Opinion

Richard Lewis: Why FaZe shares the blame for Jarvis' harsh lifetime Fortnite ban

by Richard Lewis

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Another day in esports, another person making inexplicably terrible decisions. This time it’s the turn of Jarvis ‘Jarvis’ Kaye of FaZe Clan, a 17-year-old Fortnite player, to f**k things up good and proper.

He's a player who, according to the garbage tabloids that ran with the story, after making $2 million during his career, decided it would be a good idea to upload a video of him using cheat software to win games, all the while laughing about it.

This being against Epic Games' Terms of Service, and the 'terms of service' of every professional sport under the sun (special dispensation for MMA for making it look like they give a f**k about the army of juiceheads in the sport,) it resulted in him being banned permanently from all future competitions ran by Epic Games.

Given that they control who gets a license to run tournaments, it could well be that they feel strongly enough to stop him competing in anything ever again, even small online competitions. It’s like he took Willy Wonka’s golden ticket, wiped his arse with it, and then set it on fire, all while a baying crowd of morons filmed it and cheered him on.

He won’t be the first, and he won’t be the last. Esports is an industry filled with young people who have little life experience and, when they blow up, are given too much, too soon. This wouldn’t be an issue if it wasn’t for the fact that many of the 'elders' are themselves young and prone to bad decision making, or are so fixated on profit that they don’t care enough about players fucking up their lives so long as it doesn’t eat into their bottom line.

YouTube: FaZe Jarvis
YouTube: FaZe Jarvis
FaZe Jarvis has received a lifetime ban from Fortnite by Epic Games.

The young and naive are the oil that lubricates the esports money machine but there are so many of them that if a few get caught in the cogs most organization owners surmise that there’ll be plenty more to replace them. This reality doesn’t just explain the lack of guidance or adherence to a duty of care, but it explains the bad contracts, the broken promises, the missing money…

Somewhere in all that noise though, we spend most of our time shouting at the kid. Honestly, it’s kind of understandable. No one likes liars, cheaters, the terminally smug whose grins tell us that not only do they not appreciate what they have, but they also think nothing can take it away from them. Then again, I’m an older guy who had his fair share of drama and was a pretty wild and dysfunctional teenager. You can never gauge if anyone has learned a lesson if you never give them a chance to prove it.

In the decadent West 17-year-olds are kids, no matter how much they pretend otherwise and call anyone over 21 a boomer – and in esports that’s even truer than it is out there in the world. So yes, Jarvis needs a solid, lengthy ban. He’s old enough to compete and old enough to be held to that standard, but for life?

Let’s get the obligatory take out the way in a bid to defuse the insane behavior from the deranged fans who read a headline and then imagine you said something so outrageous you must be threatened to prevent you from ever saying it again… I do not support lifetime bans for anything except the most heinous of behavior. The fact that the average game developer can just implement a lifetime ban from their product, issued without any explanation or grounds for appeal, is a disgrace and something we should push back on becoming the norm.

In general, a lifetime ban for a one-off instance of cheating or match-fixing is disproportionate. Yet it is fairly obvious to anyone who follows any sport that you can’t have top-ranked competitors publicly using cheats and simultaneously being stupid enough to promote them to their huge audience as just a bit of fun. A ban is essential if you want to preserve the integrity of competition and set a standard by which you expect your professionals to live.

Tennis Australia
Tennis Australia
Jarvis has been banned from competing in Fortnite tournaments following his use of cheats.

There’s that word. Integrity. Something FaZe have seemingly never cared about and never will. The creative minds behind the organization have managed to be involved with everything rotten and wrong in the esports space at some time or another. It seems incredible to me that while people are discussing how much Jarvis’s punishment is deserved or not, no one has wanted to apportion any blame to the organization itself. They absolutely should.

Right now this is an organization that has stated in court documents that it provides information and support to its players that are so incredible they constitute “trade secrets.” That’s correct, FaZe are so far gone they believe that having figured out that all-caps clickbait titles and thumbnails of their e-celebs pulling stupid faces will get them more views makes them industry pioneers. Seriously. This is a crucial point in their counter-filing against Turner ‘Tfue’ Tenney. It’s part of a broader narrative they want to spin that namely they, and only they, can pluck people from obscurity and turn them into stars by giving them access to a young, naive fanbase and teaching them how to simultaneously grow and leverage that fanbase.

The Jarvis incident doesn’t just contradict that but it also shows how little concern FaZe management put into the talent on their roster. Let’s assess the facts here… A professional player on their roster decided it would be a good idea to record himself using cheats on a throwaway account and then upload the video evidence of him doing it.

The player wasn’t some low-rung roster padding afterthought but a top-tier player with a huge following. Nor was he someone who was lurking at home in their parent’s spare bedroom. This player was located at the $15 million mansion that is depressingly known as the ‘clout house’, where the other top players and management reside.

