Richard Lewis: Twitch, it’s time to bring Ice Poseidon in from the cold - Dexerto
Opinion

Richard Lewis: Twitch, it’s time to bring Ice Poseidon in from the cold

Published: 4/Aug/2020 16:02 Updated: 8/Sep/2020 15:17

by Richard Lewis

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On April 28, 2017, Paul “Ice Poseidon” Denino was live streaming his journey from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. This was par for the course for the personality who had essentially become Twitch’s most prominent “reality TV” star.

Every day, his life was broadcasted to tens of thousands of people who watched eagerly to see what he was doing no matter how mundane. On this day, his stream was mostly a garbled wall of sound, the background milling of a busy airport with him occasionally talking to camera about how he thought he had missed his flight. It was a day of dull viewing. It would also be one that would see him detained by airport security, make national news, and be permanently banned from Twitch.

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Some background before we get to that: Denino was one of Twitch’s biggest stars at that point, much to the chagrin of those who ran the platform. This was someone who had already been banned multiple times as a gameplay streamer, and when they introduced the section for people to stream “in real life” (IRL), a significant shift from their gameplay focused rules, his popularity just continued to grow. More bans followed, including a 45-day ban after he accidentally revealed the phone number of a girl who had expressed interest in going on a date with him. All of this was new, uncharted territory for both the streamer and Twitch themselves, but it was clear that the website’s executives had a much clearer understanding of the potential problems that an Ice Poseidon stream could bring to those who were accidentally caught up in one.

Ice Poseidon holding phone
Instagram: ice_poseidon
Ice_Poseidon became a controversial figure through his IRL livestreams.

The reasons Denino had risen to such prominence at that time were many and varied. As a popular Runescape streamer, he already had an established audience that welcomed his desire to pivot towards becoming a different kind of streamer. As a central figure, there was something simultaneously likeable and hapless about him. Even before he was living the reality TV lifestyle, there were several viral clips of him being trolled by people donating to him with unsavoury messages where he would beg his audience to stop before yet another, more elaborately disguised message would utter something worse than the last one. The comedy was in how exasperated and miserable he would become, each terms of service violation potentially being the last before his account was terminated.

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Over time, Paul would start to lean into this. He accepted that the central distinction between his stream and the other people plying a trade in the IRL section came from the audience. On other people’s streams, the viewers were generally fans with the occasional bad actor. By contrast, large parts of his audience wanted to make his life as awkward as possible. He was the ant and they held the magnifying glass. In exchange for the money and the attention, he was willing to be repeatedly burned. Imagine a dark, twisted version of The Truman Show where the viewers get to make the central figure’s life as unpleasant as possible. That was his existence.

These pranks became increasingly malevolent over time. The community that Denino had around him was one that, to put it generously, enjoyed the more extreme interpretation of what constituted comedy. The worse things were for him, the funnier it was. What started as continually trying to get the stream shut down morphed into more dangerous territory. He had been swatted at his home repeatedly by this point, sometimes while broadcasting, sometimes in the rare moments off-air. He took that potentially life-threatening violation in stride, reasoning it was part of being a public figure.

One of his viewers decided to go one further. Having the information about what airport he was at, what airline he was flying and what his destination was, someone called the authorities and claimed Denino was a suicide bomber that would detonate on the plane. The flight was held and police and security swarmed over the runway as he was detained for questioning. Fortunately no-one was hurt but that didn’t change how shaken he was after the incident. In a video he posted to YouTube after the incident, he said: “I’m considering not streaming DreamHack because I’m afraid. If someone’s willing to do that on a fucking plane, what’s to stop them from doing it at DreamHack? You swat my house, whatever, fuck you — you swat a plane? That’s a whole other level. You don’t expect that to happen.”

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The situation made it to televised news across the United States — not the fifteen minutes of fame he’d been hoping for since his move to LA. The situation was too big to ignore for Twitch, but few expected them to lay the blame on the doorstep of the streamer who, to all who viewed the situation, seemed to be the victim in all of this. Regardless, perhaps due to the media attention, perhaps due to the frequency that things like this happened to the streamer in question, they took the decision to permanently suspend him from the platform. As is the norm for Twitch, they made no public statement about their rationale and knew that eventually the outrage over the decision would die down.

