Pretty much everyone with a passing interest in esports has heard about James “2GD” Harding’s dismissal from the Shanghai Major panel. It’s apparent that emotions are running high. Gabe Newell, the CEO of Valve, called Harding “an ass” on Reddit. Harding wrote a long post in response to his dismissal. Posts about the incident are dominating the top of the Dota 2 subreddit. Everyone has an opinion on this situation.
Just in case you haven’t heard about it, here’s the tl;dr version:
2GD was a popular panelist in Dota for a long time. As of late, he’s been less active with Dota events as he’s developing his own game. Longtime Dota fans love him for his banter and somewhat brash personality. Valve elected to bring him back for the panel during the Shanghai Major. 2GD was allegedly told to “be himself.” At the Major, 2GD made a few somewhat off-color jokes on air, referencing masturbation/pornography and referring to a player as a “bottom bitch.” He also ignored a cue from producers to cut to a break during a delay and decided to keep broadcasting. After about a day and a half, 2GD was fired. There was no panel nor production for a few game series.
All of this happened amidst a number of technical issues and delays, which further enraged viewers. For what it’s worth, in the same post explaining 2GD’s dismissal Newell announced that the production company was sacked as well (hence the raw streams for a few series).
The fan response has been… vocal, to say the least. Between fans enraged over 2GD’s dismissal in the first place, fans enraged about Newell’s arguably not-so-professional statement about it, and fans enraged over 2GD’s antics, it seems we’re caught in an F5 drama tornado right now as a community.
I’m not going to launch into some tirade about who is right and who is left in this scenario. I have an opinion too, just like everyone else, but it’s not productive to rant about it. Instead, I’m going to make a case for you all on why we should find some middle ground between the two extremes of regimented professionalism and off the cuff memery.
I was first exposed to Dota when a friend of mine showed me the TI4 EU hub stream. I loved the atmosphere of a bunch of people hanging out and then casting these awesome, exciting games with lots of hype and strategy and action. The “casual friend gathering” juxtaposed with “the teams are playing for a spot in the biggest tournament of the year” was a big part of the initial attraction (I’ve seen people lovingly refer to hub streams as “Friend Simulator 2.0.”) When the event rolled around I was astounded by the production quality. The stage was perfectly set, the hosts were engaging, even the overlays were well-made. The level of hype conveyed through that Twitch stream was certainly unlike any esport event I had ever witnessed. TI5 even stepped it up a notch with excellent player bio segments leading up to matches as well as excellent showmanship. Most importantly, none of it felt stuffy. It didn’t feel like Sportscenter, it didn’t feel like I was watching a bunch of guys goof off either.
I touched upon the balance of professionalism and personality in my article about casters and professionalism in regard to player conduct. Steven, a League writer, also put together this piece about Xpecial and professionalism. It’s hardly a new topic in esports.
You want to appeal to 90% of the people 90% of the time. That’s an adage I’ve heard used in regard to interior design, but it’s applicable here too. There’s no reason that we can’t find a balance between putting together a good panel with quality commentary on teams and players but also have some fun banter and jokes to keep it lighthearted. We can have our panelists in suits talking about Invoker’s pick/ban rate, but they can be Bruno suits. Becoming one thing doesn’t mean we lose another. We can have professional casts and productions that look great on screen and grab the attention of the layperson AND casters making “Arteezy was right Kuro was left” jokes on air. This combination, this middle ground, is likely to keep most of the viewers happy and alienate few. We can conduct ourselves with the level of professionalism that goes along with a million dollar prize pool but stay true to Dota’s original grassroots feel.
To me, the Dota community is like the scrappy street kid of the ARTS genre. It’s not always polite. Emotions run high. Sometimes there’s drama. But, it’s never boring. That ‘edge’ is part of our identity and we shouldn’t seek to suppress it. But let’s not encourage crassness or shock value in place of witticisms and knowledge.
And lastly, let’s not forget about all the great Dota we’re getting in Shanghai. I for one cannot wait to see how far MVP. Phoenix can go.