Viewing Controversies in the Asian eSports Scene


League of Legends Audience


Recently the ‘Monster Gaming Elo boosting scandal’ was made public through the revelation of Monster Gaming’s League of Legends (LoL) Jungler Song “Monster Demeter” Woo Jae. According to him, the team was promised an opportunity by Monster Gaming to become great professional players, but was lied to. Instead, although they did end up having a team house, they barely got to scrimm with other teams or had chances to train and were mostly forced to Elo boost. In LoL, Elo boosting is when a higher skilled individual plays on someone else’s account in order to improve the Elo rating of said account. It is considered by Riot as a violation of the terms of use because it cheats the matchmaking system and ruins the experience for other players.

As a fan and supporter of eSports, I was at first worried about how this could negatively impact eSports in general. Aspiring pro gamers, for instance, may get discouraged that they might end up having the same fate as Demeter and his team. Others may just end up seeing professional gaming as something entirely negative. After all, there is a saying that it only takes a few bad apples to spoil a bunch.

According to this post, eSports was born on June 1997 when Microsoft sponsored the Red Annihilation Quake tournament. Wikipedia, on the other hand, states that since the time video games were developed, they have already been played competitively. In 1980, Atari held the Space Invaders Tournament with more than 10,000 participants. Whichever time you choose to believe that eSports began, I believe we can all agree to the part that eSports in Asia as a category has been here for a very long time and, as such, it has its own share of highs and lows, including scandals and controversies. Yes, I’m saying that the Monster Gaming Elo boosting scandal is not the first controversy in Asian eSports. Here are two other biggies:

1. Warcraft 3 – MBC Prime League map scandal (March 2005)

In March 2005, there was the MBC Prime League map ccandal for the game WarCraft 3 (WC3). The whole issue was sparked by Lee “Dayfly” Joong Heon after his discovery of unfair modifications in the Prime League maps. While watching the semi-final match’s video-on-demand (VoD), Jang “Moon” Jae Ho and Dayfly noticed how the Orc, one of the WC3 races, was so imbalanced in the said map that they barely lose hit points (HP).

Dayfly managed to get his hands on a copy of the replays as well as the maps used for the Prime League and, with the help of a programmer, he found out that the map had indeed been modified to give an advantage to the Orc race and to somewhat disadvantage the Night Elf race. Dayfly suspected that it may have been done by producer Jae-Young Jang, who later confirmed and apologized for what he had done. He stated that his reason for doing so was so that it would provide more entertainment and because he was under pressure from media competition. As a result, Jang was no longer allowed to be part of any of MBC Game Channel’s programs or leagues. MBC also issued a public apology to the pro gamers involved.

2. StarCraft – Match-fixing scandal (May 2010)

The big match-fixing scandal of 2010 was a significant incident involving several pro players who were fixing games for monetary gain. The players were either being paid by betting websites for a pre-determined match or betting against themselves and then intentionally losing their games. While the rumors of the match-fixing started floating around April 2010, it took a month before it was finally confirmed.

It started when Waxangel made a forum post on April 2010, which led to another post by Rekrul. In a video, which has already been removed from YouTube, Rekrul also explained what he had learned about the match-fixing issue. A month later, the scandal was confirmed by Korean News sites and was even reported by the BBC. In the end, 16 people including 11 pro gamers were caught and suffered consequences.

MBC Games - StarCraft


What it all boils down to

Now, I’m not saying that scandals and controversies are things that we shouldn’t be worried of or that these controversies have sparked the fuse of the ticking time bomb that is eSports in Asia. True enough, these issues are things that need attention and a proper course of action not only from the community, but also from the organizers and sponsors themselves. Same as cheating in any sport. At the same time, however, it shouldn’t be treated as the apocalypse of either LoL or eSports in Asia.

Going back to the Monster Gaming Elo boosting scandal, I wouldn’t say this would blow the whole Korean eSports scene apart. You may or may not agree that LoL isn’t the official representative of eSports just as how StarCraft and WC3 may or may not have been before. But during the time of the aforementioned scandals, regardless of who or what could be considered as the face of eSports, people expressed their feelings of worry, betrayal, and mistrust.

However, controversies are incidents that we can’t always prevent and sometimes not even prepare for. There’s always something or someone that’s bound to ruin what is currently something good.

The Monster Gaming Elo boosting scandal has yet to see its conclusion, but, quoting from the article from, I particularly like the players’ responses.

When I asked about their future plans, the players’ responses were all the same:

“We will continue to try to become a professional League of Legends player”.

(Edited by Steven Millward)

(And yes, we're serious about ethics and transparency. More information here.)

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