As recently as four days ago, in the wake of a series of tweets aimed at various members of the TSM organization, I professed the opinion that OnGamers needs to part ways with the divisive Duncan “Thorin “Shields. Now that it’s happened, I feel a profound sense of loss and regret. In my mind, Thorin is the best eSports Journalist in the West. You have only to look at his recent piece about Alex Ich to see the quality, and depth of the content he released every single day. More importantly, you can see the passion. This is a man who cares deeply for eSports, and has near unparalled knowledge of its history. It’s fitting that his Twitter Bio lists eSports Historian as his primary career for over a decade. Over the course of that career, he’s written histories of, and tributes to a vast number of Players, Teams and Organizations. When he wasn’t keeping the history books, his original content was among the most creative you could find. He’s been at the forefront of a new wave of advanced eSports statistics that go far beyond the traditional KDA, and accrued resources to take a deeper look at a player’s real value. His web casts (such as Summoner’s Insight, Grilled and Reflections) gave fans their first honest look into the thoughts and minds of eSports Players and Professionals with refreshing, if somewhat blunt, honesty.
As a person, Thorin has been tragically misjudged. To be frank, when you care deeply for something, it’s hard to see it go to ****. Nobody will ever question the depth of Thorin’s love for eSports. Thorin can be brutally honest when assessing a player’s worthiness to compete, but he is equally passionate when it comes to defending those he feels represent the community in a positive way, and have the skill to succeed. He will doggedly defend a player he believes has been undervalued, even if he is the only man standing in a crowded room of pundits. There have been times where Thorin has made mistakes, but he’s shown time and time again that he is willing to own up to those mistakes when it comes to people he respects.
Thorin has had a tough job. eSports is not an industry that appreciates the harsh truth. Casters look for any reason to say something good about a player no matter how poorly they are performing, while players prop up their fellows with empty praise. As a fan, I often feel like my intelligence is being insulted. I am not a pro gamer, but I know enough to know that 0/8 is not a good performance, and that “hanging in there” is a pretty back-handed compliment. Thorin has stood as a bastion of sorely needed honesty, and for that, he has had hatred rained down upon him like ash in the wake of a volcanic eruption. I have been no small contributor to this firestorm, and for my part, I deeply regret my rush to judgement of a person whose importance to the scene cannot be understated.
I am an English Major by trade, and have dabbled in writing about League of Legends for a few years now, with these pieces mostly consisting of self posts on Reddit until very recently. Some have been successful enough to hit the top of the front page, some have been downvoted into oblivion. I am not an eSports Journalist. I lack the professional experience, resources, and connections of a man as well known and skilled as Thorin. As a writer, I have the utmost respect for Thorin and his numerous contributions to the community. When I read his work, I often question whether my own is worthy of sharing the same internet space. Such is his talent. The quality of his work has set an astonishingly high bar of excellence, and remains the standard for those of us chasing the dream. In essence, Thorin is the epitome of what writers like me want to be, and the job he had until today is the dream.
Part of Thorin’s legacy will always be the occasional tendency to go a little too far. As part passionate fan, part eSports Journalist, it always seemed like he struggled to separate the two in his comments on players and teams. It’s significantly more difficult to do so when under a constant barrage of personal attacks from the community. And while Thorin himself would never say he’s entirely innocent, the over-reliance of eSports Journalism on Reddit and it’s pitch-fork mentality creates a difficult environment for the content creators to do their job when the fate of any given article is based entirely on whether the first few people to read like it.
We’ve all heard the saying “Be Careful what you wish for”. A few days ago, I wished for OnGamers to part ways with Thorin. I don’t think I fully grasped what that meant. Maybe I assumed there would be a place for him to go. Some other company willing to take in the brash genius. Maybe I let myself get caught up in the Reddit hate train. Either way, I had forgotten why Thorin is so important. As big as eSports has gotten, mainstream news coverage is still years away. The list of websites that can afford to pay Thorin what he is worth is a list of one. We’ve been relying on the Thorin’s and the Richard Lewis’s to pave the way for the future of eSports Journalism. Now Thorin is no longer employed by the one eSports news source that can afford to pay him, and the community has lost one of it’s very most important voices. You may not have always liked or agreed with what he said, but you always paid attention. Thorin is going to be sorely missed. I can only hope that he finds a place where he can continue producing some of the best eSports content you’ll find anywhere.