Compared to traditional sports fans and audience, eSports audience is younger, larger, and growing constantly. Nowadays, real sports teams are getting involved in eSports. For example, the current NBA champions Golden State Warriors, as well as the MLB’s New York Yankees, are sponsoring individual players and professional gaming teams. Professional gaming is becoming more and more mainstream, so the players are more and more scrutinized. They do not look only for themselves. They often have big endorsements and are brand ambassadors for their sponsors, and goodwill ambassadors for the overall legitimacy of eSports.
Every now and then, a controversial story shows up about a pro gamer. Following are several stories of pro gamers who went big but could not handle it. Some of them wished to earn more money, others of abused their fame and influence, while several chose poor behavior in the heat of the moment while steaming. Regardless of what stopped them for becoming even more famous, all of the following gamers flew too close to the sun and got burnt.
Multiple organizations caught Sonic and Ax.Mo
Match fixing is a practice in many sports, traditional and eSports. This is basically intentionally losing games for personal profit, and many have tried to make money doing it in the competitive world. Valve’s popular MOBA game Dota 2 has many examples of this. The best examples are Leonid “Sonic” Kuzmenkov and Dmitri “Ax.Mo” Morozov, who played for Team Dx. After a while, some strange betting activity caught the attention of several oversight committees overlooking the World Cyber Arena qualifier in 2017. The eSports Observer, the eSports Integrity Coalition (ESIC), Uprise Champions Cup, and a sports data company Sportsradar all investigated the two players. They concluded that they influenced the matches for the purposes of betting. The two players were banned for two year from competitive Dota 2 play.
“It is always depressing to see young eSports athletes succumb to the temptations that match fixing presents, but I remain hopeful that this decision will send a powerful deterrent message to eSports athletes,” said ESIC commissioner Ian Smith.
sAviOr dealt a huge blow to Korean eSports
Ma “sAviOr” Jae Yoon is one of the best players of StarCraft: Brood War, but he is also one of the most villainous. He used to be a ringleader of one of the most infamous eSports scandals, the Brood War match-fixing ring in Korea in 2009. Ma was a mediator for professional gamers and the mob, by using his connections on the Korea’s Brood War. This was all for the purposes of bribing pro gamers to intentionally lose. These developments rocked the Korean eSports scene. sAviOr moved to China since then, to try and revive his career. Korea eSports Association (KESPA) asked Blizzard in 2013 to ban him worldwide. This is the story behind the case. A gaming academy owner, a professional soccer player, and a mobster all approached Ma with a deal in mind. They wanted him to use his connections to professional Brood War players and offer them from 2-6 million won (around $2000-$6000) to intentionally lose matches that they were favored to win. Ma was paid to approach them and had an overall percentage. He was caught, arrested, and banned from competitive gaming by KESPA for life. He was stripped of all of his titles and awards, and KESPA told Blizzard that his actions “left a big damage on the gaming industry [in Korea].”
Billy Mitchell cannot be the “King of Kong” anymore
Many consider Billy Mitchell, the only name known outside of the world of gaming, the first person to have a career from playing video games. The Washington Post noted that people called him the “video game player of the century.” He became even more mainstream because of the 2007 documentary The King of Kong: aloof, arrogant, underhanded, and out of touch.
Mitchell achieved fame thanks to his great skill at the arcade game Donkey Kong. In February of 2018, a post on Donkey Kong Forum, it was explained that Mitchell’s best scores were accomplished on an emulated MAME version of the popular game, and not the original arcade hardware. Although something like this might seem insignificant, it is a huge deal in the community. Polygon wrote that Twin Galaxies banned him for life because he had lied about his scores. They are associated with the Guinness Book of World Records, and are in charge for video game records.
MsSpyte moved on in life
Not all of the gamers stop playing because of something wrong and/or illegal. Coryn “MsSpyte” Briere achieved the rank of Grandmaster in StarCraft, meaning she belonged to the top percentile of all the players. She had steady streaming schedule and thousands of fans. The player was even invited to join the ROOT eSports organization, after which she moved to the team house to tackle the next chapter in her eSports career. However, she decided to walk away after only three months. She now works in art and marketing. In a book Good Luck Have Fun: The Rise of Pro Gaming, written by Roland Li, it is said that she walked away from the ROOT organization because of burnout. She talked about the decision, as well as the stress that life brings along, saying, “Playing [on that level] is not an enjoyable thing. If you’re losing you’re unhappy and if you’re winning you’re content. You’re never just like, happy.” She sometimes still streams her playtime. Her decision does seem like the right move for her.
