Richard Lewis: Tales from Valorant's beta launch day - Dexerto
Valorant

Richard Lewis: Tales from Valorant’s beta launch day

Published: 9/Apr/2020 3:51 Updated: 8/Sep/2020 15:09

by Richard Lewis

Share


As part of the Perestroika ongoing at Riot Games, I was invited to participate in their closed beta launch for Valorant. I graciously accepted, and in the spirit of glasnost said I would write up my experiences, as well as provide a review from the view of someone who has not only been playing games since we loaded them via cartridge and cassette tape, but also a veteran of the crazy world of esports.

Before that, there was the small matter of launch day. Even a limited, closed beta launch these days is a huge part of the operations that go into making a successful game. I’ve seen too many bungled and botched attempts from which games have never recovered.

Advertisement

Your first day can really set the foundation on which the rest of the game’s fortunes are built. With the almost unprecedented amount of hype and interest around Riot’s second full title there was always a risk it wouldn’t live up to expectations. Especially if that hype and interest were being manufactured by careful spending from a company with more money to spend than almost anyone else in the space.

There had been rumors of paid endorsements circulating for a few days. People seemed to believe streamers had been bought and paid for, that only those willing to praise the game and Riot as a company would be invited to the party.

Advertisement

My inclusion alone, as possibly the only journalist that was critical of Riot Games during their ascent to the top of the esports space, should discount that last point as being accurate. I’ll also confirm that to my knowledge there hasn’t been a single paid endorsement, that no influencer took a check to promote this game. The same can not be said for other, similar releases.

Riot Games
Valorant’s closed beta finally arrived this week.

That isn’t the whole story, of course. There’s a reason why these people want to be included. It is now ingrained in those who want to be successful influencers, especially those who haven’t already achieved it or have flagging careers, that getting in on the “ground floor” of a new big title will be the boost they need. And so they fawn and gush over a game they’ve never even played in the hope that when it finally lands they will be the big names, the star commentators, the top streamers, the most respected players and that they can synthesize this into cash and status. In truth, if you have a product with enough hype behind it you’ll never need to pay one of these people to preach about its virtues.

Also, the existing success stories know that the combination of their brand plus the hype for the game will equate to more subscriptions, more views, more donations and new fans that will then further equate to more of those things in the future. It’s a long term strategic move for them to be involved and honestly, it benefits both parties without the need for a tawdry direct financial exchange.

Advertisement

I’m a cynic of course but I’m just trying to inject some nuance into the proceedings. I’ve seen too many idiots make false claims that everyone is lying and we’re all depositing money from Riot into offshore bank accounts while lying through our teeth. On the other side, I’ve seen the usual sycophants and hopefuls dismiss concerns by saying “Riot didn’t pay anyone” without acknowledging the financial realities that come with being associated with this product.

You SHOULD be wary of influencer culture because their label alone tells you they sell INFLUENCE. My Valorant coverage will try and cut through the bullshit, but anyone expecting either Riot bashing or page after page of preaching about the virtues of the one true god Counter-Strike are going to be disappointed. Spoilers: so far I have found the game to be enjoyable, polished for a closed-beta and one that could certainly ease newer players into an unforgiving genre. It’s also worth letting you know that while the launch did have some kinks and weirdness, it mostly went well. Let’s look at the stories that came out on launch day…

First, a shoutout to the hustlers out there trying to get this bread in these uncertain financial times. Oh yes, closed beta access Valorant accounts were selling on the black market like stockings and chocolate during World War 2. For $150 you too could be playing on launch day and people were actually paying it. Of course, if any account is discovered to be purchased Riot will ban it on site but many people wanted to run the risk anyway. We don’t know how many accounts were issued via the drop system through Twitch so it is impossible to grasp the scope of the problem. What I can tell you is those game developers, whatever they say publicly, love seeing things like this. When a game is being sold illicitly for the same price as a gram of raw, they think they have got a winner on their hands.