When you are banned from Twitch they also have an absurd rule that you cannot appear on anyone else’s streams. This extends way past the point of being reasonable. If someone livestreams for an event and catches even a glimpse of the banned person in the background, they will also be suspended. The rule seems to have been founded on something close to common sense… After all, if the ban was only attached to the channel and not the individual, what could stop them essentially appearing as a “permanent guest” on someone else’s channel indefinitely and earning revenue that way?

In reality the rule now creates a weird and bitter world where one-time popular figures who, lest we forget made Twitch money hand over fist, are now persona non grata. In Paul’s case he saw this as especially egregious. His entire existence on Twitch and the fanbase he had called the “Purple Army,” a reference that goes back to his Runescape days and the guild coloration system, were now being memoryholed because someone had swatted him. Despite someone publicly having claimed responsibility for the incident, Twitch never seemed interested in pursuing that legally. For them, the situation was resolved when they banned Paul and that was that.

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Ice_Poseidon at Ferris Wheel
Instagram: ice_poseidon
Denino has had to make some major changes to his content throughout the years.

The next few years saw Ice Poseidon’s streaming career spiral out of control. Angered by the decision, he continued by moving to the much more permissible platform of YouTube and the streams suddenly took on a darker tone. The content was more geared to generating shock value, he started to lean into the racist and homophobic jokes that were becoming common in his community. He gathered a network of streamers who wanted to create similar content that all seemed to want to one-up each other as to who could be the most outrageous. A typical broadcast would be a car crash of social disorders, substance abuse, and inappropriate sexual conduct. Of course, it found an audience.

I’ve often seen it framed that this was all part of the plan being masterminded by Paul, that he was prepared to go as far as possible for views. In reality, it may have been car crash viewing but he was not the driver. All too often he was the one left tangled in the wreckage. A combination of being out of his depth and the stress of community backlash saw most of his big plans and promises fall by the wayside. Each time he couldn’t deliver on one, his fans became more vitriolic in their hatred towards him. Every day off was met with death and swatting threats. His girlfriend was also a target for the abuse, his dedicated subreddit become mostly a shrine towards blaming her for any lack of content delivered. His viewers didn’t want him to be happy. There was no entertainment value in that.

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There is undoubtedly some valid criticism to be levied at him for some of his behaviour during this time. He even made the national newspapers in Switzerland after being evicted from multiple hotels for refusing to comply with their laws around filming in public.

Still, it was clear that even in 2018 he was trying to set things right. He distanced himself from those other streamers and disavowed the network he created. He purged his own subreddit, forcing those that wanted things to stay the same to create an alternative. His streams tried to focus more on having fun with friends rather than trying to generate confrontations while in public. The punk singer GG Allin once said “I think of my audience as the enemy.” For Denino, this had become unquestionably true. Nobody suffered more at the hands of his audience than himself.

Slowly but surely, the hardcore fans that had plagued him for most of his streaming career started to go elsewhere for their entertainment. This is usually something of a death knell for a streamer’s career. Many struggle to come to terms with realising they might have been a fad having spent so long defining their success through numbers. Denino doesn’t seem to mind. Recently, he’d been on Mixer streaming to a much smaller audience. The environment was much more relaxed, the streams less chaotic and, crucially, no harassment was aimed at either him or anyone else that found themselves in his orbit. For the first time since he had surged in popularity, his life was vaguely normal.

Typical of his luck, it was announced on June 22 that Mixer would be shutting down as a service and merging with Facebook. They had spent big money and failed to make a dent in the dominance of Twitch and YouTube. Despite there having been no issues with Twitch, the streamer would put out a message trying to sound out the possibility of being unbanned from the platform now things had drastically changed. He offered a complete apology for everything that had occurred during his time on Twitch, saying that he “was banned for enabling a very toxic community that has affected the industry, myself, my friends and other creators as a whole… And for that I’m sorry.”

