bettors who lost their knives because the other team played better than you did in a video game. You have hundreds of Tweets directed at you because some “fans” lost $50 worth of skins for predicting something that literally had a 50/50 chance of going either way at the time.
You can’t just ignore it. You can’t go through them and say “these are just words, I don’t care what my public image is”. This is your livelihood; this is your brand. It seems like your brand is broken just because you lost a single game, or you have poor statistics in-game. I know that I couldn’t imagine going to work and repeatedly hearing things like “I’m going to kill you!” and “There are people that are better than you at what you are doing. Therefore, you suck and I hate you.” Stuff like that in the workplace is literally illegal in many countries. So why is it okay for someone with a less conventional job to be harassed like this when they are working?
I doubt that anyone reasonable would disagree with me. But how can we prevent, or even minimize it?
One very commonly mentioned solution would be to require age verification on betting sites, so that only older, and generally more mature, players would potentially lose anything. The issue with this is that there is no law requiring websites like CS:GO Lounge to do that, since skins are worth nothing in the eyes of the law.
These betting companies wouldn’t do it voluntarily, because that would result in less revenue for them, and if someone is in the gambling business, that person is probably more interested in milking money out of as many people as possible than the ethics involved in (potentially underage) gambling. This means that until governments (or Valve) would consider virtual items to have value, this is not an option. We need to keep thinking.
If you are expecting me to give you some miracle answer now, you are mistaken. I’m not a lawyer that knows all about the legalities of pseudo-gambling with “fake” money, even though skins are basically real money. I don’t know much about the esports industry, or the gambling industry. All I want to do here is put everything in the best context that I can, and raise awareness.
All that we can do now is spread the joy, for lack of a better term. The underage gamblers and upset fans who are so immature as to harass another person are clearly a minority. Let’s remember that while players like SPUNJ, players like fREAKAZOiD who have also mentioned harassment on social media for losing, receive hundreds of death threats and hate comments, there are thousands of viewers who don’t do that. But we are too quiet. You notice a minority only when they are louder than the majority.
These players are people, with lives and feelings. Why can’t we let them feel like we know that? Do we have to allow these people to be forced to cut off their social media accounts, and become even more depressed than they already would be for losing an important match?
My humble idea is to be the loud majority. Let’s let the players know that they have fans who appreciate the effort and hard work. Some have said that being a pro requires tough skin, but we can change that reality. Sure, developing tough skin is good, but we should try to make it as unnecessary as possible, as far as I understand.
No matter what we do, people are going to abuse professional players. They can be adult bettors. They can be fans who are frustrated with a team’s worst player. It can be someone who is jealous of the player’s job as a pro gamer. It can even simply be a troll, or an everyday dick. There is nothing you can do to stop these people, but there is a big difference between getting a couple of Tweets that are directed at you that say “You should retire! You suck!” after a big loss and getting dozens of death threats on Facebook after a weekly season match.
Next time your favorite team has even a chance of losing an important match, either tell them that you still support them, don’t say anything, or simply don’t bet. No one should have to deal with it. Based on the state of the community right now, I know that I’m going to go out of my way to show these players that they are still loved, and I hope that some of y’all do as well.