The International Prize Pool Gains Ground, E-Sports Sees Suspensions

Steve Anderson : End Game
Steve Anderson
The Video Store Guy
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The International Prize Pool Gains Ground, E-Sports Sees Suspensions

The recent events in e-sports are providing plenty of reasons to sit up and take notice. Not only has the prize pool for The International—the big world championship match for “Dota 2”--hit all new records from the last time we talked about records in this field, but there have been new developments in the “League of Legends” field as well, details less savory overall.

First, the good news. The prize pool for The International has cleared a whopping $8 million, and current projections suggest that, at the rate this is all going down right now, it's on track to clear $10 million by the time the game goes on July 18 – 21 at the KeyArena in Seattle, Washington. That would actually beat the prizes awarded in the 2013 round of The International by a factor of nearly four to one, with the 2013 round bringing in about $2.8 million total. As noted in a previous report, sales of The Compendium, The International's breed of digital program, help to drive that prize pool to the downright unprecedented levels at which it's currently holding.

But with good news, as is so often the case, comes some bad news. A set of “League of Legends” players—Alfonso “Mithy” Rodriguez and Erlend “Nukeduck” Holm, at last report—were banned from professional competitions in the League Championship Series until the dawn of 2015. The reason for the ban is said to be “toxicity”; the players involved were reportedly engaging so fervently in verbal abuse and racial slurs that the resulting impact on the environment was just too great. It's not the first time, either; back in 2012 a player took a ban from the series over a similar charge, “persistent toxic behavior.” “League of Legends,” at last report, has actually seen more suspensions than other online games, who have actually delivered punishments of their own, but this is a case where “League of Legends'” huge numbers work against it somewhat.

But that's the interesting thing; both of these numbers together actually prove the same thing: e-sports is rapidly gaining in terms of popularity and credibility, and the modes of the past simply won't do. This is becoming an actual sport, and as such, it needs players—male and female players alike—of good character. While there's a certain part of everyone that should be concerned about attacks on free speech, there's a certain kind of speech that should likewise be restrained. Not by law and statute, not by threats to life and livelihood, but by simple common decency. It's hard to come out fully in support of anything that has a chilling effect on free speech, but this would seem to be one of those cases where, if decency won't forbid, then something else needs to pick up the slack. The prize pool for The International makes it clear; e-sports as a concept is no long a pipe dream, no longer an aberrant hopes in the minds of starry-eyed children. To really grow at this point, it not only needs to carry on, but it needs to do so without the baggage that so commonly affects pro sports today; the scandals, the shames, and the poor values. If we can show the world that e-sports is not only an alternative, but a better alternative, there will truly be nothing to stop its growth.

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