Shanghai Major – AVS vs Anti-pro – Rules and sportsmanship in esports

A couple of days ago, Team AVS played against Anti-pro in the SEA (South East Asia) open qualifiers for the Shanghai Major in a few months. If you watch the video you will see that the entire match is a cluster of bad-sportsmanship and breaking of tournament rules. While Anti-pro technically won, neither team got to go forward in the Shanghai Major because both broke tournament rules and I think the entire match is a good opener for a discussion about rules and sportsmanship in esports as a whole.

To surmise the AVS vs AP game I will go through what each team did to deserve to be disqualified. Firstly we’ll start with AVS. Their Tiny player, Heroz Emorave, paused the game with the intention to trash-talk. His motivation for doing so is unclear and, frankly, doesn’t matter. Whether he has been previously insulted by members of the opposite team, as I suspect happened due to what was said, or whether he just has a problem with one of his opponents we don’t know. He’s in a professional tournament and should act like a professional. The pause itself might well have been for something legitimate, as he implied at the start, but Huffington on AVS unpaused after his teammates rant without even asking if their opponents were ready.

Then we come to Anti-pro whom are suspected of DDoSing their opponents and then not pausing when they all disconnected. On two occasions the entire team of AVS disconnected from the game. On the first, AP paused but, in the second instance, none of the 4 players with pauses remaining paused for them. They said, in all-chat, that they “couldn’t pause,” implying that it wasn’t working for them. One angry reddit user stated that pauses don’t entirely work in the new, Reborn client (oh the lamentations of the new client) but they could have, in the interest of fairness, backed off and not continued to destroy 2 lanes of their barracks while the enemy couldn’t fight back. It was fairly neck-and-neck until that point but getting 2 lanes of barracks almost guarantees AP the win.

I personally think that both AVS offenses are fairly minor instances and AP’s unpausing, or lack of pausing more specifically, could have been due to a bug, though I highly doubt it, and so does Valve. As a result I think the decision to exclude both from this tournament is very valid and very fair. In fact, I’d say that it was fairly lenient.

Neither team plays Dota for a living and, as a result, they may forget simple things that apply only to tournaments and may just be treating this match like a pub-game. Either that or they thought because they are only small teams they could get away with it. However, the unfortunate fact for them is that esports, as a whole, is striving to be taken seriously and, over the last 5 years, it has been steadily achieving that aim with a number of games, not limited to just Dota. If it wants to continue being taken seriously then tournaments, especially those run by Valve, must deal with people who break the rules and ruin the experience for viewers, their opponents and their own team, must be dealt with severely.

Virtus.Pro Polar’s name, before they were picked up by VP, used to be NVMI which, when extended and translated from Russian to English, meant “we’re lucky; we’re playing,” and I think that should be at the heart of every player, whether they are winning or losing. For all intents and purposes, professional dota players are living the dream and for them to break the rules implies that there aren’t a thousand people eager to give up everything to take their place. Valve want players who play fairly to represent Dota and players just can’t afford to take the risk of getting caught because, as mentioned, there will always be someone willing to take their place. It’s exactly the reason why I think that those involved in the 322 match-fixing scandal in 2014 deserve their lifetime bans.

But this leads into a bigger discussion about sportsmanship in esports. I think that, outside of professional matches, there are a number of players who can work on how they treat each other and how they react after losses. The name of EternalEnvy leaps to mind. After all, his rants about tournaments and players and teams are almost as legendary as his ability to throw a game at this point. However, overall I think professional Dota players (I can’t speak for all of esports as I only follow Dota) are quite grateful for the path life has led them down, and this is reflected by their conduct, at least in a professional capacity. Even given how hard they have worked and how hard they do work for it, I think they all realise how lucky they were to be doing something they love and getting paid for it. From what I’ve seen from interviews there is an enormous respect between almost every player, barring only a few rivalries.

I think the main reason for this is that it’s no longer good enough to simply be really good at Dota to become a professional. In order to get noticed, at least if you intend to go through pub-games rather than winning tournaments, then you have to keep your cool. It’s not quite the same as Usain Bolt winning the 100m sprint. He does that because he is the fastest and is able to compete at a professional level because of that also. He could be a completely ungrateful narcissist who, in his free time, does despicable things like the heinous crime of playing League of Legends, but it wouldn’t matter because he is, objectively, the best 100m sprinter in the world. However, Dota, as a team game, has much more in line with something like football (or soccer to those across the pond)

You can be considered the best by some but there will be instances where you lose games and where you do something that causes your team to lose. But it doesn’t matter because you’ll be able to pick yourself up and play again, provided you get on well with, and trust your team. This is where the sportsmanship comes in. Someone who’s flaming and trying to make someone upset by doing so probably isn’t going to be that nice a person to play with.

It’s why Aui_2000 was kicked from EG after winning TI5, and it’s why his ability as a player doesn’t matter in the new team he has. Digital Chaos are good. In fact, I’d say that each player has the capacity to be in a TI-winning team, just like Aui was. However, since they don’t “gel” as well as EG did when they won TI they aren’t going to be able to unless they get passed it. And, to bring my favourite team up again, it’s why Virtus.Pro are looking so good right now and, while I don’t think they’ve lived up to their potential since TI5, besides in The Summit 4, I think they have the capacity to beat any team you put them again. They work together well. They’re friends, they love what they do and I think the smartest decision they ever made was to stick with their roster after TI5. Even though they ended up dropping Illidan and replacing him with Silent (IMO best carry player in the world. Seriously, look at his record!) it developed a trust between players.

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