The most dominant team in Call of Duty history will be making their first roster change in over 20 months. Damon “Karma” Barlow is leaving the dominant Evil Geniuses after clashing with the team over missing a major event for the birth of his daughter.
I don’t want to be on this team. I was going to be dropped for not going to ESL due to not wanting to miss my daughters birth
— Damon B (@EGDKarma) August 26, 2014
Barlow continued: “… and in return nothing will ever be the same and I won’t play with this team. It’s more of a respect thing and I’m not comfortable going into the future. So merry fucking christmas. Hope you all understand.”
The Electronic Sports League (ESL) event Barlow refers to was Gamescom, where a number of top professional Call of Duty teams were invited to participate in the multiplayer reveal of the next title in the series, Advanced Warfare. The event ran from Aug. 13 to 17. Barlow’s child, Isabella Rose Barlow, was born on Aug. 15.
It’s rare for an esports professional to have a child during their playing careers–a major real life event with massive implications in a field largely dominated by immature kids.
@EGDKarma well it was more like we needed a decision to find someone for the next couple of events of ghosts. Let’s talk please.
— Tyler Polchow (@EGTeeP) August 27, 2014
The rest of Evil Geniuses reportedly felt like they needed someone to fill in for Barlow while he spent time with his child. The two parties did talk things over, with Barlow saying there were “no hard feelings.” Though the row was apparently based off a misunderstanding, the damage is already done. Barlow is off the team.
Part of the Evil Geniuses’ success has come from keeping the core of its lineup together for so long. Price, Polchow, and Ian “Crimsix” Porter have been winning tournaments together since 2012. Barlow first played for the Evil Genius lineup in January of 2014, with the team under the Complexity banner at the time. It’s been over 20 months since Call of Duty’s best team last shifted their roster. But over the past two months, their usually dominant form has slipped.
The first live event they failed to win with Barlow in the lineup was the X Games Invitational in June, where the team placed third. Evil Geniuses recovered to win MLG Anaheim. But then the Gfinity 3 tournament at the start of August in London could be called a disaster by their standards—the team placed outside the top four for the first time since the 2012 release of Call of Duty: Black Ops 2.
Perhaps Barlow missing practice time to be with his child hurt the team’s results. Or maybe, as he implies, the pressure put on him to keep his roster spot hurt his play.
Try playing for the last month or so with that in the back of your head.
— Damon B (@EGDKarma) August 26, 2014
The warning signs were there. Evil Geniuses is only 5-7 in the Major League Gaming Call of Duty League, struggling since the start of the season. While online results matter little compared to live play, those results were seemingly a sign of things to come.
The future for both parties remains unclear. Fan speculation places Barlow as a top candidate to join the Optic organization, whether as a top shooting role player for the Optic Gaming team or a much needed slayer for the teamwork oriented Optic Nation. Evil Geniuses’ captain Price claims they’ve already found a fourth, but has yet to reveal just who.
MLG’s strict roster rules may limit the potential roster scenarios for Evil Geniuses and Barlow, but the potential for some wild transfers is there.
For those asking, season 3 trade deadline is September 19th
— Adam Apicella (@MrAdamAp) August 27, 2014
Whatever happens, it’s a safe bet that Evil Geniuses will still be the top team, even after their Gfinity result. Barlow was the fourth player to fill the lineup spot next to Price, Polchow, and Porter, and they’ve always managed to win.