Richard Lewis: Gaules’ actions lead to harassment and it needs to stop - Dexerto
Opinion

Richard Lewis: Gaules’ actions lead to harassment and it needs to stop

Published: 12/Jul/2020 22:19 Updated: 8/Sep/2020 15:08

by Richard Lewis

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On June 22, while competing in the CS Summit Regional Qualifier, the Brazilian team MiBR lost a series 2-1 against up-and-coming North American team Chaos.

The tournament provided contributing points to the Regional Major Rankings that Valve will be using to qualify teams for the Rio Major, so the upstarts were without their veteran captain Joshua ‘Steel’ Nissan and had to use their stand-in player. Under these circumstances, it was an exceptional achievement, and it was one that was punctuated by an impressive performance by the 16-year-old American rookie Nathan ‘leaf’ Orf.

At this point in time, he joined several groups populated with rapidly growing numbers. First, he would enter into the club of players who have beaten this formerly legendary Brazilian core – which is not much of an accolade these days, if I’m honest. Secondly, he would also enter into Counter-Strike’s legion of young professionals accused of cheating by what I would call a bitter old guard, whose necessary competitive ego all too often manifests in the form of deluded arrogance. Finally, he would also become the latest player to be harassed by the Brazilian fandom after the scene’s prominent personalities have been critical of them on social media.

What had Orf actually done to warrant all this? It seems the cardinal sin was to have a good series against a Brazilian team. This led to the official Brazilian language broadcast partner, Alexandre ‘Gaules’ Borba, spending parts of the broadcast watching clips on air and openly saying that Orf had cheated. That then spilled over on to Twitter, where the captain of MiBR, Gabriel ‘FalleN’ Toledo, described the clips as containing “3 blatant aimlocks.” Within a few hours, Orf had deactivated his Twitter account due to the sheer volume of abuse and threats thrown his way by irate Brazilian fans.

Gaules talks to the camera
gaules, Instagram
Alexandre ‘gAuLeS’ Borba is a well-known CS:GO player and personality, whose Twitch streams are often used as the official Brazilian-language broadcast for CS:GO tournaments.

Before we get into the real problems, let’s put just how ridiculous this reaction was into the correct context. The idea that Chaos has come from nowhere is complete nonsense. Having cycled through players at a rate I’m sure they rather wouldn’t have, they’ve managed to find some diamonds in the rough and hold on to them. They are firmly the best second-tier team in North America, as evidenced by winning all three of the domestic leagues they competed in this year.

Equally true is the fact that MiBR are not the force they used to be. At the time of writing this, they are ranked 16th in the world. It was only a few months ago they were ranked 24th. This is a team that dropped maps against teams well outside the top 20 in the Flashpoint League – teams such as Havu and Orgless, the latter of whom knew they were a dead roster walking and spent their time playing Valorant. The top teams absolutely manhandle them these days, and they aren’t even the best team in Brazil anymore. The idea this roster couldn’t lose a close series to a team like Chaos is delusional.

Let’s also state plainly that the supposed “blatant” clips contain absolutely nothing conclusive and are little more than “huh” moments. I’ve read so much provable bullshit about the offending clips, it’s like my eyelids have been sewn to a steer’s arsehole. The claim there were near countless moments in this series, “more than some accused players had in their entire careers,” is the mantra of morons. There are exactly two worthy of discussion, and one of them is easily explainable. There was nothing in these clips remotely close to the highlights that occurred around the time of the non-event referred to as “The Vaccening” that birthed the inception of paranoia and conspiracy theories. Despite this, many people with a passing interest in esports seemed to want to throw away their credibility to pretend some great injustice had taken place.

We’ll put the loathsome behavior of the MiBR players and Borba to one side. Even the Brazilian media got in on the act. ESPN ran a report called, “Chaos players accused of cheating against MiBR and Team oNe,” (because Chaos only cheat against Brazlian teams, obviously) which even went on to add a strange implication that the tournament organizers were holding back releasing the demo. Needless to say, it was released in the usual timely fashion and is available on HLTV. Some conspiracy. Globo Esporte got in on the act too with a lurid headline – “Chaos plays against MiBR raise suspicions of cheating” – without adding that those suspicions were only circulated by idiots and those who collapse into gibbering hysterics every time a Brazilian team loses.