In an accompanying written statement, he also expressed an understanding for Twitch’s position, adding: “After being on YouTube for a year, I decided to create my own network of streamers. This lead to all of their actions falling directly on my shoulders and it wasn’t until then I began to realize that this is what I did to Twitch. I don’t think I would fully understand why I was banned from Twitch without this experience. I too had to ban people, kick them from my network, and fully disassociate and cut all ties. These were people who did not promote the image that I wanted and portray my brand the way I had hoped.”

While we do live in a time where most apologies and acknowledgements are PR-driven bullshit, this one feels doesn’t feel to fit into that mold. After all, there’s nothing stopping him simply going back to YouTube and, even if he were unbanned on Twitch, his prolonged period of absence and shifting audience demographic doesn’t even mean he’d be guaranteed to ever get back to where he was in 2017. It’s a fair assumption that his rise and fall has taught him something few really get to learn. Being in his early twenties when all this went down he wasn’t really even supposed to be a fountain of wisdom.

So, while Twitch seem content to have the narrative around Ice Poseidon to be one of them expunging toxicity and protecting their users, there’s a much more glaringly obvious truth to it. That is they themselves didn’t know what to do and instead of taking a slightly more difficult road of working with the content creator to figure out how to minimize said risks, they simply decided to ban him entirely. Anything else was just too much effort. And since then we’ve seen time and time again that when it comes to suspensions from the platform, Twitch is riddled with inconsistency, hypocrisy, and a refusal to communicate with those affected by it.

Ice Poseidon smoking by waterfall at lake
Instagram: ice_poseidon
Denino is now pleading with Twitch to be able to return.

If they were honest with themselves, they would acknowledge that Denino’s story is a cautionary tale for the streaming generation and one that in his absences isn’t even accurately told. He’s an example of someone that actually worked on his image, his audience, his environment instead of just fucking off to any other streaming platform that would allow him to never have to self-reflect or change. Twitch, that often poses as a community when it suits them, should acknowledge these facts and show that for those who are willing to embrace such changes there’s a road back. It would also make a statement that they themselves had learned a lot these past three years, that they now believe they are better equipped to deal with the unique problems that popular IRL streamers face.

Considering some of the personality redemption arcs we’ve seen of late and the second chances afforded to people guilty of worse transgressions than Denino, isn’t it time to bring him in from the cold?

CS:GO

Richard Lewis: MiBR’s legacy will be one of petulance not excellence (Part 2)

Published: 14/Sep/2020 19:13 Updated: 14/Sep/2020 21:45

by Richard Lewis

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The second part of an exploration into MiBR’s legacy and their core players who were once the unquestioned faces of competitive CS:GO, but had their prestige eroded by skirting conflicts of interest, consistently poor performances, and more. (You can read the full first part of this post here)


The views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and are not necessarily shared by Dexerto.

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Where we left off last time we were about to segue into another reason why the MiBR core had gone on to become so disliked by common fans; and that was their litany of excuses they come up with to explain away defeats. However, in the few days between publishing this second and final piece, something extraordinary happened.

The team’s long-standing coach and manager, Ricardo ‘dead’ Sinigaglia, was given a six-month ban from participating in ESL competitions for using an in-game bug to ascertain information about the opposite team. The offense, ESL said, took place during the Road to Rio competition places the violation squarely in the same timeframe as the team went off the deep end with public allegations made against Chaos and their young players, going into an apoplexy that ruined the reputation and compromised the safety of two young and upcoming players.

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Of course, Singaglia went down the predictable route of feigned confusion and denial, claiming he had been sent a clip from the CS Summit 6 event that showed the bug in action against Triumph. The clip he made public was, of course, edited to make it look like it was a simple error that garnered them no advantage at all. When the full clip was posted it showed Singaglia not only following Triumph players around on a crucial pistol round but also his teammates then lying about the coach being AFK after the round was won.

Beyond The Summit took the decision to ban Singaglia from the next two of their events and retroactively disqualify MiBR from the event. Valve have also subsequently stripped them of all Regional Major Ranking points, which is less of a punishment as CS:GO Majors have been canceled for the foreseeable future.

