eSports, grow up

Let's say you're really into football. Let's say you're so into football that you'd rather, I don't know, watch this week's game than attend the birth of your first child. Now, imagine your favorite team--which performed quite well last season--is gearing up for a new year of competitive play. Only, right before the season starts, the NFL suddenly announces that your team has been disqualified and won't be competing this year at all, because WHOOPS, the team's manager didn't fill out the necessary roster paperwork by his, ahem, third deadline extension. Such is the case for Lemondogs, a World Championship-contending (err, ex-World Championship-contending) League of Legends team whose story is but one instance of the negligence proliferating the eSports scene.

Lemondogs' tale, as reported by OnGamers, is tragic. The team was a new yet dominant addition to the competitive scene in 2013, and was successful enough in tournament play to earn a spot in the 2014 League Championship Series (LoL's equivalent of the NFL). Suddenly, the majority of the Lemondogs roster bailed before the upcoming season had begun (bad management, perhaps?), so a new team had to be established and registered. Here's where things get a bit tricky--I'm going to give it to you fast and dirty, because it's not the point of this article.

In short, all the Lemondogs team members that peaced out joined a new team--one that didn't have a spot in the big leagues, but wanted one. Their solution? To purchase the now-fucked Lemondogs team; with rights obtained, they wagered, they could essentially buy their way into the LCS. Except Riot Games, the creator and driving force behind LoL, wisened up to these plans, and instituted new rules that stopped the plot before it could be hatched. Which, by the way, meant Lemondogs' owner Daniel Aicardi had to fill a team roster and submit the necessary registration paperwork by a certain deadline. In the end, he did submit the necessary paperwork--a mere two minutes before his deadline. And, of course, it wasn't complete by any stretch of the imagination, so now Lemondogs is out of the LCS.

Aicardi's story, while not common, is certainly not an isolated occurrence. Take, for instance, the inept behavior of Simon Boudreault. This young Quebecian used his inheritance money to buy a League of Legends team. By which I mean, he used every cent he had to put together a semi-decent roster, one that unfortunately lost its qualification series to get into the LCS. Following that defeat, he Tweeted one last message: "Hopes got crushed. Broken Dreams & what ever." Boudreault has since gone missing--oh, and he owes his team thousands of dollars in compensation (money they'll likely never see).

What we're seeing here is childish, immature, and flat-out unprofessional behavior from eSports management. And when you have that kind of thing at the top, it bleeds down to the rank-and-file. Take Russian pro LoL player Alex Ich, who, during a postgame interview in front of hundreds of thousands of viewers, proceeded to explain that he got "raped" in a match. Or how about StarCraft II player Greg "IdrA" Field, who publicly denounced his fans as "a bunch of fucks" before following that statement with an equally tasteful one: "It just so happens I get paid to treat you like it. It's fucking awesome." He was kicked off his pro team as a result.

Look, I love eSports. I want it to grow. I want to sit down on Friday nights and be sure that my favorite team is going to be on Twitch, playing. And if eSports are going to get to that point, then they need to get their shit together. And if they don't, what's next? Illegal dog fighting rings? Friendships with despots? I mean, it's as if…

Oh fuck. eSports is on its way to becoming a "real" sport, isn't it?

Ryan Taljonick

Ryan was once the Executive Editor of GamesRadar, before moving into the world of games development. He worked as a Brand Manager at EA, and then at Bethesda Softworks, before moving to 2K. He briefly went back to EA and is now the Director of Global Marketing Strategy at 2K.