Having to speak about this once again places me in a mood without a word… It’s a blend of tedium, depression and anger. Some people on social media even tried to craft a narrative that no one has spoken out about young players being accused of cheats before, and that it was just an excuse to go after Brazilians because of some sort of secret prejudice we all hold. Of course, in reality, people spoke out against the North American players that accused Jake ‘Stewie2k’ Yip of cheating before he proved himself to be a prodigious talent and one of America’s most versatile players. People criticized the European players who were calling FPL sensation Robin ‘ropz’ Kool a cheater because his parents didn’t want him to accept a professional contract. The lengths he had to go to prove his innocence were unprecedented at the time.

Remember, there was a front page Reddit thread criticising Jesper ‘JW’ Wecksell for being caught on a stream questioning Kool’s validity. The difference here is that Jesper publicly apologized, and did it quickly, too. I know enough about who he is as a person to know he genuinely felt bad about it – himself having been the recipient of such allegations – and that he has atoned for it privately. I made a point of defending Robin against the mob at that time because, much like we are seeing again, that was a witch-hunt predicated on no evidence at all.

 

I saw one non-Brazilian pro player make an intimation that the clips were suspect, and that was former MiBR player Tarik ‘tarik’ Celik. I’m going to give him a pass on criticism for the following reasons: By the time he commented on it, Borba and his legion of followers were already out of control. Tarik made no direct accusation, unlike the MiBR players that did. He made a point of saying everyone is innocent until proven guilty. He then very quickly deleted the tweets. It’s got nothing to do with playing favorites.

Not so with the MiBR players. Fernando ‘fer’ Alvarenga, a player who really needs to learn what keeping a low profile means, described the loss as a “strange day.” Crazy. You think they’d be used to losing by now. As already stated Toledo, a future hall-of-famer and scene figurehead, said the clips contained “3 blatant aimlocks.” Never made an allegation at all. People probably don’t know that the most over the top reaction from the MiBR players came from Vito ‘kNgV-’ Giuseppe, because of course it did. The player whose career was being read the last rites before he was given an opportunity in an MiBR team desperate to try anything went on Borba’s stream after the series to share his thoughts. Melodramatic doesn’t do it justice.

“We change countries, and for many, this is wonderful,” he began, immediately preparing to find the right tone between victimhood and national pride that always plays well to the type of crowd they were hoping to stir up. “Speaking for myself, I love Brazil, and I’m here in [the United States] playing the major’s qualifier without knowing if I’m going to see my daughter’s birth. I’m here doing my best for my mother’s dream, for my wife’s dream, so we don’t want to be the victim of injustice.”

The message, in case you missed it, seems very clear. How dare Orf, this 16-year-old American few were paying attention to, turn on his cheats to beat this struggling Brazilian team at a time of great personal stress and sacrifice? Doesn’t he understand how this will affect their whole families?

To call broadcasting this irresponsible is an understatement. With the right kind of twisted logic, you can almost forgive the players. When it comes to making a professional public statement, I trust kNg about as much as I trust a politician to leave a manila envelope on a table. He simply cannot help himself and has proven this time and time again. There’s a general rule in all sports that all reporters know… After a disappointing loss, players are likely to react and say crazy shit. Gaules though? He constructed his broadcast to not only paint Orf as guilty in front of hundreds of thousands of fans, but he also ramped up the anger towards the player by augmenting his case against the player with interviews from former and current pros that the Brazilian community looks up to. He must have known what this would lead to. He did it anyway.

Borba is often portrayed as a kind, humble streamer by his rabid fanbase. ‘Look,’ they say, ‘He gives away so much money, look how he helps others in his community. He has overcome so much hardship to succeed.’ The reality is, while these things might be true, it seems hard to construct an argument that he doesn’t understand the influence his words have on his fans.

