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Recently you might have heard of pro-players abandoning social media, TSM abandoning OnGamers and Thorin from Summoning Insight abandoning decent human behavior. So let’s talk about all of it.

 

 Before I begin, a fair warning: this will be a lot of controversy wrapped together in one article. Different readers will agree with different parts here and I only request that you don’t follow Thorin’s example on how to criticize others. Let’s have some mutual respect so we can have a mutual discussion.

 Some backstory for those of you who stay off LoL’s subreddit (and you are wonderful people for it); Reginald stated in a vlog he was temporarily halting interviews with OnGamers because of Summoning Insight. As a response, Duncan “Thorin” Shields from OnGamers called out Reginald in the 12th episode of SI, where he compared him to Caesar, a character from Planet of the Apes. This prompted an apology from OnGamers and Thorin as a form of damage control. Also, Locodoco stepped in as a coach for TSM and afterwards an announcement was made that the roster would avoid social media for the time being. These events are now a major talking point and a lot of pro players have been advised (or chose themselves) to avoid involving themselves with the community.

 

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Dunkan started the League talk show “Summoning Insight” back in March this year, where he and MonteCristo go into full detail on basically the entire pro-scene of League. Whether you like the show is largely inhibited by how long you can tolerate Thorin’s attitude. It’s his image of a rude, but honest trash-talker that makes him a notable personality.

 What the whole issue boils down to is that the hosts of Summoning Insight think their criticism is considered negative PR and that’s just not true. What is considered negative is Thorin’s inflammatory language, which you’d expect to be on a Tribunal case, not a recorded show for the community. Him being critical versus him being insulting is not an argument we should be having, because he doesn’t need to be aggressive to maintain objectivity.

 Witnessing Thorin discuss professionalism is, to put it lightly, hypocritical. Yes, he does interviews in a manner you’d expect a journalist to, but outside that he’s your stereotype for an overly arrogant commentator. He already has a history of being fired for his toxic behavior and the fact that he’s doing it again points to a complete lack of self-reflecting.

 

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 It speaks positive of the eSports community that Thorin was called out on his actions. His behavior was only condoned until now because his professional niche – eSports journalist – is still lacking an identity in the real world. League is moving closer and closer to being a world-recognized sport, but the media that covers it isn’t bound by the rules that make other media respected by its viewers. If Thorin was a journalist outside pro-gaming and he was this offensive, you’d have not just a PR disaster, but a full-blown media scandal. To give you an example: imagine that you’re watching football analysis and one of the commentators starts openly insulting a player or his team’s coach. What would happen is he’d be called off-screen and fired, and rightfully so, because one’s freedom of speech is not a universal permission to be unethical. Freedom of speech is talking without fear of government action against you. It has nothing to do with social skills.

  Censorship is a term we frown upon a lot these days. But censoring the way you talk about a topic is different from censoring what you talk about. If Thorin self-identifies as a journalist, if the public identifies him as a journalist, then he should act like one. Knowing when it’s inappropriate to say something is a required social skill, regardless of whether you think it’s impeaching on your right to say what you feel. I don’t want to be part of a community that embraces Thorin as some perverted embodiment of journalist qualities and I hope you don’t, either.

 

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 As much as we need to identify Thoorin’s attitude as an issue in his field, we also shouldn’t be jumping to conclusions. Particularly, him allegedly calling Reginald a “monkey”, which isn’t true. He did liken him to Caesar from “Planet of the Apes” , but only as a metaphor for a fatherly figure, not as a racist remark (you can find the exact quote here). Do I think it’s funny? No, it’s an absurdly insensitive comparison to make, but it isn’t racist and wasn’t aimed at how Reginald looks, but how he acts.

 This particular quote is infuriating, because Reginald’s been called “wukong” for a long time by the community, which can’t be excused for any reasons. Thorin has effectively become a scapegoat for awful behavior that many are guilty of . This hypocrisy of witchhunting a public figure who’s perpetrated an offense we commit on a regular basis – reckless insults – proves an obvious truth: that you have to be notorious to be held responsible for such language. The topic of how negative our community has become has been exhausted at this point, but look to yourself before you look to trashtalking someone mercilessly on Reddit and you might find the Thorin in you.

 

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The point of debate is on Ep. 12. Click the image to be taken there.

 

Was Reginald right to blacklist OnGamers entirely?

