In an important match between the two top teams in Europe yesterday, Aatrox was used by Gambit to gain an unfair advantage over SK Gaming. There’s no evidence Gambit knew about the issue before the match began.
Aatrox’s behavior was noticeably buggy. The top laner is a tanky initiator who can regenerate health. One of his abilities allows him to gain health on every third strike. But yesterday, under the controls of Gambit Gaming’s Evgeny “Darien” Mazaev, the champion seemed a bit more powerful than usual. Under closer examination, it appears that his ability was triggered after every two attacks, rather than three.
You can count the hits yourself. Mazaev’s faster heals contributed a lot towards his ability to stay in the fight. While it wasn’t the only reason Gambit ended up handily winning the game, it definitely helped.
Gambit’s opponents, SK Gaming, even paused the game to point out the bug. In this instance, with the bug so apparent, SK could’ve called for a rematch. But, in another breakdown of the system, the team wasn’t aware this was an option. And the referee didn’t ask them directly if they wanted one.
Gambit’s team captain, Aleksei Ichetovkin, took to Facebook to address the issue:
“We didn’t even know that there was a bug ourself until we have read it on Reddit… We are ready to play the rematch and will try our best to win the game again.”
Riot’s response seeks to resolve both issues. First, they are making clear that teams in this situation can call for a remake of the game. Secondly, they removed Aatrox from the list of available champions to the pro players. This response, less than 24 hours after the issue, is a clear message to the fans of the game—bugs will be dealt with swiftly.
When something goes wrong in a traditional sports match, there’s often not a lot that the officials can do. Perhaps the best most-recent example can be found in the USA-Russia men’s hockey match at the Olympics. With less than five minutes left in the game, Team Russia made a brilliant play and sunk a goal in the net to break the 2-2 tie. But upon video replay, the goal had been moved a bit off its mark by the US goalie. The rules are inflexible—if the net isn’t in place, it’s not a goal.
The ruling caused outrage, especially in Russia, even after the International Ice Hockey Federation confirmed it. But what could the fans do? Team USA went on to win the game in the final shootout.
And what about farther-reaching rules? Or, perhaps, rules that the league should never have made in the first place. The NFL’s infamous Tuck Rule, for example, maintained for fourteen years that a quarterback’s throwing motion was a pass, regardless of whether they lost control of the ball while attempting to tuck the ball and run with it. The NFL finally “patched” out the rule last year, with a 29-1 vote.
Esports have a chance to be more flexible, both because the industry is new, and because it has a chance to revisit these issues in an entirely digital environment. There’s only so much time and money that can be invested into better hockey net technology, making that problem essentially a permanent part of the game. Riot can just ban a buggy champion outright.
Now, both teams prepare for another matchup today at around 4pm ET. It’s a big match—both teams are tied in first place, but Alliance and Fnatic are just one game behind them.