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Match fixing and attempted suicide in League of Legends

eSports is a scene that is forever growing and League of Legends (LoL) has been one of the biggest stars. With an enormous fan base and Riot’s drive to legitimise the scene with leagues and large amounts of prize money, it’s a name that is recognized globally. South Korea is a region that has embraced League of Legends whole heartedly, with huge corporate names like Nike, LG and SK Telecom to name a few, already involved financially.

So it comes as huge blow that will rock the whole LoL community when a Korean pro player revealed a match fixing scandal in arguably the best LoL league in the world, Ongamenet (OGN). Cheon “Promise” Min-ki is the former AD carry of a Korean team called AHQ (AHQ disbanded last year) and last night (South African time), he revealed the match fixing scandal on Inven, the Korean equivalent to Reddit. The post was then translated and posted to the League of Legends subreddit. For the full translation, you can check it out here.

The ‘TL;DR’ of the story is that the former manager of the team AHQ deceived and threatened his players in order to force them to fix games by purposefully losing so that he could make money from the Korean gambling site ToTo. The whole matter is made worse because Promise, the player who revealed all of this, jumped off a 12 story building in an attempted suicide. He is said to be in hospital and alive, but with a long recovery ahead of him.

It’s a tragic and shocking story. It’s been reported that Kespa (Korean eSports Association), Riot Korea and local police are investigating the situation. Past members of AHQ have also been called in for questioning.


It's not the first time

As tragic as this story is, it is not the first time that players have been victim to the greed or ill intentions of managers. Various stories have come and gone in all the regions where players were forced to boost low rank accounts for the benefit of the manager, or where players were not paid their wages for months at a time. Threats and lies were the primary tools to keep players in line or out of the know and it’s easy for mangers to do this because most pro players are young and ignorant. It is no fault of theirs.

A teenager is just not equipped to deal with these kinds of situations and as esports continues to grow, companies like Riot need to step in and create a legal framework that can protect players. Having said that, esports is still a relatively young scene and infrastructure takes a long time to come. It’s made harder by how fast the scene is constantly growing.


A players' association

Pro players have voiced their concerns before, such as Snoopeh, the Jungler for Evil Geniuses suggesting a player union to prevent situations like this from arising. He wrote the following:

“I really wish I had more time on my hands, I'm currently deliberating the formation of a player union Player Association to help standardize contracts and create transparency between players and teams. It would also help to provide power to the player which typically they lack in their current contracts between team owners and themselves. Comparing eSports contracts to Sports contracts such as the NBA, NFL or MLB is genuinely laughable - even if they should really follow the same premise (of course the money is less significant, but principals the same).”

A players’ association is just one possible solution to the Wild Wild West environment pro players find themselves in. People tend to focus on the glamorous side of competitive gaming with the fans cheering you and the bright lights but they forget that despite all this, it is one of the harshest working places. If you slump, you’re often left out in the cold and with many pro players having stopped school for this dream, they are left with nothing but a stunted future.


The American gaming "dream"

There’s a lot of sacrifice that is made to live this “dream” and for that very reason, Riot and other leading companies  need to start stepping up and creating a safer environment for players. Admittedly, it is easier said than done and for all we know, people could be working hard behind the scenes to achieve that end.

People like to belittle esports as they don’t consider gaming something very serious, but hopefully some good can come out of the tragic story of Promise, in that some light is shed on esports. This isn’t just a game for some people, this is their life. This is how they feed their family. Now it’s time that the seriousness of esports is met with an equally serious legal framework. 

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