For those avid eSports followers out there, particularly in the Counter Strike: Global Offensive scene, you may be familiar with the iBUYPOWER and Netcodeguides.com match fixing scandal that occurred on the 21st of August 2014. iBUYPOWER (IBP) were heavy favorites to win the game against Netcodeguides.com, however were thrashed 16-4. Immediately after the heavy loss to the underdogs of the match, rumors of match fixing surfaced rapidly. The most prominent rumor was that of Sam “DaZeD” Marine’s men losing the game on purpose.
Evidence collected from the Daily Dot, which had cited multiple sources, even CSGOLouge itself had confirmed that a player placed unusual bets on the match with strong connections to the players on both teams. These wagers garnered more than $10,000 in earnings.
Another professional player who goes by ShahZaM claimed he was going to bet on IBP before being advised by Netcodeguides.com owner Casey Foster to change his bet. The following is a statement by ShahZaM:
In early 2015, Valve had released a rare public statement and banned the players involved in the match fixing scandal from Valve sponsored events.
The list of banned players last year were as follows:
Valve concluded their public statement on this issue by saying:
On January 5 2016, Valve released a follow up statement about integrity and fair play. The statement is as follows, sourced from the official Counter Strike blog:
Valve and ESEA, another CS:GO competitive platform, have upheld the bans.
However, the players were told that their cases would be reviewed in 2016. In Fxyo’s (who was formerly of Team Epsilon before their lifetime ban for match fixing) statement about the lifetime ban on HLTV.org:
It surely does not take a year for a company like Valve to mull over and discuss whether or not match-fixing players should be banned for life or only for a year. The penalties are harsher, particularly since these players have dedicated their lives to eSports, it would be extremely difficult for these people, who have dedicated so much time to competitive gaming, to simply find another means of employment to keep their income flow. By losing their professional status, they lose the sponsorships that the team(s) have had not for a year, but for life.
I believe Valve’s decision is questionable for the simple fact that Valve is judge and jury. A more efficient method of judging the situation would have been to have had ESEA, Valve, FaceIT and CEVO, for example, come together to make an ultimate decision as to whether or not these players would be banned. If the vote was a clean sweep, then they would be banned on all four competitive providers, however, if, for example, FaceIT voted NO, yet CEVO, ESEA and Valve voted yes, then they should be allowed to play in FaceIT tournaments but not in ESEA, CEVO and things affiliated with Valve, since not all tournaments are Valve sponsored. Whilst the issue of them being banned is complicated, and the permission or denial to compete is simultaneously just as complicated, a panel of judges should have been appointed as opposed to Valve taking the reigns and making the decision. It is their game yes, it is their company yes, however there are several tournaments provided by other software and so forth that should have had a say in it. Now that the bans have been cemented as permanent, it feels like they may simply be going with Valve for the sake of it.
Counter Strike: Global Offensive is a growing eSports game. It feels like a one year ban was the right way to go about it in the first place, solely for the reason that most players were trying to make up for their mistakes. Josh “steel” Nissan, for example, has been trying hard to make up for his mistakes and the players do regret their actions. He might be a top streamer, but he was excited to get back into it. A one year ban should have been enough of a benchmark and a warning for players not to do it again, or to prevent it from happening again. It hasn’t happened since, which makes the life ban decision all the more questionable. For those who take eSports as a joke, here’s an example from physical sport.
The Italian Football scandal of 2006. Juventus, of Italy was relegated from Serie A (top flight league) to Serie B (second tier league) and deducted 30 points at the start of the season for match fixing. Police got involved and they weren’t excluded by the Italian Football Association or banned by the Italian FA from any competition. They were still allowed to compete in the league, cups and so forth as long as they did not match fix again. They, the players, worked hard to get back into top flight football and they did, and have established themselves as one of Italy’s most dominant football teams.