With these latest sanctions issued against MiBR they are the only professional team in CS:GO history to have been caught and punished three times for cheating at major events. The timing of these revelations is too perfect and underlines everything stated in the first part: these players think rules do not apply to them while publicly masquerading as the only honest competitors in a rotten scene.

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Conflict Of Interest Violations

Speaking candidly I was surprised that ESL took action at all given that there was an even more egregious violation of competitive rules enacted by the Brazilians. On the 23rd of April 2020, in the North American Road To Rio competition for the Valve sanctioned CS:GO Major, MiBR took on another Brazilian team simply called “Yeah.” The brand name is another throwback to Counter-Strike 1.6 and thanks to some investors they were resurrected at the start of 2018. Now here for the potential to play in the biggest tournament in the CS:GO calendar, they were taking on MiBR for the first time since their return to action. This sounds like a great story, right? Well, if you look a little closer you’ll find plenty that will make you realize that this match should never have happened and would not have happened in any other professional sport.

Let’s start with those investors. Can you guess who they are? As the kids say “it’s ya boi” Epitácio ‘TACO’ de Melo and the aforementioned and freshly banned Singaglia. Both of them are in for a 25% share each, giving them essentially a controlling influence in the team through direct ownership alone.

mibr yeah gaming csgo esl one
ESL
MiBR and Yeah Gaming played a qualifier match in April for ESL One: Road to Rio.

You might recall that back in November of 2019 Valve said they were going to have a big clampdown on conflict of interests in the competitive CS:GO space. This came after years of work from beat journalists, myself included, having to catch multiple moneymen with their hands all the way in the monopolistic cookie jar. I’ve been doing it for years and at great cost to my bank balance, sanity and hairline (still not insisting broadcasts allow me to wear a hat yet though.) “Finally,” I thought reading this blog, “I have dented the financial membrane of Valve and got them to care about the thing that matters most to any competitive pursuit; its integrity.”

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I must have temporarily forgotten I was referring to a game developer, which is easily done with Valve at times. In the grand scheme of priorities, the top three of which are all variations of “add gold to the hoard,” the matter of allowing player-owned teams to compete against the players that own those teams are so way down it’d give you vertigo to look at them. Combine that with the usual lack of communication (Valve’s philosophy is “we’ll tell you when something happens we don’t like or if it upsets China.”)

Incredibly this game was scheduled despite the fact that the players had disclosed ownership in writing prior to the competition. And to be fair, it was no secret to begin with. Yet there is something beyond distasteful about a team who have spent so much time complaining about how they are victimized by big tournament organizers seemingly oblivious to just what was being ignored here. Oh, and it gets worse.

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The parent company of MiBR, the Immortals Gaming Club, are such suckers for all things Brazilian they’ve either bought all the businesses their players own or created working business relationships with them. So it is that the parent company of MiBR pays an annual fee to Yeah that enables them to buy any two players they wish from the organization at “an agreed-upon price.” This means that Yeah is in essence the academy team for MiBR. And they played against them in a qualifier. For the Major.

MiBR beat Yeah Gaming 2-0 in their opening match on the Road to Rio.

Incredibly the result still stands to this day and neither team has been disqualified. Valve completely bottled the issue when, in a statement to HLTV.org, they went back on their previous stance and instead said: “The sole requirement for ESL One: Road to Rio was that participating teams disclose existing conflicts of interest and that those disclosures be made public so that the community can have an opportunity to discuss them.”

I’ve been covering Counter-Strike now for over fifteen years. I’m qualified to say this. The average fan doesn’t even understand what a conflict of interest is, let alone grasp why it matters within the context of a tournament. While there was discussion in the CSGO community, these were punctuated with the usual moronic arguments; “why does it matter” or “are you saying that Yeah would throw a game just because they were told” or “But Yeah are so bad they can’t beat MiBR anyway.” That last one becomes especially hilarious when you consider their recent defeat against the team ranked 64th in the world Wisla Krakow.

