Dota 2 China Major Under Scrutiny After Organizers Offer Veiled Threats to Controversial Players

Dota 2 is feeling the effects of China's influence over the gaming industry, with two players being indirectly threatened against attend Major.

By Lou Contaldi

December 2, 2018

If you aren’t in the esports or MOBA scene, you may tune out regarding the abundance of drama, feuds, and backlash within the growing field. But after some mean-spirited conversation, the upcoming Chongqing Major for Dota 2 is under a magnifying class, with reported veiled threats coming from the tournament’s organizers. It may turn out to be the largest PR issue about a Major since the disastrous Shanghai 2016 Major.

Let’s roll the clock back and review the controversy. In early November, comLexity Gaming’s Rolen Andrei Gabriel “Skemberlu” Ong came under fire after a racist comment made in-game. During and official DreamLeague game in one of the Dota 2 Minors, Skem globally chatted “gl chingchong” to the opposing Chinese team. This prompted ire from the Chinese Dota 2 fans who called for Skem’s head.

Skem would eventually offer a quick apology for his comments:

However, his hosting team compLexity Gaming took it a step further, moving Skem off of the active roster and looking to rehome him completely.

Following this controversy, in a non-official game TNC Predator’s Carlo “Kuku” Palad offered a similar “wtf chigchong” to his opposing Chinese team.

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Feeling pressure from Chinese Dota 2 fans — especially with a Major then-happening in Malaysia — Valve released a statement. Addressing the candor and growing racism concerns, they said:

Valve will not tolerate racist language between pro players in any form. We think it is really damaging to the entire Dota community whenever even a single professional player uses discriminatory language.

However, Valve did not take any direct action against either Kuku or Skem, letting the teams dole out any punishments accordingly.

And that brings us to earlier today. With the Chongqing Major rapidly approaching (coming January 19, 2019), TNC Predator reportedly talked with organizers of the event. And the conversation took a much more hostile tone than one would imagine:

You read that right, this is potentially a case of the organizers indirectly threatening to cancel the Major and Skem’s safety if they choose to attend. While not stated, it is implied that Kuku will be held under the same scrutiny.

While this is only coming out within the day, members of the Dota 2 community are already coming to their defense. Grant “GranDGranT” Harris, and up and coming caster in the NA Dota 2 community, is taking a stand by refusing to cast the Major.

But the biggest backlash seems to be from supporters in the community or the greater Dota 2 sphere — not official backing from teams:

The obvious question to be answered is “Why isn’t either Valve or Dota 2 esports teams making statements on this?”

The answer for both is easy to pinpoint, but definitely highlights the sore state of the industry. On one end, China still remains a major market — a big reason that developers and publishers will kowtow to standards that are far different from the zeitgeist of the industry at large. This may be as simple as not cracking down on hostile language of event organizers, or changing major elements of games altogether to keep games in a market.

Meanwhile, esports teams and organizations — especially in the Dota 2 community must be wary about their statements. The International 2019, Dota 2 and one of esports’ largest tournaments, is being held in Shanghai this year. The Chinese government are trigger happy when it comes to banning travel, so any team who speaks publicly against the Chongqing Major may find themselves out of a profession for an entire year.

While this fiasco all stems from controversial players, Valve will need to navigate an increasingly tight situation. It appears that the Chinese region is able to run roughshod over Dota 2 teams and the company itself, and the community isn’t partial of people’s safety being threatened. Meanwhile, the esports industry should really be evaluating how permissive they want to be with governments restricting their organizations.

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Lou Contaldi

Lou Contaldi specializes in both reviews and the business behind gaming. He began writing about tech and video games while getting his Juris Doctor at Hofstra University School of Law. He is maybe the only gaming journo based in Nashville, TN.

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