 

 No, I don’t think he is. Thorin’s an issue, but he’s only one employee for OnGamers. Blacklisting them entirely means Travis also won’t get to do interviews with TSM’s roster and that just isn’t fair towards Travis or the rest of the people working for OnGamers.

 

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 What’s requested of Thorin to be a journalist the community respects isn’t censorship. He can remain honest with people without being unnecessarily cruel in his words and these are not inseparable characteristics of how you speak to your audience. He actually has an example of how to behave right there, on Summoning Insight. MonteCristo has shown to be just as critical of the NA and EU scenes, but he moderates himself while delivering an honest opinion. There’s a level of disparity between the two that makes Thorin seem desperately amateur in what he does. Trash-talking your subjects of discussion is the lowest you can sink to when trying to make a point. Resorting to personal emotion and simple language is limiting your circle of audience to people who, frankly, know no other way to make their point across. If Thorin understands that, it will help both his image and the quality of his content.

 I’ll propose a solution to the whole debate and note that this may never happen and you don’t have to agree with it: I think Thorin should quit working for OnGamers, at least for some time. When a public figure erodes a relationship between organization and media, the person responsible steps down, and if Thorin is the professional he claims to be he should have the dignity to acknowledge what he’s done wrong and take responsibility. I don’t see why OnGamers as a whole should suffer for his actions and him quitting may show Reginald and teams in general that they’re committed to producing non-toxic content. As for whether Thorin should simply change his attitude: he won’t.

 

 

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 Thorin is, sadly, a reflection of League’s community right now. He’s taking flak for behavior that plagues a lot of people, but they aren’t public figures so we’re not scrutinizing over their actions. Obsessing over the drama that TSM is blacklisting OnGamers teaches us nothing about why this even happened; we should take this as an example of the obvious, that verbal abuse leads to consequences and it’s not your “right” to do it and expect the receiving party to “man up”.

 No one should honestly be surprised pro players are told to avoid social media and Reddit. Weekly trash-talk threads were a red sign that things have gone horribly wrong. We can blame the moderators with the same ease we blame the jungler, but they shouldn’t be the ones reforming the majority’s behavior.

 We don’t really want to criticize players after a bad match, we don’t want to tell them that they should step up their game and that fans demand more. No, what we really want is for other people to agree with us and we to agree with them; we don’t want to be the lonely defender of an opinion, so we cluster mindlessly around what’s popular, and what’s popular is usually what’s hateful, because it’s emotional and therefore attracts the most people. That’s the loudest voice pro-players hear, the voice of collective hatred. If you actually think trash-talking a player to the point where you want them benched is helping them in any way, you need to step away from the keyboard because you’re only contributing to the issue.

 

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 The nature of rude language on the Internet may seem obvious: we’re anonymous and therefore liberated of consequence. We say things online we’d never say in real life. But there’s more to it than that and I learned a lot about it from Nika Harper (Nikasaur from Summoner Showcase) in her GDC presentation on “How to become Fireproof”. Here’s a perspective on why we’re so hateful online that I’m sure most of you haven’t considered:

You don’t actually think about the other person reading your message.

 You may find it strange, but if you’re spewing hatred on the Internet, chances are you’re not perceiving the person you’re addressing it to as real. You don’t actually imagine him/her reading it and reacting to it. That’s why eye contact is so important in our communication. When we lose that, we have only a vague sense of what our words really cause in the minds of others. We become complacent with the opinion that since we’re not finding the language hurtful, others won’t as well.

 

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You’re not a physical entity to the people throwing insults at you online.

 

 If we remove criticism from talks on Reddit all-together, we become nothing more than a horde of fanboys. But attacking someone personally and as loud as possible and calling it criticism is not only damaging the relationship between eSports stars and the community that should be supporting them, it’s degrading the level of discussion we can even have regarding a player or a team.

 

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 There is an obvious connection here, between what Thorin should be working to change about himself and what we, as a community, should seek to improve. eSports has grown to a level where the ethical boundaries of fans interacting with pro-players aren’t gimmicks anymore; and being a nobody on the Internet is not an excuse for us to behave as we please. Enough with defending toxic behavior – if you’re unhappy with how a player is performing, there are civil ways to  talk about it. Insults are an uneducated man’s tools for humor and we should stop labeling them as acceptable when they’re clearly not for the people they’re addressed to.

 Physical sports players don’t communicate at all with their fans and pro-players are heading down a similar road. Right now we don’t even realize how much closer we are as a community to the personalities we see compete than in other sports. And there is a real chance we can lose that.

 

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