So, even though there are multiple pathways in which a match between these two teams could be compromised, the “resolution” was for Valve and ESL to come to an agreement that as long as MiBR divest themselves before the Major itself in November (which, let’s be real, isn’t happening anyway) it is perfectly fine for any matches prior to that, such as qualifiers for that tournament, to be compromised. Man, people really do pick on those MiBR guys, don’t they?

Why Does Everybody Pick On The MiBR Guys?

There are few groups of players as humorless as the core of MiBR who’ve shown themselves to be over their careers. Despite the numerous examples of clearly preferential treatment they have received over their careers they seem to remain utterly convinced that everyone is out to get them. The record shows them to be some of the most widely praised players in the history of the game, their dominant era seeing them rightly showered with plaudits. By the same token, there is a significant blind spot in the community when it comes to behavior that would see other entities “canceled” in the current environment. I won’t get into the fact that the players have openly supported Jair Bolsonaro because, frankly, we should all be tired of playing the very American ‘gotcha game’ that the Twitterati have made a national pastime. However, there are some actions that usually carry consequences.

Following the death of George Floyd while in police custody, the Black Lives Matter movement gained significant momentum in carrying its message to a much wider global audience. This brought with it a wave of corporate statements keen to capitalize on positive messaging at this time. MiBR were no different. On the 1st of June they posted a message to their official Twitter account in both Portuguese and English. It read: “No to fascism. Yes to respect. No to racism. Yes to diversity. Killing? Just in a game. In real life, just life. The only acceptable supremacy is respect for our differences. The differences unite us, and the respect doesn’t separate us.”

 

Fernando ‘Fer’ Alvarenga streams on Twitch regularly by professional player standards. During a broadcast just two days after MiBR’s statement about respecting differences and rejecting notions of supremacy, Alvarenga made comments to a viewer that his straight hair was “good” and that the viewer’s Afro-textured hair was making them angry. This also has significant cultural overtones given Brazil’s long-standing history of racism towards the country’s population that are of African descent, including a period in their history where they implemented eugenics to increase the European descended population. The message in and of itself is horrendous with this analysis but the timing of it, the way it actively contradicted MiBR’s public stance, meant that it would be almost impossible to ignore. Almost.

MiBR’s response was to put out an apology only in Portuguese, one would assume to avoid the wider world noticing their acknowledgment of the player’s culpability. There was nothing directly from Alvarenga.

As is the usual strategy for the organization their statement went to great lengths to explain how words can sometimes be divorced from intent. “We all know, sometimes, language or phrases have, if taken to the extreme, a set of implications or meanings disconnected from the speaker’s intention” their apology read. “However, it cannot be an excuse to hide behind it. Fer knows and recognizes this type of language feeds a narrative that is wrong and deeply damaging. Instead of hiding, he faced the problem and apologized.” The story did the rounds but, despite it being the worst possible thing to say at the worst possible time, nothing really came of it. Weird, given the extreme amount of bias and hostility that the players believe they face.

So, I’ll just state it plainly: had this been someone from any other team, broadcast or media company, they would have been fired and on an indefinite vacation. Inflammatory, racially dividing statements at a time when people were addressing systemic racial inequality would have been, rightly, viewed as inappropriate for any other professional. When you factor in that Alvarenga had been banned from Twitch previously for using racial epithets to describe who he was playing within America it’s hard to fathom how MiBR players think they have anything other than an incredibly privileged position in the esports landscape.

Despite MiBR’s claims that the player had been fined and warned it doesn’t seem that the player learned any significant lessons about expressing bigotry on his platform. The same month, following the aforementioned dispute with Furia, Alvarenga went on a tirade about the Furia players that made some charged comments about “taking it in the ass” and “not being a man.” This was ignored by all parties.

kNg – The Law Unto Himself

Vito ‘kNg’ Giuseppe is a relative newcomer to top tier Counter-Strike. He has, however, wasted no time in establishing himself as belonging squarely in the company of his fellow teammates when it comes to both talent and consistently unprofessional behavior. There isn’t a single person in the Counter-Strike scene who isn’t aware of his meltdown at DreamHack Montreal while representing Immortals but I’ll provide a summary. The Brazilian roster, then a top ten team in the world, was late to a competitive match against CLG. The admins gave them a warning but took no further action. They won the match and made it to the final where they would face North. Having a few hours of downtime between matches they went back to their hotel rooms and somehow managed to sleep through the call time. This being their second late showing the admins made them forfeit the first map. They would go on to lose to the Danes.

