In both esports and traditional sports, only winning largely matters. Any and every advantage must be taken to get as close as possible to winning in every scenario.
But while most athletes would train relentlessly, others would resort to shadier methods to get the win. While traditional athletes would be embroiled in steroid and substance usage scandals, esports athletes would similarly employ cheating programs to unfairly gain the advantage over their opponents. Others would even resort to match-fixing to get some fast cash.
Read on for the stories of 5 players from different esports titles and their most unfortunate involvement in cheating scandals:
1.) Forsaken – Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
A few days ago, the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) community was rocked when news of broke that Nikhil ‘forsaken’ Kumawat of OpTic India was caught with cheats in his PC during the eXTREMESLAND 2018 Asia Finals. Forsaken and his team were promptly disqualified and investigations into their actions began in earnest. This was then followed by news from ESL India that revealed Forsaken also cheated in the ESL India Premiership 2018 Fall tournament.
The fiasco shook the Indian CS:GO community to its core, as Optic India was known to be a rising team with a lot of potential to make waves in the international scene before disaster struck. While it seems that it was only Forsaken who willingly cheated during the previously mentioned incidents, his actions have struck a nasty blow on the integrity of the CS:GO scene in India.
However unfortunate this case may be, this is not the first, as the competitive CS:GO scene has a very long list of players who were banned for cheating, match fixing, and other offenses.
2.) Tom60299 – Hearthstone
Earlier this month, Blizzard Entertainment, publisher of the online collectible card game Hearthstone, released an official ruling against accusations of cheating in the Hearthstone Global Games division. This response was prompted by a recent incident wherein 2017 Hearthstone World Champion Chen Wei “Tom60229” Lin cheated against his Singaporean opponent Samuel “Sequinox” Chan.
It was found during the Hearthstone Global Games event that Tom60229 and his team, Chinese Taipei, were ‘stream-sniping,’ or watching a broadcast of their match to get information about their opponents’ moves. The cheating was found out by chance when Chinese Taipei uploaded a video of their match, in which they were heard talking about seeing their opponents’ moves from a broadcast. Tom60229 and his team were quickly disqualified from the tournament.
Stream-sniping has run rampant across many esports titles for years, and while it is commonly used against streamers, it can and has also been used in competitive environments. That it happened during one of the biggest Hearthstone competitions, and with a world champion involved no less, is most unfortunate.
3.) Sado – Overwatch
The Philadelphia Fusion is one of the more successful franchises in the Overwatch League (OWL). While the team’s multi-national roster only placed 6th in the OWL’s inaugural regular season, they exceeded expectations with a deep run in the playoffs, only falling short of the championship after losing to the London Spitfire in the finals. No matter how successful the organization’s season was at its end, its beginning was marred by a major scandal involving one of its players.
Kim “Sado” Su-Min was suspended from the league before the inaugural season even began because he was found to have been boosting Overwatch accounts for money. Boosting is the act of using another player’s Overwatch account to falsify their ranked level — a serious offense for Overwatch publisher Blizzard and the game’s community. Sado was suspended for a whopping 30 out of 40 regular season games, the most in competitive Overwatch history.
With all that said, it’s also worth looking into the reasons why Sado boosted. Despite being a very skilled player, Sado felt that the game’s professional system had failed him—there was no chance for him to go pro. So, the then 18-year-old high school dropout found other, less-than-honest ways to earn money from playing the game. While he has moved past the incident now that he is in the OWL, which promises salaries and health insurance for its professional players, the same cannot be said for those in the lower tiers of professional play desperate for money and recognition much like Sado was before.
4.) Life – Starcraft II
In 2013, Lee “Life” Seung-Hyun reached the pinnacle of one of the greatest stretches of tournament wins in Starcraft II (SC2) history. His ascent started the year prior when he won GSL Season 4, becoming the youngest player to ever win a GSL tournament. He followed that up with a string of victories in other tournaments, including the MLG Fall Championship, the 2012 Blizzard Cup, and the Iron Squid – Chapter II. He peaked in the 2013 MLG Fall Championship, becoming the first-ever back-to-back MLG champion and earning recognition as one of the greatest SC players of all time.
Life went on to enjoy continued success through 2014, until a deep-seated match-fixing scandal erupted in the Korean SC2 community in 2015. Investigations by the Korean e-Sports Association (KeSPA) and Korean law enforcement agencies uncovered a string of match-fixing incidents going as far back as January of that year, with several people in the scene involved.
In January of the next year, KeSPA announced that Life had been arrested by the Changwon prosecutor’s office on charges of receiving money for match-fixing. It was discovered that Sung “Enough” Jun Mo, a former player, host, and journalist, paid Life money as compensation for intentionally losing matches and subsequently betting on those fixed matches. Many among the SC2 community could not believe Life’s involvement in the scandal, especially considering that by that time he was the second player with the most tournament earnings, at around $460,000, at the time.
Life was sentenced to 18 months of imprisonment, a three-year suspension, and a 70,000,000 won (or over $64,000) fine, alongside a lifetime ban from participating in any KeSPA tournaments. Life tried to appeal for a more lenient sentencing in July, but he was dismissed by the Changwon District Court. Following his arrest, his WCS Global Finals title was revoked and he was disgraced from the SC2 community.
Life would not compete in any other major tournaments since, and there has never been a fall from grace quite as high as he experienced.
5.) Solo – Dota 2
In 2013, Alexei “Solo” Berezin was a member of the middling Russian Dota 2 team RoX.KiS, a tier-2 team struggling to break into the upper echelons of the game’s competitive scene at the time. The squad was again unsuccessful in StarSeries Season 6 that year, and Solo and RoX.KiS would end their campaign in the tournament in a futile match against zRAGE. That seemingly meaningless match, however, would go on to be one of the most infamous moments in Dota 2’s history.
While RoX was heavily favored in the match, the squad lost after 27 minutes of terrible decisions, ill-advised gank attempts, and suicidal engagements. Solo and his squad gave up 50 kills against zRAGE before the confounding match ended. However, evidence later surfaced that Solo bet $100 that his team would lose, and with the odds heavily in favor of his team, he would have had a payout of $322.
After finding out about the incident, StarLadder, the CIS region’s premier gaming league, slammed Solo with a lifetime ban, while also issuing three-year bans on his teammates and a one-year ban on the RoX organization. While RoX initially defended its team, Solo eventually admitted that he placed the bet and left the organization. His ban would then be reduced to just one year, but he never got his $322. Dota 2’s publisher, Valve Corporation, would then go on take match-fixing issues seriously by issuing lifetime bans on future perpetrators.
The incident would go on to live in Dota infamy, with the Dota community, especially Twitch chat, coining the term ‘322’ to mean any bad or questionable play that would ‘throw’ a match away, no matter if there was any intent on match-fixing or not.
Solo would make a comeback a couple of years later, he would become the captain and drafter of the VP roster that would become one of the most dominant teams in the scene from 2016 even until now. While the mark left by the 322 incident on Solo is indelible, he is known now for other, more respectable accomplishments.