January 26, 2018 by coachcarter717
Written by Carter Cotrupi
We are now entering Week 3 of the Overwatch League inaugural season and the competition is just heating up. Viewership has been steady and overall there is a lot to be excited about as we move towards the end of Stage 1. However, the hottest story coming over this past weekend did not concern viewership or ratings, but it did involve one of the Overwatch League’s most recognizable esports personalities. The story that every esports fan has been following since Thursday is the suspension handed out to the pro player known as xQc.
Overwatch League player Felix “xQc” Lengyel of the Dallas Fuel was quickly punished by the league and his team after he blurted out a homophobic comment on his personal Twitch live stream against fellow OWL player Austin “Muma” Wilmot. Wilmot is openly gay and plays for the Houston Outlaws, the team that crushed the Dallas Fuel in Thursday’s matchup 4-0.
The Fuel have not had a great run so far in OWL despite being predicted to be a top-tier team and boasting some fan-favorite talent on their roster. After Thursday’s match, Muma did a post-game interview where he said his team “Rolled and smoked [Dallas Fuel], my doggies”, an obvious mocking of one of xQc’s catchphrases.
Lengyl did not take kindly to his words being used against him (even though he was on the bench for their match). In his personal Twitch gaming live stream after the match, fans reminded him of Muma’s interview to which xQc proceeded to go on a fast-paced emotional rant, ending with “Shut your f**king mouth. Go back there, suck a big fat c*ck…” His shocked expression immediately following that statement meant he knew there would be serious consequences for his maligned word vomit.
Lengyl publicly apologized to his fans and to Muma directly. Wilmot replied to the tweet, seeming to accept the apology and understanding xQc’s emotional outburst as a result of his mockery.
If this happened during their longstanding rivalry back in the days of just being Twitch streamers, the situation might have been resolved right there. However, both players have a new responsibility to uphold the reputation of their teams and the Overwatch League as a whole.
Not long after this occurred, the Overwatch League suspended xQc for four games and fined him $2,000 for violating the Overwatch League Code of Conduct.
In addition, Dallas Fuel released a statement adding to xQc’s punishment by suspending him for the rest of Stage 1 (six games total). The story goes a bit further as we started to hear from his Dallas Fuel teammates after the fact. Another fan favorite player and Dallas Fuel teammate, Brandon “Seagull” Larned hinted that there was more going on behind the scenes with xQc that those the general public is not aware of. The idea of internal distress in the background adding to xQc’s incident makes sense with some fans thinking the Fuel were too harsh in their additional punishment.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from Lengyl’s suspension is the part of the Dallas Fuel’s statement mentioning the support staff they have available to help the young gamer to adjust to life on Overwatch’s biggest stage. It sounds like they will have resources available to Lengyl that will help him learn to measure his impact off-camera as much as well as his presence in the public eye.
xQc’s punishment is not the first time that the boisterous gamer has been in hot water for his actions on camera. In the months before OWL started (when he just signed with the Dallas Fuel), Lengyl’s Overwatch account was suspended on multiple occasions because of his antics in ranked online play, including the false reporting of other players and intentionally throwing matches. It was because of previous incidents like this that many Overwatch fans had a problem with xQc being allowed to play in the Overwatch League to begin with.
One of the important takeaways from Lengyel’s situation is how quick the league was to dish out the punishment for his actions. Blizzard has reinforced their code of conduct on professionalism concerning their OWL players. In return, the rest of the pro players and OWL’s fans have a better understanding of the company’s swift involvement regarding incidents both on and off the stage. Essentially, the Overwatch League wants its players and coaches to recognize the authenticity of the esports league by agreeing to operate in a controlled gaming environment focused on elite-level play and professionalism. For many players like xQc, this is the first time that a higher power has provided some sort of rigid structure to the conduct expected of them while they are in the league.
This is also not the first suspension that the Overwatch League officials have dealt. Su-min “SADO” Kim of the Philadelphia Fusion was suspended for 30 games by the league back in November for account boosting (being paid to boost other people’s skill level by playing on their accounts). Kim can practice with the team, but he won’t be available for league play until the start of Stage 4.
The Twitch live streaming platform that xQc and many other OWL players originated from allows the freedom for many popular gaming personalities to say or do whatever they want, so long as their content stays within the confines of Twitch’s very loose guidelines and restrictions. This freeform online environment has been the home to pro players like xQc who, outside of competitive esports tournaments, have not been required to hold their social position or style of gameplay to a more professional standard. Blizzard was aware of the high-profile players and personalities that the Overwatch League would attract. The team is making sure that the league is taken seriously and conducted within the same legitimacy as a major sports league, per their mission statement.
As an avid gamer myself, it is impressive to see an esports league hold itself to such a high standard. As I mentioned in one of my previous articles, other games that rise to the esports level hold small tournaments or single-weekend events. As such, these leagues lack the resources to monitor the behavior of its players in such a professional manner. They rely instead on team management or the players alone to hold themselves accountable. In cases with games like Rocket League, most teams are comprised of player-coaches, with each individual acting as their own management at these events.
The Overwatch League aims to fix that messy system and has a large enough net to cast over each of its 12 teams, ensuring that every player is treated like a professional and is held to a high standard for representing the future of esports leagues.