Now, as a point of information, it was widely stated by many attendees at the event that three of the players from the squad, Giuseppe being one of them, had been seen out drinking late the night before. The sheer volume of people claiming this never gave me cause to doubt it as being true but if you harbor any doubts in your mind the team captain at the time, Lucas ‘steel’ Lopes, said that while he didn’t think they were partying hard or that they went to a club, he said they were at the hotel bar late the night before.

As always what was fed back across the internet was likely an exaggerated version of the truth. Equally, these players, despite claiming it was jet lag that made them late, clearly weren’t feeling those effects bad enough to have an early night before must-win matches.

Anyway, CLG’s in-game leader Pujan ‘FNS’ Mehta tweeted a joke that it sucked to lose to players who were hungover and Giuseppe lost his mind. In a tweet that has now gone down in Counter-Strike history, he resorted immediately to death threats. “You’ll prove it or I’ll kill you” he said. It would transpire this wasn’t a quaint turn of phrase. Giuseppe was actively seen trying to find Mehta with the intent to assault him.

CSGO pro KNG’s response to FNS. The tweet has since been deleted.

The CLG captain had to avoid being in the hotel while people actively tried to calm down the Brazilian and even in the aftermath he stated he would never apologize for what he did.

While this ultimately set of a chain of events, that not only saw him removed from Immortals but also ended up having a huge negative impact on the upcoming Major, there was never any formal action from DreamHack. For a company that is on the record publicly as having stated that everyone must feel safe at their events, when a competitor tried to assault another one they took absolutely no action nor even addressed the matter publicly.

Of course, if they were being consistent, the player would have been banned from attending their events for a period of time and, in line with the code of conduct guidelines in the handbook, would have forfeited a percentage of his winnings. Instead, he was issued with zero penalty from the tournament he disgraced.

Hello Violence My Old Friend

We can all agree that there is no place for violence spilling over from what should be a spirited competition. Giuseppe’s Montreal incident is widely regarded as the worst of its kind, although Singaglia and de Melo threatening Oleksandr ‘s1mple’ Kostyliev’s life over a throwaway in-game knife could just as easily be brought to the discussion. However, what isn’t talked about as much publicly is when one of the Brazilian entourage that was brought to the PGL Major in Krakow actually assaulted a professional player at the event’s after-party.

Although I wasn’t personally in attendance the story has been told to me many times by those who were. It has mostly been covered up due to the combination of embarrassment and obviously the fact that there should carry some form of reprisals. Removing any embellishments from the story, here are the consistent facts that all present parties have repeated independently.

Esports after-parties generally tend to take place before the event has finished because it’s cheaper to do so. In this case, the event took place the day before the final, which featured the Brazilian team Immortals taking on the Kazakhstanis of Gambit. Markus ‘Kjaerbye’ Kjærbye, then playing for Astralis who had beaten the other Brazilian team of SK Gaming 2-0 in the quarter-finals, approached the group of Brazilian players from both teams who were together.

He made some seemingly disparaging comments that downplayed the likelihood of Immortals playing in many more finals in their careers, a comment that is often paraphrased as “enjoy the final you probably won’t play in many more” and a fracas ensued where one of the group assaulted the Danish player. This is widely accepted as a brother of one of the SK Gaming’s squad, although in the subsequent squabble it seemed even Kjærbye himself was unsure of who had done it. It is also worth noting that depending on who you ask the assault varies from a full-blown punch to the face or a finger being poked close to the eye of the player.

A now-deleted tweet from Kjærbye confirms the incident as having taken place, although due to his reputed intoxication it seems he aimed the tweet at a German racing driver. Fellow Dane Mathias ‘MSL’ Lauridsen also made light of the incident with a tweet at the time, with some fans who claimed to have witnessed the incident responding to him.