Hai Lam suffered a career ending injury
In April of 2015, the professional eSports team Cloud 9 was at its highest. They came in second at the North America League of Legends Championship Series. Their mid-lane and team captain Hai Lam was leading the charge. However, an injury occurred in the worst time possible. If you believe that an injury cannot stop an eSports player and that it is a mishap reserved for traditional sports, you are wrong. Hai had to retire at only 22, because of a debilitating injury to his writs. “My wrist injury is something that I simply cannot ignore. It limits my ability to play as much as I need to and my ability to improve.” However, as he was the founding member of the team, he moved to a management role, a great way to stay in the field and help his team.
Burns decided to chase a more certain future
Matthew “Burns” Potthoff was a 13 years old when he started to compete in Call of Duty tournaments back in 2005. He was already good enough to defeat much older opponents. He quickly became a professional CoD player, and competed for some of the most famous eSports teams, including Team Curse, Cloud9, and Team Liquid. However, after some ten years of professional gaming, he had enough. He walked away due to career uncertainty. He currently works in a managerial role in the professional gaming industry. Although Potthoff was a strong CoD player, the cutthroat and uncertain nature of that life caused him to reevaluate his role and walk away for good. Now at 26, he is part of the managerial staff of eUnited. He works with the development of young talent and helps them find balance in life while living as professional gamers.
Life found the wrong way
He is one of the highest profile players on this list. Lee “Life” Seung-hyun has a shockingly similar story to Ma “sAviOr” Jae Yoon. As a Korean wunderkind in the StarCraft II world, he was “the best StarCraft II talent of his generation”. ESPN said that he is widely seen as one of the best, if not the best Zerg player to ever play the popular strategy game by Blizzard Entertainment. At 15, he won the Global StarCraft League Championship in 2012, by going on a tear and destroying legends and records.
At nineteen however, he was arrested by the Korean sports authorities for participating in gambling and match fixing. He was banned for life. It was discovered that he has a serious gambling addiction. The young gamer was convicted for fixing two matches that he intentionally lost. He gained 70 million won (about $62,000 USD) for them.
Locodoco made an inappropriate remark at the wrong place, at the wrong time
It is not completely clear what happened in this one. It also shows how far eSports have come since their early “wild west” days. ESPN reported that Choi “Locodoco” Yoon-seop, who was the coach of the www.espn.com/ team, was fired from his position only two weeks after the LoL season began. The team was not performing very well. Later however, it was revealed that Choi made an inappropriate comment to one of the female employees of Riot Games, the developer who made League of Legends. The sponsor of the team were none other than the current NBA champions the Golden State Warriors. They exercised their zero tolerance policy on the matter. Choi was to do a pre-match interview when he made the faithful comment, for which he later apologized. He said that it was a personal story that was not s*xual in nature but “totally inappropriate” for that setting. He added that it could “remotely be construed or interpreted as sexual harassment.”
Vasilii streamed committing assault while supposedly committing assault
This is an ugly one. Li Wei Jun, known in the gaming world as “Vasilii”, was a regular Twitch streamer of League of Legends, and had a contract with a Chinese team Newbee. All of this came crashing down when he was streaming one evening. He became irate in the meantime and attacked his girlfriend while his webcam and microphone broadcasted the incident. One Reddit translation of the incident describes that Li’s girlfriend told him not to let toxic chatters get the best of him. She also offered him some advice to release the stress. Li responded by flipping his entire desk over, while the sounds of violence and breaking objects roar in the back. The two screamed at each another. She reportedly yells in the video, “You’re beating me for this?” After this, Li went back to his computer and continued to stream. The police later came to his apartment and brought him to the station. Newbee quickly let him go, while his girlfriend claimed that he only broke objects in the room, and that he did not actually hit her.
Dellor went into a live, thirty-second racist rant while streaming
Vaughn used to be a professional Overwatch player for the Toronto eSports. He streamed on Twitch regularly where he showed off his skills and connected with his large audience. In one of the streams however, Vaughn ran across an opposing Widowmaker and was convinced the player was cheating. While streaming live, Vaughn snapped. One fan captured a video where Vaughn screams about his opponent’s skills and repeats the n-word for thirty seconds. Vaughn later issued an apology, saying that he was tired and angry, so he wanted to say the most offensive and shocking things possible. Toronto eSports ended the partnership immediately. Vaughn claimed that he was done with eSports and that he “won’t be returning”. However, he still has a rather average presence on Twitter and Twitch.