The Gonzo Awards 2014: The even worst of the worst
This article is an opinion piece and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Daily Dot.
Every year, I dish out my alternate awards, a testament to everything awful in esports and an antidote to all the saccharine feel-good, end-of-year lists you're used to. I've already given out one set of awards this year, with the Fnatic Counter-Strike team and Team SoloMid fanboys winning big. But there was so much more that was so very bad this year in esports. Here are the even worst of the worst. Congratulations on your success.
Most Pointless E-Drama Award
2011: Naniwa Probe Rush
2012: Not listed
2013: Not listed
DeMuslim Vs Major
It tells you all you need to know about this attempt at manufactured drama that because it fell so close to April Fool’s Day that no one believed it. Indeed, on the surface it seems like an in-joke made public, a meta-commentary about the fickle nature of the esports audience and trial by social media. Instead it was just one player being pushed to his mental limits and, not being a nice guy at heart, spurting out an unintentionally hilarious threat.
What followed was one of the craziest threats ever typed in esports history.
Juan Carlos "MajOr" Tena Lopez is known for infuriating his professional players behind the scenes. Whether it’s a stupid Skype question with an incredibly obvious answer at 4am, a request for help that is met with a complete lack of gratitude, or “banter” that quickly escalates into childish abuse after a game, the stories whispered about Lopez are numerous.
Ben “Demuslim” Baker found himself in one of these stories when, seemingly from nowhere, Lopez went on a diatribe about him on stream. He was branded cocky, arrogant, irrelevant and a bad player. Having always been friendly with him in the past, Baker confronted him about it and lost his usual cool. What followed was one of the craziest threats ever typed in esports history.
[11:13:40 a.m.] Benjamin James Baker: If I see you
[11:13:41 a.m.] Benjamin James Baker: In real life
[11:13:45 a.m.] Benjamin James Baker: I'm gonna beat the shit out of you
[11:14:00 a.m.] major: ROFL
[11:14:02 a.m.] major: try
[11:14:03 a.m.] major: just
[11:14:03 a.m.] major: try
[11:14:04 a.m.] major: and u see
[11:14:06 a.m.] major: what will happen
[11:14:17 a.m.] Benjamin James Baker: GONNA BEAT THE SHIT OUT OF YOU
[11:14:20 a.m.] Benjamin James Baker: WITH MY DICK
[11:14:22 a.m.] major: lol
[11:14:22 a.m.] Benjamin James Baker: ON YOUR FACE
The thought of someone trying to perpetrate a violent attack with their member should have been enough to defuse the situation amid much laughter. Instead, Lopez wrote to Evil Geniuses and demanded an apology. When that wasn’t forthcoming, presumably because they were too busy falling about laughing to type one, he decided to take his grievance to the Starcraft subreddit.
After posting an entire log of the conversation, he ended with: “as i said i didnt want to post this. but i emailed EG manager and he didnt reply to me with an apology and i am fearing for my life.” Yes, Baker’s penis is so large in comparison to the not exactly small Lopez that he feared for his life should it come crashing down on him. One can only imagine the resulting court case should Baker have gone ahead with his threat. “Prosecution, can you produce the murder weapon?” *unzips* “as you can see m’lud, it was the bulbous tip that caved in his skull.”
To make matters worse for Lopez, who was desperately seeking reprisals of any kind against Baker, he posted the thread on the March 31, making everyone think it was some sort of ill-advised April Fool’s joke. Esports isn’t exactly known for its restraint on that most sacred of days, with fans inundating forums with some of the shittest jokes outside of a Michael Mcintyre gig. “Today we announce that we have signed a water polo team in place of our League of Legends squad tee hee hee.”
In the end this attempt at manufactured drama stands not as a testament to the deadliness of Baker’s genitals but only to how pathetic some people in esports can be.