Let’s not forget about the times he crashed a website by telling all his viewers to visit at once, or even worse, use their own methods to do so if the traffic overflow wasn’t enough. This is explicitly against Twitch terms of service, and he has done this on at least two occasions that I know of, the last only being a year ago. The person he did it to? Tarik. The player had launched his own hub, and so, Gaules, for the purposes of entertainment, crashed the site. When asked why, he claimed he had “been told” Tarik had offered him $100 to do so. Not by Tarik directly, of course. By someone in his chat. You can see here how Fer reacted to it, calling him an idiot.

twitter

The MiBR coach and manager Ricardo ‘dead’ Sinigaglia also added: “I find it regrettable to use the ‘power’ you have to disrupt the lives of others. I was along with the people in Portugal working hard trying to get the site back working before dawn because of this… you don’t shit where you eat.”

twitter

So there, you have him admitting to bringing down people’s websites by leveraging his fanbase – but let me also remind you of the times his fans have attacked anyone who he thinks is being critical of Brazilian teams.

During the Starladder Berlin Major, the analyst desk segments would take down teams’ logos and put them into a trash can as they were eliminated from the tournament. This applied to all teams. Borba decided to make it appear that it was some kind of anti-Brazilian bias with a simple one character tweet. The resulting reaction saw the three members of talent on that desk inundated with threats of violence, and it didn’t stop there. Sean Gares saw threats aimed at his newborn daughter. Borba didn’t seem to care about what was happening, tweeting more “jokes” all the while. “Come to Brazil,” indeed. Starladder did nothing.

If you think that this might be someone new to the world of popularity stumbling up the side of the learning curve that responsibility brings, you’d be mistaken. When criticism came the way of the Brazilian streamer for the threats that Orf had received, there was no self-reflection or attempts to cool down the situation. Even the MiBR players themselves had the good sense to do that with some mealy-mouthed bullshit after the fact. No, Borba was very clear in his response. Criticism of him and his audience was wrong because no-one ever speaks up about the racism that Brazilian fans receive on internet forums. Yeah, really.

 

 

If you can’t see how the two are related, don’t worry, that’s because they aren’t in any way. It’s just yet another excuse for his appalling behavior, and one that also just so happens to provide a boilerplate justification for threatening anyone who happens to criticize the more toxic elements of this fanbase. You won’t find a single personality or player that has justified racism against Brazilians. You will find people who have made inappropriate jokes, been punished and apologized, never to repeat those mistakes. My question is: When can we expect an apology from Borba for his actions?

That’s never coming, by the way. He has gone on to become one of the most popular streamers on Twitch, because tournament organizers are so desperate to inflate their numbers that they make him the official Brazilian language partner every time. Incredible really, because I’ve worked broadcasts where those same tournament organizers have pulled talent aside for making a joke a player didn’t like, or doing a sponsor read in a way that didn’t go over well with whoever is signing the checks… How then is it perfectly fine with these same organisations that Borba is calling players cheaters, crashing player’s websites, generating threats towards broadcast talent and their families, and doing it all while stoking racial division between fanbases?

Safe to say, if that’s the type of shit that he wants to stream, and as it’s within Twitch’s ToS, then he can do it. However, I will just say what the majority in the broadcasting pool thinks but are literally too afraid to say; Borba’s brand of bullshit is a fucking scourge on our scene right now and goes against everything we have been building in CS:GO. If you make him an official partner from this point onwards, you co-sign what comes with it, and what comes with it is hundreds of threatening and abusive messages for any player or member of broadcast talent he chooses to criticize.

If that’s not serious enough for you, let me remind you of the type of torch paper he has repeatedly lit, one that has led to genuine concerns for player safety. Spencer ‘Hiko’ Martin had to have two bodyguards present at all times when he attended a Brazilian ESL event over an incident in 2015 that was never his fault to begin with. It didn’t stop there. His family were doxxed and threatened, as well.

