Jun 3 2015 - 9:29 pm

Why Riot Games' raison d'être damages their reputation

In light of the most recent "Competitive Ruling" done by Riot Games, I felt the urge to write an article about Riot Games themselves and how they handle their workers (and even their players).
Dot Esports

In light of the most recent "Competitive Ruling" done by Riot Games, I felt the urge to write an article about Riot Games themselves and how they handle their workers (and even their players). Since from what I've seen so far they want to emulate the American judicial system to anyone working under them. And how the only way for them to become truly righteous is by taking a stand similar to FIFAs (or what FIFA is meant to be).

According to the ruling, Karl "Dentist Krey claimed that Martin "Deficio" Linge was charged with leaking ingame strategy to Copenhagen Wolves' opponent on W1D1 of EULCS, SK Gaming. This by itself doesn't mean much. Linge could've just been discussing general strategy with members across the teams in the LCS because he loves the strategical aspect of the game (like color casters ought to). What complicates this matter is the part where Krey is concerned.

"During the course of this investigation, we were made aware that Copenhagen Wolves had offered Deficio a management position to join the organization at the conclusion of the 2015 season"

Well, doesn't that look fishy? From the looks of things, Krey decided to take advantage of Linge's passion for the game by reaching Riot and telling them Linge shared Copenhagen Wolves' strategies with SK Gaming, effectively creating mistrust from CW towards Linge and raising his chances at keeping his job. Ultimately it was disproved by Riot's amazing detectives that as much as us plebeans know may as well be made up by Whalen "Riot Magus" Rozelle and Dustin "Redbeard" Beck. But that is irrelevant for now.

Besides Krey's easily assumed intent with his claim, there's the conflict of interests among Riot Games, Copenhagen Wolves, and Martin Linge. Riot wants to keep a popular member of their casting crew of which there's such a small quantity of. There aren't many male color casters in League of Legends, which is why until Mitch "Krepo" Voorspoels recently signed as a color caster for them there was only Linge as their sole color caster, often casting all 10 games of each week. I speak of male color casters because it's a well known fact that esports companies don't want female casters (I know for a fact that ESL has refused signing women for casting positions in the past, with Pansy being the most recent exception), just like they aren't fond of male hosts (with Riot Dash being the recent exception). Copenhagen Wolves, on the other hand, seem to be actively trying to make their team more competitive, for once, instead of rejoicing in mediocrity. As for Linge's interests we can't assume anything aside from there being some part of him that was interested in going back to coaching at the end of the season.

According to Riot, apparently only the players in the LCS can be poached (because they clearly don't care enough about the Challenger Series except for creating underdog storylines for the LCS), so they can't fine CW for poaching a member of their own. So how do they make it so that he won't leave their staff? They ban him from being a Head Coach or Player for an LCS team until the end of Season 2016. Granted, he can still work for teams in the CS to full capacities and/or work for LCS teams, but he can't be acknowledged by Riot and, as such, can't earn a salary from them. And well, CW doesn't have a rich owner like some of the upcoming teams in the NACS, so the chances of him leaving Riot in the next year and a half are fairly slim. I mean, why be a coach if you can't walk on stage in a suit or even go backstage to talk to players before games, huh?

On top of that sentence, both Linge and Krey were suspended for 2 weeks. Krey, in his case, for repeatedly lying and changing his version of the story. Now, tell me why this one doesn't get the stronger penalty? Linge did nothing wrong, he simply discussed a job offer within the last 6 months of his contract. Krey deliberately made up a story in order to try to save his job. Yet they both get suspended for the same amount of time, with Linge getting a ban on top just so they can keep him interested in working for them.

Linge promptly released a facebook post explaining his side of the situation which from what the public can tell it might as well have been written by Riot's PR Head, and later added that what people speculated about Riot forcing him to stay as a caster wasn't true. "Well, Linge is such a nice person on Riot's streams, he must be telling the truth on an internet post." That gullibility is what made some people side with r/leagueoflegends' moderators during their falling out with Richard Lewis, and what makes people (yes, it's not just children, and the appearance of apps like Tinder has only made it easier) meet up with sex offenders that they meet online. Don't trust most people on the internet. Don't trust everything you're told on "official statements". Definitely don't trust everything you're told on "official statements" over the internet.

Whether it's true that Martin Linge wishes to stay as a caster with Riot, we'll actually probably never know. We might if, once his contract ends, he decides to part ways, no matter how much money is thrown at his face, and then publicly comes out and releases all the dirt on this subject and more. But not a lot of people enjoy burning bridges, and most prefer to hide and forget.

What all this scenario did for me, however, was further ciment my negative opinion on Riot, a company run by people that aren't transparent with where their priorities lie. I'm sure the company is great to work for as previously featured in Top 10s for best companies to work for, but the reality is that it's not a company that shows that they think ahead. Every important rule in the LCS rulebook is there because of a precedent. Every change in league/tournament format is there because they screw up by trying to come up with new ways of doing them, instead of using the existent ones that have taken even decades to perfect. All this is apparent even in how the company decides to run its game. Everything happens at a very sluggish rate with Riot Games. I could refer the replay system but that's too easy to do, so instead I point out how they hired "astralfoxy". astralfoxy was the creator of a largely superior ingame client for League of Legends than Riot's own. What happened to him? He got hired by Riot to work on a new client and was never heard from again. Bear in mind that the development of astralfoxy's client was nearing completion around 2 years ago (my memory fails me) and no new client has been seen since Riot picked him up. A similar case on the esports side of things is the acquirement of LPLen's rights to stream the League of Legends' Pro League (LPL - the Chinese version of LCS, created by the company that owns Riot Games, Tencent). 

Lastly, problems like these will only subside once Riot decides to back off from artificially growing its esport and allow organisations to organise their own leagues in North America and Europe. This kind of problem doesn't show up anywhere else in the big regions like Korea and China. Korea even has their own casters as they're experienced enough with Starcraft and Blizzard to know how dumb American companies can be - considering that Esports are a big thing over there, in contrast to over in the western world. We'll keep seeing problems with conflicts of interest and transparency issues as long as Riot runs both LCS leagues. No matter how many people think a player union will do the job, it won't. It will help to a certain point, yes. But then there will be clamour for a coach union and an analyst union and in the end everyone will want unions and yet keep being imprisoned by their employers. Riot wants to show transparency? Have someone else run their leagues similarly to how they co-ran the first EULCS with ESL, only this time leave ESL to run it instead of letting go of ESL once they learned what they had to learn from ESL. Until then we'll have Riot running their esport like an overprotective mother, where the child doesn't even know how to walk because she keeps holding it in her arms despite it being 5 years old already.

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