When it comes down to how I should view this incident, I am conflicted. I’ve been around sports my entire life and I’ve seen how quickly adults can behave like children when emotions are running high. Mix alcohol in with that and we all know what it can lead to.

I was raised on legends from the Welsh rugby team tours of the 80s and 90s, the insane antics of American wrestlers, and the rivalries of the golden age of the Premier League. As such, a part of me wants to file this story away on a mental shelf next to all of these, something to be saved for an esports speaking tour or a book. Yet by the same token, I know that violence is completely inexcusable and has no place at an event.

Competitors shouldn’t need to worry about being assaulted over trash talk or banter, which Counter-Strike fans agree is a part of what makes our esport stand out from the more sanitized, developer-controlled ones out there. It also cannot escape my attention that the most notable incident of an assault at a sizable Counter-Strike event just so happened to involve players who have actively threatened to assault other players. The fact that everyone with knowledge of the incident has a silent agreement to essentially never speak of it again may very well show a sensible maturity, but what would we say if another incident were to happen involving the same figures? We’d probably ask why they hadn’t been banned.

The answer to that is simple. We have collectively agreed to treat those with a certain level of status in our scene preferentially. As I can attest to personally, as someone who has been publicly smeared and castigated for five years over an act of self-defense, not all of us get to feel that benefit.

Excuses By The Bucketload

Another thing happened while I was working on this article. I was sent a thread from the forums of CS:GO’s leading coverage site HLTV.org. It was an update of an earlier thread that hadn’t attained much notoriety entitled “MiBR excuse list.” While I had planned to address some of the excuses as another example of how the players had tarnished their own legacy, this thread did include a few that even I had forgotten about. Sure, the thread does include some unsourced claims that I wouldn’t take as being the gospel truth but it shows that the fans are becoming increasingly cognizant of the lack of accountability the players display. After the latest round of drama, the thread has now been updated an additional five or six times.

Rather than rehash a forum thread here let me simply select some of the choice examples that have come from the team’s in-game leader Gabriel ‘FalleN’ Toledo. Like a lot of great former champions, he seems to have fallen into the trap of believing in his mind that there are always explanations for losses that go beyond simply understanding that you weren’t good enough. Right now, you would hope that they would be waking up to that reality as, at the time of writing this, the team has lost matches to rosters that fall outside of the top fifty ranked teams in the world. This includes a loss to Copenhagen Flames who are ranked #75. Few excuses have been forthcoming lately but let’s take a look at some of Toledo’s greatest hits.

There’s the obligatory reminder that he claimed players were cheating when they lost to Chaos worth repeating as his fans peddle the lie he never directly accused anyone. At the 2018 Boston Eleague CS:GO Major, the schedule meant one team would have to play twice in one day. It was randomly attributed to his team. He peddled a conspiracy intimating that Eleague had somehow been biased towards his team, relating it to their disqualification for moving organizations partway through the inaugural season.

When they lost to Astralis at IEM Katowice 2018, it was because the PCs were randomly tabbing out in-game. At the same tournament, he said the headsets were so uncomfortable it was unplayable. After having gone on a poor run of losing pistol rounds around this time he publicly said that one pistol in particular, the CZ, was too overpowered and should be removed from the game. Even though there was nothing stopping them from using it too, it wasn’t a gun that their squad naturally gravitated towards. Just a coincidence.

During the FACEIT Major in London, where they had an early scare by losing against TyLoo, he complained about the tournament PCs not performing well despite the spec being in line with what most tournaments use. When they lost to TyLoo at the Asian Championships in 2019 it would be the flu, not PCs, that was to blame. Oh, and most recently, when they failed to beat Mad Lions after they choked in the finals of the Flashpoint League earlier this year, the reason they lost was that the tournament system didn’t give them more of an advantage for having been undefeated prior to that point. This is especially hilarious given the caliber of the team in the league and the fact that it was the easiest lay-up in the world for them to take the title.

This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means and only spans the last two years. It is also only Toledo’s excuses and, take it from me, the other players on the roster have all learned from the best when it comes to explaining away defeats as being circumstances beyond their control.