If the Italian FA can do that in a country where football is almost a religion, then why couldn’t Valve do the same thing? Initially, the Italian FA and Valve’s punishment were similar. A little punishment to teach a lesson and send a message. It seems that Valve might have gotten a bit carried away in this regard.
If the Italian FA could see Juventus’ incident as a mistake, then why can’t Valve do the same thing?
“If all of these players copped a ban, then where is Skadoodle’s ban?”
Simple. According to steel’s Facebook post when the bans happened around late January 2015, he stated that Skadoodle had enough integrity to decline skins. (You can read the full post here: https://www.facebook.com/csgolounge/posts/790814980954693)
However, Tyler “Skadoodle” Latham was on the team that was throwing for skins. Despite not accepting the skins that came afterwards, he was apart of the team. This part of the debate is a double edged sword, largely due to Skadoodle’s choices. However, in defense of Skadoodle, there was nothing much he physically could have done. His team had decided to throw away the game for skins. Mind you, skins in CS:GO have relatively high monetary value, with the AWP Dragon Lore skin fetching over $1,000 in value, knives in particular holding a significant amount of monetary value. By no way are skins a joke in Counter Strike.
There was not much Skadoodle could have done to prevent it. It is a difficult task to 1v5 after you know that your team is going to throw the game regardless, so he accepted his fate and went on with it. Overall it was probably the smartest thing to do at the time, since he saved his own dignity and self respect, but simultaneously his career, as he now plays for Cloud 9 in the AWP role. The basis of Valve’s initial bans came from the fact that the players of IBP were banned for throwing for profit. Skadoodle, according to Valve, had no history of skin transactions during the period and therefore was let off of the hook. The other four members threw for profit, and received their bans.
As said previously, it feels like a year ban was enough of a punishment for these players, both of IBP and Epsilon, by having these bans extended to a lifetime ban, it just shows that Valve’s prime motivator might be the integrity of the game. Life time bans just seem harsh for those who have given there all to something that they are good at and were once considered professionals at. If the Italian club Juventus were given a second chance, then why aren’t the players of Epsilon and IBP?
It is as lurppis of Splyce has said in his column, it is the battle of Emotional Decision Making and Intellectual Decision Making. Emotionally, I, as well as many other Counter Strike fans and players, whether amateur or professional would have liked to have seen IBP unbanned and free to play the game professionally again. Intellectually, however, Valve is somewhat spot on, in that match fixing should not be tolerated, however, I think that a years ban is plenty to send a clear message. A year out of eSports and relying on Twitch donations and subscriptions, as well as whatever YouTube income a professional player might make is a heavy, heavy burden financially. The communication from Valve seems to be a particularly large issue in this circumstance. Whilst there are those like “steel” and “DaZeD” that are popular on Twitch and have established sponsors and so forth, it would have been difficult for other players who were more optimistic about Valve’s decision making to adjust. They might have been gearing up to play professionally again, however with the sudden news of the ban, many players might have been left scrambling on what to do next in order to cement a solid source of income.
In my opinion, the decision would have been more acceptable if the players had known beforehand, as opposed to having it sprung on them suddenly.
Overall, I believe Valve’s decision-making process in the entirety of this issue has been questionable and their communication skills must be re-evaluated. This is a big blow to the North American competitive Counter Strike scene, and one that will affect the course of the former professional player’s lives forever. A one-year ban feels like a precedent enough in my eyes, however it may not be in the eyes of others. These players seem like they have learned from their mistakes and have improved their gameplay dramatically, a shift in attitude should have warranted an un-ban, however this was not the case. I feel like they should have been unbanned, and Valve should have stood firm in their stance with a statement perhaps warning of a permanent ban from the game if an incident like this occurred again, and work from there. First time warning, next time would be the hammer time. Perhaps that would have worked out better.
What I do know is, is that this is a great waste of superb North American talent.
I also know that the life time ban for the first instance of match fixing really does show how far from a sport CS:GO really is.