If you aren’t in the esports or MOBA scene, you may tune out regarding the abundance of drama, feuds, and backlash within the growing field. But after some mean-spirited conversation, the upcoming Chongqing Major for Dota 2 is under a magnifying class, with reported veiled threats coming from the tournament’s organizers. It may turn out to be the largest PR issue about a Major since the disastrous Shanghai 2016 Major.
Let’s roll the clock back and review the controversy. In early November, comLexity Gaming’s Rolen Andrei Gabriel “Skemberlu” Ong came under fire after a racist comment made in-game. During and official DreamLeague game in one of the Dota 2 Minors, Skem globally chatted “gl chingchong” to the opposing Chinese team. This prompted ire from the Chinese Dota 2 fans who called for Skem’s head.
Skem would eventually offer a quick apology for his comments:
I'd like to apologize for the language I used today during the dreamleague match. I understand that words have consequences and I have learned from my mistake. I am very sorry to anyone that was offended.
— Andrei (@skemdota2) November 1, 2018
However, his hosting team compLexity Gaming took it a step further, moving Skem off of the active roster and looking to rehome him completely.
Following this controversy, in a non-official game TNC Predator’s Carlo “Kuku” Palad offered a similar “wtf chigchong” to his opposing Chinese team.
Feeling pressure from Chinese Dota 2 fans — especially with a Major then-happening in Malaysia — Valve released a statement. Addressing the candor and growing racism concerns, they said:
Valve will not tolerate racist language between pro players in any form. We think it is really damaging to the entire Dota community whenever even a single professional player uses discriminatory language.
However, Valve did not take any direct action against either Kuku or Skem, letting the teams dole out any punishments accordingly.
And that brings us to earlier today. With the Chongqing Major rapidly approaching (coming January 19, 2019), TNC Predator reportedly talked with organizers of the event. And the conversation took a much more hostile tone than one would imagine:
3. The organizers will not be able to guarantee his safety should he attend
The organizers also informed us that neither TNC nor Kuku is banned from attending the Major.
— TNC Predator (@TNCPredator) December 2, 2018
In light of this, TNC has yet to decide whether we will continue playing in the event.
For now, we will be exploring all of our options.
We will update the community in the coming days about TNC's decision. Thank you.
— TNC Predator (@TNCPredator) December 2, 2018
You read that right, this is potentially a case of the organizers indirectly threatening to cancel the Major and Skem’s safety if they choose to attend. While not stated, it is implied that Kuku will be held under the same scrutiny.
While this is only coming out within the day, members of the Dota 2 community are already coming to their defense. Grant “GranDGranT” Harris, and up and coming caster in the NA Dota 2 community, is taking a stand by refusing to cast the Major.
If kuku isn’t allowed to play at the major I refuse to cast officially for the major , we all make mistakes and 1 mistake should not forbid you from playing at a tournament that potentially decides your whole career
— Grant Harris (@GranDGranT) December 2, 2018
But the biggest backlash seems to be from supporters in the community or the greater Dota 2 sphere — not official backing from teams:
Wow this is so brave of you. Thanks for being a hero G
— Peter Dager (@Peterpandam) December 2, 2018
The way it's looking, Chongqing Major is going to be casted in the West by English speaking Chinese personalities or D-list caster scabs. Hoo baby this is gonna be a shit show one way or another 👀👀👀
— Wicked (@Wickedscosplay) December 2, 2018
— angeline bringas (@xAngeLili) December 2, 2018
The obvious question to be answered is “Why isn’t either Valve or Dota 2 esports teams making statements on this?”
The answer for both is easy to pinpoint, but definitely highlights the sore state of the industry. On one end, China still remains a major market — a big reason that developers and publishers will kowtow to standards that are far different from the zeitgeist of the industry at large. This may be as simple as not cracking down on hostile language of event organizers, or changing major elements of games altogether to keep games in a market.
Meanwhile, esports teams and organizations — especially in the Dota 2 community must be wary about their statements. The International 2019, Dota 2 and one of esports’ largest tournaments, is being held in Shanghai this year. The Chinese government are trigger happy when it comes to banning travel, so any team who speaks publicly against the Chongqing Major may find themselves out of a profession for an entire year.
While this fiasco all stems from controversial players, Valve will need to navigate an increasingly tight situation. It appears that the Chinese region is able to run roughshod over Dota 2 teams and the company itself, and the community isn’t partial of people’s safety being threatened. Meanwhile, the esports industry should really be evaluating how permissive they want to be with governments restricting their organizations.