In August of 2014, the North American CS:GO team iBUYPOWER lost badly in a CEVO match against NetcodeGuides.org, and viewers grew suspicious of the team’s surprisingly terrible performance. While allegations of throwing were initially dismissed, evidence later surfaced they had indeed thrown the match to win thousands of dollars of weapon skins, in-game items worth lots of money on the marketplace, by betting against themselves. Valve responded with an indefinite ban for most of the players, upgraded to lifetime bans after a year.
The following is a stylized re-telling of the iBUYPOWER betting scandal, told in the style of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, now a highly acclaimed HBO series Game of Thrones.
The men of House iBUYPOWER departed the tournament ground quickly and quietly. Those in attendance sat in stunned silence, as did the victors in the Guides of Netcode. Standing by the exits, the men in loungewear counted their wagered coin, yet no spectators approached them to collect. The heavily favored champions of iBUYPOWER had lost, and had done so handedly.
Sitting atop the rows of commoners, Maester Richard Lewis was lost in thought. His comfort came from always knowing when and why things happened, and this rare feeling of unknown did not sit well with him. For a collection of men like the Netcode Guides to defeat the great iBUYPOWER was not unheard of, but to see IBP compete so abhorrent.
Strikes that should be sure were missed. The rotations were slow and uncoordinated, and throughout the whole match, it looked like they just didn’t care. All in all, the performance wasn’t just poor. It was suspiciously poor.
Indeed, the IBP men had traveled far prior to today’s tournament. Today’s tournament wasn’t the most important in the grand scheme of things. But that uneasy feeling couldn’t escape Maester Lewis, though he would have to keep his doubts to himself for the time being. He turned to his good friend Duncan Thorinshield, waiting for the never silent master of bantercraft to voice his concerns. But for once, the red-headed historian had nothing to say.
As the two of them went to depart, Maester Lewis took notice of a young man who hadn’t moved from his seat since the match began. Lewis recognized him as ShahZam, a young competitor who had drawn much attention from some of the Northern houses. As he met the gaze of the young man, Lewis could see it etched on his face:
He knew something that he wished he didn’t.
As Maester Lewis climbed the long steps of the tower that led to his study, he pondered whether or not the gods had been cruel this winter and added more steps. But the gods could add a thousand more staircases, and it wouldn’t keep him away from his study; the warmth and the wine that never left was reason enough for him to stay there all winter if he could, let alone to write in peace.
Lewis sat in his chair exhausted; he had spent many months watching leads evaporate after the iBUYPOWER loss. Nothing unsettled him more than letting questions go unanswered. The maester of the iBUYPOWER house sent correspondence that mimicked the sea of excuses that surrounded the outcome: extensive travel, tiredness, unfamiliarity with the tournament grounds.
Maybe they did lose fair and square.
Just as that thought had settled behind his brow, he felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand up straight, almost at attention. He spun around to see a woman standing in his doorway, hair as black as the cloak she used to cover most of her face. Lewis feigned not being caught off guard.
“Most people who sneak into rooms wearing all black are assassins,” he spoke. “Have you come to kill me?”
“No, Maester Lewis,” she replied, softly. “But once you breathe word of what you read here, some may try their hand,” she said, motioning to the stack of letters she carried.
“And what exactly will I read here, Lady..?”
“Lebeouf. Ashley Lebeouf. But many call me-”
“The Black Lotus,” Lewis said. “I know.”
“Of course, it’s your business to know things. For example, you should know that for a while, I was courted by a Derek Boorn, of House Torqued.” That last word rolled off her tongue as the bundle of scrolls rolled onto Lewis’s desk. “And he had much to share in the letters we exchanged.”
“Tell me why I should pour through love letters in what little time in the day I have to myself,” Lewis said.
“Because you may find the answer to that burning question.”
Confused but intrigued, Maester Lewis undid the binding that held the letters together, and thanked the gods this lady had the courtesy to keep them in chronological order. As he continued to read letter after letter, his hands began to tremble, and he felt a rush unlike any he had seen on the battlefield. There before him were the answers to this mystery; signed, sigiled, and sealed by one of the perpetrators.
“But why?” he asked aloud, only to realize that his study was empty, save himself. He just about knocked over anything not made of solid stone in the rush to get to his writing desk.
The sun crept into the throne room and glistened off the shining armor of the king’s steamguards. The black and white valve that was emblazoned on the armor’s chest looked stoic and majestic. King Gaben sat in the throne room with his council, and he couldn’t help but be pleased. The summer had produced a bountiful harvest of sales and made the capital rich, and the major tournaments that were held were drawing thousands of spectators.
For the kingdom that Gaben ruled, Counter-Strike had become more than just a game. To some, it was a way of living, with some ascending near to the standing of legendary. As it continued to grow, Gaben wished with his heart that maybe a Northern house would win one of his major tournaments. If only…
His thoughts were interrupted by the tardy arrival of one of his councilmen, but the unmistakable look of urgency plagued the man’s face.
“My liege, Maester Lewis has requested to speak with you. And he is joined by the master of the CEVO tournament grounds, and the leader of the loungemen that run the tournament wagers.”
An expert in whispers, an organizer of tournaments, and a master of gambling all seek an audience with the king. This will not bode well.
The summons was called almost instantaneously. Many lords and ladies crowded the throne room to hear the king’s decision. The tension in the room could be cut with an M9 bayonet. In front of the king stood seven men, four of which donned the red, white and black of iBUYPOWER.
The king stood.
“It has come to light that you seven who stand before me conspired to harm the integrity of our game of Counter-Strike, and reap the benefits for yourselves. Evidence has come forth to implicate the lot of you as traitors, as men who purposely lost to claim the rewards of bets placed against yourselves…”
As the king spoke, Maester Lewis took in the scene before him. Skadoodle still donned the IBP colors, but stood in the king’s court, not on trial. He refused any gold that came from that farce of a match. In the corner of the gallery, ShahZam looked nervous, darting his eyes back and forth between the king, those on trial, and Maester Lewis. The young Hiko, who was to be the newest up-and-coming fighter for iBUYPOWER, looked crushed.
Maester Lewis re-focused on the king when he raised his voice.
“Today, we construct two new pillars on which to continue building our way of life, and those pillars are integrity and fair play. And with that, I decree that the seven of you are banned indefinitely from the kingdom of Valve-halla, until a day that we may see fit to allow you to return.”
And the men of House iBUYPOWER departed quickly and quietly.
After a year’s banishment, many citizens called for an end to the uncertainty regarding the banishments. No one seemed to know what an indefinite ban meant. Surprisingly enough, it was Maester Lewis himself who spearheaded the movement for the king to make a decision. And make a decision, he did.
On the one year anniversary of the initial ban, King Gaben decreed that the seven who had been banished would remain as such, for life. Many of the banished sailed across the seas, seeking the riches of Twitch magic, and even continued to compete in tournaments outside of Valve-halla. Perhaps a day will come when the discussion will again be re-opened, but not for a while, I fear.
ShahZam, Skadoodle, and Hiko all found standing within great Northern houses, and continue to compete at a high level to this day.
But the North will never forget that day in August. They will never forget the Red Betting.
Do you think that the players in this situation will ever be unbanned? Let us know by commenting below or tweeting us @GAMURScom.
Original image credit: HBO. Photoshopped by Scott Robertson.