Advertisement
Riot Games
Valorant fans have been doing anything they can to get early access to the beta.

The launch did come with a cloud over it due to the whining of some League of Legends team owners. I already wrote about the situation here but let’s provide a summary. Riot invited many influencers, journalists and personalities to have access to the closed beta on April 7. No bullshit, No NDAs, and people can stream and say what they want. One of those influencers happened to include Matthew “Nadeshot” Haag, a man with many claims to fame.

In this instance, though, let’s think of him solely as the founder of 100 Thieves. 100 Thieves own a North American LCS team. Because other team owners were invited through the Esports division, that stipulated streaming would commence on the 8th April for those invitees, and some owners were given no access at all, they complained to Riot. That’s right, grown men, some millionaires, complained to a games developer that another owner could play and stream a video game 24 hours before they could. And you thought I was petty on Twitter.

Advertisement

The argument supposedly made is even more stupefying. While I could maybe see a rationale that by Haag going first it would show favoritism from Riot, some of these owners argued it would give his organization a competitive advantage because he could “scout talent” a whole 24 hours before they could. Brain worms. As such it was now changed that anyone associated with a League of Legends team active in one of Riot’s leagues had to hold off from streaming until the 8th. Words I’d never thought I’d type: I sympathize with Riot here. I know the pain of dealing with whiny esports bitches with huge egos and huge bank balances that think they should get their way all the time too well. Fortunately for me as I am beholden to no-one I can call them what they are. For Riot, these people represent long term strategic business partners so they had to give the baby its bottle.

In a weird and twisted way, it actually worked out for Riot. Even with this reduced load, the sheer volume of people all logging in at once, streamers popping out of bed like kids on Christmas morning, overloaded the servers. Timeouts while connecting were reported and many players couldn’t get into games despite queuing for some time. Some even reported their games crashing partway through. Even though the Valorant team described the experience as “humbling,” I doubt Error 43 will live on infamy. Day one of a closed beta? Hot-fix rushed out quickly? I’m all about consumer rights but, let’s be honest, what is a launch without error? When has a launch day for an online game ever gone smoothly?

I won’t say it’s something we should accept as a matter of course but it is the new normal and all the chest-beating won’t change that. As I put the finishing touches on this article, we’re now into day two. No more problems. They got on top of quicker than Activision Blizzard did for Diablo 3 or any of World of Warcraft’s expansions down the years.

 

Despite these issues, the attention the game got on Twitch was phenomenal. 1.7 million people were watching at peak interest, which is close to the record Fortnite set with its black hole stunt. It is impossible to tell what that number means in a broader industry context, whatever anyone who claims to be an expert will try and tell you. What this expert gleans from it is the game is going to hit the ground running in terms of interest. That said, it is too early to see where these numbers are being drawn from and if they are taking a bite out of other games’ audiences. The bulk of these numbers come from variety streamers who will, for the foreseeable future, be streaming this game almost exclusively.

While you will see a lot of CS:GO pros play this game, maybe even on stream, it is not unusual for those who excel at a game as demanding as Counter-Strike to have a “sidechick” game they use to unwind. Early feedback from my colleagues seems in line with that, although they might just be scared I’ll publicly call them heretics of the one true faith. What is more interesting is when you see the still-contracted Overwatch League MVP Jay “sinatraa” Won say he’s going to be streaming Valorant almost exclusively upon the game’s release. The game is more like Counter-Strike than Overwatch but Riot might end up with the audience they end up attracting over the one they coveted.

A large part of Riot’s marketing for the game has to been to try and seduce disgruntled Counter-Strike players. Naturally, there had been a lot of talk of Valorant’s anti-cheating measures. It’s no secret that there is a significant portion of CS players that labor under the delusion that every game they play is infested with cheaters, that Valve’s Anti Cheat (VAC) does nothing and that because of several profit-based conspiracies Valve doesn’t even want a cheat-free environment. Never one to miss a trick, Riot tapped that well of crippling insecurity and made a lot of promises about the game’s anti-cheat Vanguard.