That event that he attended was the same one where players were secretly instructed by ESL to never leave their hotel rooms at night. Swedish pro, Adam ‘friberg’ Friberg, also received death threats at the event because he “triggered the crowd.”

Former Space Soldiers captain, Engin ‘MAJ3R’ Küpeli, was spat on as he came into the arena as a crowd chanted, “you are going to die.” Multiple players have privately told stories about how people tried to slap them or pull their hair at the same event.

 

This is the briefest of summaries of the unacceptable behavior that is being driven by the words of Brazilian personalities, and I’m sick of having to pretend this isn’t going on. I said for years I wanted Brazil to have a major, that it’d be wrong for the minority to spoil it for that scene given their contribution to esports over the past two decades. I have had a love affair with Brazil since, as a child, my football team Newcastle United signed Mirandinha in 1987. I still have the commemorative yellow and green scarf.

Now though, I just cannot in good conscience pretend this isn’t a serious problem, and one that should give serious pause for thought when hosting events there. If we as a community cannot rely on Brazilian CS figureheads to condemn bad behavior – if in fact, they are going to encourage it – then tournament organizers need to have some serious thoughts about how to proceed.

It’s unlikely now, but there is still a chance that Chaos could qualify for the Major in Rio. Do you really think it’d be safe for them to attend with these allegations that have been made and who made them? Do you think it’ll be safe for those players to ever actually go to a Brazilian event at all? History shows us the answer. If I was a 16-year-old kid, I’d be too scared to attend. If I were one of his parents, I wouldn’t let him attend. How can he even play properly now knowing all of that?

That’s the biggest issue. We’ve now got Brazilian players and official tournament streaming partners affecting competitive integrity via a weaponized fanbase and applying unfair pressure to their competitors and tournament organizers ahead of “must win” games. Truth be told, MiBR should already have been disqualified for their conflict of interest violations that they’ve been given a grace period to sign. As for Gaules… If you use him now as the Brazilian language stream for your tournament, it’s clear when you stand and it’s not on the side of player or talent welfare, and by extension, certainly not with me.


Shortly after publication of this article, Gaules issued an apology on social media.

Columns

Adam Fitch: New fan engagement schemes are promising but not light tasks

Published: 20/Nov/2020 17:26

by Adam Fitch

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Esports organizations are finally exploring ways to create deeper, more meaningful connections with their fans, but are they prepared for what a huge undertaking this can be?

While teams are amassing millions of followers across social media platforms, with fanatical supporters even getting tattoos of their logos, it’s easy to be mistaken in thinking that they’re the stars of the show that is esports. However, players and personalities are the real stars.

This is demonstrated frequently when esports athletes change teams and their dedicated fan base follow suit, now switching their team colors and overall allegiance. It’s not brands that are pulling off incredible plays on the server, nor brands signing autographs and taking selfies at events; again, it’s the players. They command most of the audience and, in a majority of cases, the diehard support of thousands.

In traditional sports, you may find your lifelong team depending on where you’re born or the colors that are placed on you by your family. Manchester United, Dallas Cowboys, Gloucester Rugby — the list goes on, and across numerous sports as just demonstrated. This is different in most cases when it comes to esports.

Team Liquid+ Beta
Team Liquid
Team Liquid announced the beta for their fan engagement initiative in August 2020.

What are organizations doing to combat this trend, or at least attempt to build up a bigger fan base that is in it for the long haul no matter the result or roster? In the last few months, they’ve turned to fan membership schemes.

These programs typically take the form of subscription-based perks, in which fans can buy into a program that awards them with increased engagement, insight into behind-the-scenes happenings, and perhaps even helping to influence upcoming decisions.

Of course, there are perhaps other reasons for these programs to be popping up. The global health situation has cancelled almost every in-person event or at least forced an online substitution to take place since March 2020. Revenue may be down for many, if not all, organizations that don’t have other streams in place to work around the lack of merchandise sales and fan initiatives.