Worst Event of the Year
2013: HoN World Tour Finals
ESWCWorking as an esports journalist is a lot like being Dante Alighieri traveling through his Divine Comedy. You spend your formative years grubbing around in Hell, listening to some old know-it-all who leads you through the mind-warping landscape. After experiencing the worst it has to offer, you find yourself in purgatory, treading water with a meager income, trapped in an existential crisis that seems inescapable. If you quit, you walked through Hell for nothing—yet to stay where you are is barely existence at all. Then, finally, paradise.
After an eternity you are shown the wonders and wealth of becoming part of the esports elite and you realize now that it was all part of a divine plan after all. Ascended to a higher plane of existence all that remains for you to do is to occasionally descend from the clouds to use social media, to remind those on their own journey of such fundamental truths as “if you’re good enough you will succeed” and “there is no such thing as an old boy’s club.”
If you quit, you walked through Hell for nothing—yet to stay where you are is barely existence at all.
Back to Hell for a moment. Each ring of hell represents a type of an event, each one more terrible than the last. The first is the “delayed event,” those oblivious to the importance of timekeeping for competitors and media. The second is the “terrible admin event,” where every decision made seems to undermine the whole point of the competition. By the time you’ve gone past the ring of “the event with disappearing prize money” you are deep into the horror, so much so you can’t remember a time when you didn’t see flames. There, lurking at the centre, crafted by the great betrayer himself, is one of the very final rings. “ESWC.”
The so-called Electronic Sports World Cup never ceases to disappoint, everything about the event poorly organized, slipshod, and an affront to what esports should be. Were you there when they took away free water, a right afforded even people in Guantánamo Bay, from the media? Were you there when they announced, still, that there’d be no player’s area? Did you witness the forced player press conferences that waste everyone’s time in producing uniform content? Are you confused as to why they aren’t even showing the important games on that giant stage they have? Don’t worry if those things are on your mind… Here’s some scantily clad dancing girls to take your mind off things. Yes this is the “World Cup” of gaming, lacking all of the spectacle and grandeur of the footballing event of the same name, but somehow managing to have all the incompetence of UEFA.
This year managed to underwhelm once again and, not only that, it even fucked over the talent that chose to support it. Whether it was CS:GO casters Semmler and Anders being thrown on air without being told by the production time—a hot mic being potentially career-ending in esports—or inexplicable scheduling, everyone was left asking “what is going on” from start to finish.
It even fucked over the talent that chose to support it.
To boot, spare a special thought for Julia "Miss Rage" Kreuzer, who they hired as a host, being suddenly told to commentate on CS:GO, something she had never done before. ESWC was convinced it would be TV gold. The broadcast was uncomfortable and far from fun, even more so when the community started attacking Kreuzer in a typically vicious fashion. In subsequent interviews, she described it as “embarrassment” but that label should absolutely not be applied to her.
It was the final step for ESWC in a lot of ways. Those who work the events know first-hand how thoroughly unpleasant they are. Usually though none of that translates to the people at home. This time they broke that fourth wall with a wrecking ball.
Wasted Opportunity of the Year
2010: Robert “TORNADOTONI” Radosevic
2011: Heroes of Newerth
2012: Not Listed
2013: Blizzard’s WCS
I am loath to report any more on ESGN. It remains one of the greatest esports stories ever told and I spent much of 2014 lifting my jaw from the floor to type or record another entry in their spectacular crash and burn. With what seemed an endless stream of money from the privately owned Principal Investment holding company Sapinda, who make billions on their petro-chemical holdings, the company went hog wild when it came to spending. The excess was incredible as they spent money left and right as to announce their arrival. Private chartered flights, free bars, private business meetings in “glamorous locations” and a mass recruitment drive made them look the part early on.
The problem? Sapinda explaining to them that there is no such thing as an endless stream of money after they burned through their six month investment fund before they even established a foothold in the landscape.
The people affected will find little to laugh about.