A lot of these statements feel too good to be true, especially for those of us who have been around long enough to see many other games that were declared “cheat-proof” left sheepishly admitting such a thing isn’t possible. The game is said to feature an in-engine “fog-of-war” system that will prevent players from seeing opposing players’ locations until line-of-sight contact is made. Viable? Possibly. It also sounds a lot like the measures implemented into CS:GO in 2015, none of which stopped the viability of radar hacks or using aim-locking to gain information on the whereabouts of opponents. It is also worth noting this wouldn’t even be anything new to Riot since they already have a similar system in League of Legends, which is why any site offering a Dota-style map hack can be dismissed as a scam.

Riot Games
Riot have put a major focus on anti-cheat measures in Valorant.

There was also an interview with streamer Nikola “NikolarnTV” Aničić, where one of the game’s devs spoke about the anti-cheat, saying the following:

“The main thing that differentiates us from other games is we’re planning on putting a lot of effort into this, both in the past before we launch the game, but also going forward into the future too,” the dev said.

I’ll add, if you’re someone excited by this statement and yet you ignore the effort Valve put into improving VAC via machine-learning and other sophisticated methods, you might want to get tested for HYPOCRID-19.

“It’s an active research project so it’s in progress but we make sure the server records all of the mouse inputs from players and we analyze those to detect whether or not you are using some sort of aimbot” the dev also added.

Again, these are measures that have been used in many anti-cheat programs in the past so it’s nothing new. It being framed as such does feel part of a marketing push. Not to mention when they say “we analyze,” what that means is hugely important. Do they mean manually and retroactively? Do they mean algorithmically and in real-time? Both of these systems, when implemented into anti-cheat measures in the past, have yielded false positives. Will this be another example of a game developer declaring infallibility?

It was my prediction that there would be cheats on day one of the launch. In my mind, that didn’t necessarily mean early into the closed beta but more about the first day it was open to the public. However, by the time I’d got my first game under my belt, there were videos on the internet showing what was claimed were working cheats for Valorant. I won’t link the videos here for obvious reasons but as it happens they were quickly declared to be fakes and I’ll believe that for sure. There’s many a con artist looking to cash in on scrubs hoping they can cheat their way to being noticed in a new game. Yet anecdotally people were claiming that they had encountered cheaters in the game. Still, I’ll put that down to them being the exact same deluded fucks that were crying in Counter-Strike. Guess that seduction technique is working.

Cheats are inevitably coming for the game. Online gaming will always be one of cat and mouse between developer and cheat coder. That’s the eternal struggle. Where developers win, in my humble opinion, isn’t in the press by making promises that their anti-cheat will be the one that finally thwarts the insidious scourge. A robust banning system, hardware ID and a corporate pledge to take anyone selling cheats to court, Riot having already done the latter, is where the battle can be mostly won.

Anyway, despite hiccups and some doubts around the long term viability of the cheat-free environment, I found the launch to be mostly smooth, which is no small feat. I played without any problems myself, having waited out the initial rush through the floodgates and I look forward to writing a review about a game seeking to take the best qualities of multiple genres I have enjoyed down the years.

There was also a heavy tinge of nostalgia to it all as I played my first few games with strangers. Timid communication, people sharing knowledge and asking questions, people laughing off mistakes due to a tacit acceptance none of us really know what we’re doing. It was a time warp for me, reminding me very much of games gone by and how online gaming starts before it is inevitably spoiled by the sheer volume of differing expectations and ideas. A topic for another time.

Speaking as someone that played the frankly awful and janky 2009 beta of League of Legends you can see the lessons the company has learned across the board. Riot has put their best foot forward here and can be proud of day one. Now for day two.

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

Share


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.

Advertisement

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.

Advertisement

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.

Advertisement

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.”

Advertisement

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.

Advertisement

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.