Regardless, experimenting with new revenue streams is important in an industry that’s notoriously difficult to make a profit in — at least on the team brand front — can’t hurt, right?

Subscription services

Kicking off with what is starting to become a trend, one of the most popular organizations in the space, Team Liquid, launched the beta for Liquid+ on August 11. The initiative provides an environment where “regular fan interactions earn opportunities for elite rewards, fan experiences, and access to players.”

North America organization Envy were next, announcing EnvyUS on November 9 with premium memberships costing $29.95 per year. Fellow North American org Cloud9 followed Envy just a day later, announcing Stratus. Starting on January 1, and costing $500 per year, they are taking a similar approach to their predecessors — providing an “exclusive annual membership experience” for “superfans.”

Cloud9 Stratus
Cloud9
Cloud9 are offering the most expensive subscription service to date.

The eye-watering disparity in price between EnvyUS and Cloud9 Stratus is somewhat off-set by the welcome package that the latter offers. It includes a mouse pad, custom keycaps, a keychain, and limited edition t-shirts & jersey. This may not make up for the $500 price tag, but C9 will likely offer more ‘free’ physical items throughout the course of the subscription.

Now, this has been done before. SK Gaming had their own subscription service, SK Insider, over a year ago; accounting for 50% of the organization’s revenue at one point according to their co-founder. This may sound promising for the more recent initiatives but revenue was much harder to come by back then, especially in scale, so it’d be irrational to think that level of contribution to an org’s income is likely in 2020 and beyond.

It is indeed encouraging to see such initiatives from major organizations though, and if they prove to be a success in the future then no doubt this type of offering will become commonplace in the industry.

Third-party platforms

There are third-party attempts to increase and deepen engagement already in play, too. Socios.com have partnered with the likes of OG, Team Heretics, and Natus Vincere to encourage participation from fans. They offer ‘fan tokens,’ which are effectively platform-exclusive currency that supporters buy with their own money and then use to engage in fan polls and other methods of garnering engagement.

Alliance Partnership with Socios
Alliance/Socios
Former TI champions Alliance are the latest to join Socios.com.

While it’s hard to say whether Socios.com are proving to be successful for teams on an engagement front, the involvement of longstanding and prominent orgs add a bit of credence to the concept.

Fnatic’s sneaky attempt

On November 11, around the time of Cloud9 and Envy’s announcements, London-based Fnatic revealed that they were to launch a crowdfunding attempt. Aimed at giving small pieces of the business to fans, they were hoping to reach a total of £1m in exchange.

The announcement coincided with the news that they had just raised an additional $10m, taking their investment to a total of around $35m to date, and proving that they weren’t simply turning to fans in a moment of desperation.

I see this as similar in motive to what the aforementioned organizations are doing. With a small sub-section of fans eventually owning a piece of the pie, they’re essentially buying into the future success of the team and are financially incentivized to support them for the foreseeable future.

hylissang inks new one year contract fnatic rekkles question marks remain
Riot Games
Fnatic have raised over their £1m target, reaching $1.2m on November 20.

If the goal of all of these efforts is to make fans stick around longer and be more emotionally (and financially, in some cases) invested, then Fnatic’s approach may be different but it has the same motive. You’re securing long-term fans that want to see you grow and succeed more than ever before.

Engagement isn’t easy

Now, keeping fans engaged with membership programs isn’t a light undertaking. Liquid, C9, and Envy are offering access to exclusive content that’s not available to the public — personnel is needed to make that happen. They also need to speak with their ‘superfans’ more often, and personnel is needed for that also. Hosting events, whether online and offline, requires plenty of hands in most cases too.

These teams can’t afford to now only focus on their paying fans, they need to keep their wider fan base happy with content, merchandise, experiences, and engagement that they’ve grown accustomed to. It’d also be advisable for them to try and obtain new fans also, and that’s not going to come easy.

These initiatives could well be a new, necessary stream of income for even the biggest of organizations, but it won’t be easy. This is just the start of things to come but I hope everything promised is fulfilled and such programs become a mainstay in the industry.