In the videos he uploaded, his own brother – a director at the company no less – would be seen laughing and joking along. There wasn’t a single bit of oversight about how this could impact on the player’s career, not a single thought to the consequences. How embarrassing to ever try and make the argument that you’re essential to developing talent when you were so incompetent you couldn’t stop a 17-year-old child from uploading a video that may just have ended their career.

FaZe Clan
FaZe Clan
Frazier Kaye is a director of FaZe Clan.

It’s also worth noting that I am sure Jarvis thought there would be no consequences. After all, that is what FaZe promote themselves as – a group of people who are so wealthy and popular that they are above the law. If they get caught doing something wrong they can just write a check and then leverage their aggressive fanbase against anyone that calls them out for it.

Think this is an exaggeration? Did you forget about Ricky Banks lying about his girlfriend being sexually assaulted in a bar in Cleveland because he was upset at being thrown out after he assaulted a security guard? CCTV footage, of course, proved it was all lies but not before he’d used his social media to endanger the business financially by posting his lies. The bar filed a lawsuit, which was settled, but because Banks is what he is he subsequently violated part of that settlement agreement by posting a video to lie to his fans some more about how he was the victim.

That same year another settled lawsuit was filed by the owner of the mansion where FaZe spend so much of their time. It was for excessive damage to the property and included such lines as “master bedroom floor buckled and ruined from feces, dog poop and pee materials”, and “flat-screen TV damaged with bullet hole.” The lawsuit claimed that there was an outstanding bill for $175,600 for damages to the property.

Think any lessons have been learned? Just last month, there were reports that Banks had trashed a hotel room in Las Vegas to the tune of $30,000. As TMZ said, “The bad news for Banks – real name Richard Bengtson – we're told the estimated damage is over $30,000, which means he can be charged with felony malicious destruction of property. The charge carries a maximum of five years in prison, but there's no way Banks gets anywhere close to that even if he's convicted. The good news for Banks – he's RICH AS HELL and can easily afford to cover the damages if he wants to.”

Yeah, that’s always the good news for these guys… And when they can’t just pay someone off to make the problem go away, they can happily just issue some apology and their gullible, mostly younger, fans will eat it up. Don’t deliver on a Kickstarter to make a video game? We’re sorry but it’s not our fault and we’re not scamming anyone. Promote dubious skins gambling websites to their young audience? We’re sorry, but we definitely didn’t own it even though the people who did were registered as living in the FaZe house. Giving out redeemed Amazon card codes in an apology for a Clout House resident’s involvement in promoting a scam website? We’re sorry, but hey, we got paid a lot to do it.

YouTube: FaZe Banks
YouTube: FaZe Banks
FaZe Banks reportedly trashed a Las Vegas hotel room in October.

This is part of a recurring theme with FaZe. They do something inarguably bad, blow it up on social media with a heavily skewed version of what happened, issue a half-assed apology and then point to who the real bad guys are; anyone who calls them out on their bullshit evidently. They then turn the resulting drama into content. Rinse and repeat... It’s been reported that the apology video alone made about $20,000. I believe this is what they call FaZing the f**k up.

So it is again with the Jarvis situation. There’s certainly a solid argument to be made that his ban is absolutely draconian. Epic Games have handled their esports business like rank amateurs, despite throwing big prize numbers around. Qualifiers are a joke, cheating runs rampant, players have been caught colluding with each other to skew results and have only been banned for a few weeks.

It’s clear that they really don’t know what they’re doing. But what they do know is that they want a cheat-free environment, so seeing a sneering millionaire teenager laughing and joking about how easy it is to cheat, to win with cheats and how he’ll probably make more cheating videos because it’s just that much fun… Well, they’re going to come down hard on that without question. In a world where the games developer is de facto judge, jury and monumentally petty executioner, you run this risk when you essentially laugh in their face. It won’t matter to them that you’re just a dumb kid.

FaZe’s reaction has done absolutely nothing to help Kaye get unbanned. They haven’t acknowledged any of their responsibility in all of this, not even issuing anything close to a professional statement that shows they understand the gravity of the situation. Instead, they complained about double-standards by pointing to things that really aren’t double-standards at all, just different situations with unbelievably light sentencing. They then pushed the inevitable hashtag, #FreeJarvis, because that’s the business model.

They can play fast and loose with Kaye’s career. Hell, they’ll keep him around as long as he’s popular and as long as there’s a director at the company making that call. But barring a spectacular change of heart from Epic Games, and I’ll tell you for free that game developers don’t do that because it’s too much like admitting they are mortal, his professional career is over.

The real thing I would want Epic Games to consider is this. There was no hope for Jarvis as soon as he was integrated into the FaZe machine. It is a factory that churns out morally bankrupt assholes on a conveyer belt. There isn’t and never will be an adult in that room. Show some leniency for the kid – a three-year ban is a lifetime in this business and an eternity to a 17-year-old – and take that cudgel you wield and go club some sense into those that need it.


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