Riot released a few competitive rulings over the duration of the regular season. McGill University received a season ban for ringing and two players, Jeremy “Javage” Hsiung of University of Ontario Institute of Technology and Gleb “Spodërmen” Nakarikov of York University, received 1-match bans because of hate speech and abusive/disruptive behavior, respectively. In years past, this type of regulation and enforcement was relatively rare at the collegiate level, but I’m happy to see Riot come down on this behavior - and in such a big way makes it even better.
A team losing a starter for a game is a big detriment, especially given the 2018 season’s Swiss format making the first six weeks a race to five wins. However, the implications of the two players’ actions are far more significant than one match. During my days as coach at Illinois College, I gave countless presentations about what esports are and how they fit into the mission at IC. This isn’t a requirement for traditional sport coaches - no volleyball or soccer coach has to prove they belong in a collegiate athletics program - but esports coaches have to validate their existence. Since being introduced to LoL in 2011, I’ve seen the parallels between traditional sports and esports. Things like teamwork, discipline, dedication, and sportsmanship carry over easily. I would not be surprised if in a few years a school’s LoL program rivals their basketball program in terms of significance to the student body To get there, gamers have a stigma to shed. Behavior such as that displayed by Hsiung and Nakarikov hinder programs from achieving that potential. It’s important for Riot to intervene when players step outside the boundaries and diminish any smear these actions have on the image of their sport and their audience.
It’s good to see these school representatives held to a standard, particularly on issues like hate-speech and argumentative behavior. Regardless of what an administration thinks of their esports club/program, everyone within our scene looks at it as an extension of the school. These two instances are very teachable moments, due to their childish nature. A repeated quote from the hit television show “How I Met Your Mother” rings in my head: “As we mature, our relationships matures with us.” Collegiate esports are exiting their toddler years and we’re seeing unprecedented growth in terms of participation, structure and scholarships. Unfortunately, a few players are refusing to mature with this growth. Part of that, I’d say, is because college matches aren’t taken as seriously as they should be.
Organized play is always of paramount importance compared to solo or duo queue. Getting heated over just another game would be the equivalent of Baker Mayfield losing it over a game of flag football at the local YMCA. For players looking for advice on how to act on the Rift, I’d suggest reading the cLoL rulebook, particularly section 7 titled “Player Conduct.” Also, search for your school’s values and let those guide how you conduct yourself in game, regardless of significance. My alma mater, Mizzou, identifies our core values as respect, responsibility, discovery and excellence. Regardless of the team’s record, players that practice some of those same values can avoid embarrassing both their school and themselves.
How do you feel about the increase in disciplinary action this season? Is it a sign of more comprehensive oversight, or worse player behavior? Let us know on Twitter or Facebook, and be sure to tune in to our Twitch channel for the latest broadcasts for collegiate League of Legends!
Christian Matlock is an esports professional who graduated from the University of Missouri in 2016. He has worked in coaching with Illinois College and was a founding member of Allegiance, a professional esports organization that debuted in Halo and now fields teams in Super Smash Bros and Call of Duty, among others. You can find him on Twitter @CMMatlock.