I don’t imagine that when most of us picked up a controller for the first time, we immediately began to think of what kind of people went into creating the games we were playing. I was familiar with company names like Nintendo, Sega, Capcom and the like; never did I once consider that the ones who developed, published and marketed had their own agendas and images to push and protect.
As information begins to spread more easily with every year that passes, more opportunities present themselves to damage and slander a company’s reputation. The most recent comes from a professional StarCraft II player named Ilyes Satouri, better known to players everywhere as Stephano and a member of professional gaming league Evil Geniuses. During a live stream of a SCII session, he made a passing comment to another player about sex with a minor. As these things tend to cause shitstorms, the press leaped all over it. Apologies were demanded, threats were issued, emails were sent and people harrumphed and rabbled.
Is this what we have come to?
In the online community of StarCraft II, Stephano was something of an international celebrity before joining Evil Geniuses. He has won a plethora of trophies and titles that complement the shit-eating grin in his profile picture on the EG website. With over 30,000 followers on Twitter, his fan base will often tune in to one of his live sessions on TwitchTV. Stephano was apparently unaware that this particular gaming session was being broadcast when he told fellow SCII player BlinG that he “have abused of a child yesterday.” The entire incriminating conversation can be found in the screen caps here and here.
Judging by the wording of the conversation, I can’t tell if this is exactly what Stephano typed or if Battle.net has a shitty translator. Either way, as soon as Evil Geniuses got wind of this, they forced an apology out of Stephano – and by forced, I mean they had him write another apology after he already told people on his Twitter account “It was just a private joke, nothing serious, sorry!” What now appears on EG’s website is something you are more than welcome to search out yourself. You will notice the same type of cornball and phony dog shit that every actor, politician, athlete or other public figure has spoken when they got caught with their hands inside pants that were their own or someone else’s.
I have come to expect this sort of thing out of American society, since we love seeing people fuck up and point to them while sitting on the couch and noticing how much better we are as a person than they are. What I never expected was this sort of self-serving morality to bleed into the world of not just video games, but what has come to be known as e-sports.
What exactly is Evil Geniuses so afraid of Stephano doing? Are they really of the mindset that such morally upstanding companies like Monster Energy and Intel are going to pull their sponsorship? Intel has been sued by companies for age discrimination, patent infringement, antitrust in the United States, South Korea, European Union and Japan, accused of religious intolerance for operating on Shabbat in Israel as well as age discrimination in the 1990s. I hardly think they’re going to be worried about what one French professional StarCraft II player said in a private chat log.
As for Monster? Have you taken a look around the street lately? Sample twenty people and one of them is either drinking something by Monster or has in the last day. Hell, they might even be wearing a Monster hat, shirt or hoodie, as if the beverage company needs more product placement. I would love to see some data in the next few decades about early deaths and birth defects caused by the amount of crap we are putting into our systems through energy drinks, and when confronted with it, I’m sure Monster will hide behind the same kind of generic yes-man jargon that EG has on their website at the moment.
Look, I get the fact that everyone in the business of video games and competitive gaming now has to contend with many things they did not before, like Hollywood and television taking time and money away from games. With that sort of exposure comes more scrutiny from mainstream media. This doesn’t mean that Evil Geniuses has to react in the same knee-jerk manner that someone who “just came to chat” and is now face to face with Chris Hansen did. Video games are my number one hobby and I will defend that hobby to death, but for Christ’s sake, they are just that – a hobby.
I don’t want to see Street Fighter and Halo tournaments on ESPN. I want to see them on dedicated online streams where they belong. If Evil Geniuses wants to bring in new sponsors to help get professional players like Stephano and Justin Wong paid, that’s great. What they also need to do is stop acting like everyone with an arcade stick or mouse and keyboard is going to cross over into mainstream and suddenly become a geek equivalent of LeBron or RG3. It is not going to happen. Chess is not an Olympic sport, so how the hell could video gamers ever be recognized by the world of professional athletics?
I could not give a fuck about buzzer-beaters or huge tackles; hell, even baseball doesn’t do it much for me anymore. The clip above is one of the most incredible feats of mental strength I have ever seen, even after watching it hundreds of times like I have. That said, there are a hell of a lot of people who don’t share my view on the subject and only remember Street Fighter from the time they played it as kids. Those people are now watching SportsCenter and annoying the shit out of me every Monday when discussing the NFL.
They have not heard of Stephano, nor will they ever know his name, much less care about his sexual desires and exploits. They have also probably been drunk in public just as often as Stephano, who was arrested for being an obnoxious asshole over the summer after one of his tournaments. Evil Geniuses signed him after that happened, knowing full well the reputation which they were going to represent.
At the bottom of their press release, EG implies that they are still considering further action against Stephano. If they drop him, I say he is better off. Not only was he a recognized name before becoming a member of EG, he saw this coming. He mentioned people’s stupidity “makes me regret/hate going professional” and while I’m not familiar with the perks of being represented as a professional gamer, I would love for him to not only go back to being independent but whip the shit out of everyone on the EG team.
How’s that for publicity?