As their backers questioned the competence of the people that had masterminded such insane expenditure, the money faucet was clamped and cost-cutting exercises deployed. As the last of the money slowly petered out, many of the staff were offered “gardening leave” as they awaited backdated payments. It was an appropriate term, as many had to turn to mowing lawns in exchange for money to make ends meet.
Then one day, they were told to return all their equipment and that it was over. The extravagant studio was shut down. The people locked into tenancy agreements in Germany, with no means to pay the bills, were left with little more than a terse apology email and a bunch of people telling you “I told you so.”
There were lessons to be learned from it of course. First and foremost it shows again that esports isn’t an industry where you can just buy success and relevance. Second, it shows that stories that would be considered shocking in the mainstream sports world are actually becoming blasé in our industry, just one cash-burn after another, the people responsible for them usually failing upwards while the rest of us are left asking the right questions with no-one left to answer them. Third, and most crucially, it shows that we are not out of the woods yet, that there is no such thing as “too big to fail” in a fledgling industry that needs to retain its experience if it is ever to truly achieve its limitless potential.
When that day comes ESGN, like so many others before it, will be a comical footnote. In the here and now though, the people affected will find little to laugh about.
Most Shameless Cash GrabNew Award
Harold Goldberg: The League of Legends ExperienceWhen Harold Goldberg’s Playboy article about League of Legends was published, the scene went into a frenzy. It meant that finally we were on the map, they said. Every thread, every comment, every Tweet, had become part of a FOX News-style false narrative: repeat it often enough and it must be true. People proclaimed it was the greatest article ever written in the history of esports and we must have more if we are ever to become legitimate. This faulty logic mostly ignored the cold hard reality that the only reason Playboy was touching it was because esports was legitimate after all. Still, for many of the players it was a huge victory (cheap joke incoming)—after all, seeing their game in the pages of Playboy was the closest they were ever likely to get near the female form.
Over the coming weeks, everyone started talking about Goldberg as if he were some sort of resurrected Hemingway figure, penning “Death In The LAN Cafe” between being black-out drunk on red wine. In reality, this is the author of a single book about gaming, “All Your Base Are Belong to Us.” Apart from having a title that is so culturally outdated the cover may as well have been “goatse.cx,” this proclaimed masterpiece contains so many glaring factual errors about gaming it’s hard to even believe the shtick about the author being a long-time gamer. He wrongly refers to Pong as the first arcade game. It was Computer Space—a fact that he then goes on to acknowledge only a page after stating the contrary.
Still, with everyone fawning over the new darling of esports, because we simply love it when someone new suddenly starts treating us all like we’re vaguely human, Goldberg struck upon a plan to make a cheap buck through everyone’s favorite scam conduit Kickstarter. He fell so in love with the game and the scene that he decided he wanted to crowdfund an interactive digital comicbook or something else similarly wanky. Seeing the millions of Western kids with a disposable income courtesy of their parent's allowance shining in the distance like a silver dollar at the bottom of a murky wishing well, he set his highest target for the project at $108,000.
There were many people championing the Kickstarter publicly, trying to justify the vast expenditure being asked. Many of these were to be featured in later chapters if the goals were met. The stretch goals were all transparently repellant. Touting his work like he was on the home shopping network, Goldberg offered to release interviews with players he’d already done for the low, low price of $74,000. Can you feel that love that he feels for you deep in your heart/wallet? The rewards for backers were similarly bizarre. For $200 you could Skype with him for half-an-hour. For $250 you get a full hour. I thought about chipping in for that myself, mainly to tell him exactly what I thought of him.
In the end despite the bluff and bluster he raised a comparatively meager $6,802, limping past his $5,000 minimum goal. Great news for the community. Maybe we will start to have a bit more self-confidence as a collective in 2015 and move past this trend of wanting to pay “legitimate” people to learn about esports, instead of rewarding those who have been here all along.
Update 9:23am, Oct. 16: A reference to the U.K. listing of Goldberg's book has been removed. The vast majority of reviews are on the site's main listing for the book.
Illustration by Max Fleishman