It’s good to see the wider community recognizing it for what it is. No sports fan likes competitors that can’t be gracious and humble in defeat. This is because in many ways it is the ultimate insult to the victor, a way to strip their moment of its luster and make it about yourself. Whatever you do though, don’t ever criticize them publicly about this or imply they might have lost their hunger.

A Fundamental Inability To Accept Criticism

As a public figure, criticism will come your way. Not all criticism is valid. A lot of it is coming from people that aren’t in any position to offer informed critiques because they are profoundly ignorant as to what they are talking about. Think the sports fan who is absolutely adamant about how they can fix the team they support without knowing anything about how the players train or interact with each other. They express themselves as you’d expect… Red-faced morons whose ignorance is only eclipsed by the confidence that they are right. You’ll have to hear those people, but you don’t have to listen to them.

However, in sports, there are those whose job it is to critique what you do. Many players feel these people are as equally clueless as the angry fans, and that is true in some cases, but certainly not the majority. Commentators, analysts, pundits and journalists religiously watch the games and are also privy to information shared behind the scenes. We know when a team is breaking down due to in-fighting. We know when in-game leaders are looking for someone new to add to the squad. We know when contracts are expiring and when players want to get a better deal. We know when orgs are shopping around a star player they can no longer afford. All of this gives insight and perspective that players sometimes don’t take into consideration when it comes to putting out an opinion.

Most players do understand that it is part of the business though. The MiBR guys have consistently lashed out at anyone either criticizing them or even making lighthearted jokes at their expense. It was this behavior towards Chaos, a team containing a young player whose reputation has been ruined by their claims, that was the last straw for me. The MiBR core enjoy an unbelievably privileged position in the esports landscape. They are, seemingly regardless of how badly they act, national heroes. They bring huge viewing numbers whenever they play, meaning tournament organizers and broadcasters will look to accommodate them in ways that other teams do not have the luxury of. They are paid a huge salary, one of the largest in Counter-Strike, without even the expectation to achieve results commensurate to their reputation and ranking. There is no oversight when they step out of line. Their coach is a lifelong friend and business partner. Their employer is also in business with them on several projects. They are completely untouchable and can act with impunity.

Because of all this, it leaves an especially bad taste in the mouth when you lash out at a young social media manager for implying that, due to bad results, you might be missing a legendary former member of your squad. It is beyond petty to take to Twitter to lash out at a broadcaster who says that you appear to have lost the hunger you had in 2016 (which would be an understandable reality by the way) and whine endlessly about how hard you work. The truly mean-spirited would point out if you’re working so hard and failing so consistently it might be time to quit. There were no such suggestions here because people still remember the Brazilian core of old.

We remember the team that came from nowhere to shock the world and win the country’s first CS:GO Major. We remember the style and swagger, the never-say-die attitude that meant until 16 rounds were on the board you could never be counted out of a match. We allowed the gamesmanship because it came alongside a healthy dose of showmanship. And we remember the gestures of giving back to the scene such as streaming to raise money for South African team Bravado because of their desire to come from a scene hampered by a lack of economic opportunity but go on to be among the best mirrored your own journey.

Since joining MiBR this has become a distant memory. Now what remains is a group of players too egotistical to see their own faults and labor under the delusion that everything else has changed while they remained the same. You’ve shown spite to your fellow pros, including youngsters who aspire to be like you. You’ve cheated while accusing the innocent of cheating themselves. You’ve diminished the achievements of teams that right now are better than you. In doing all of this you have taken a brand that should be a source of national pride and turned it into a bad joke, one that will never recover from the reputational damage you have all done to it. When your old colleague Lincoln ‘fnx’ Lau said “if MiBR comes back it will be a joke in my humble opinion, they will ruin a name that was once well represented” he couldn’t have known how right he would be.

Regardless of whether or not this farce is allowed to continue by the people that sign the checks after two years, it is too late to change what you’ve turned your legacy in to. It could have been one of the greatest stories esports had ever seen. Instead, it has become the all too typical one about unchecked power, ego and greed, and we had plenty of those already.