The Esports Crowd Question
How far is too far?
Crowds in any sports are rather important. Not just from a financial value, but if you don’t have any kind of support or following, then why are you really playing? After all, one of the main reasons for sports existing is to entertain both the players and the spectators. Without one, the other doesn’t really have a purpose. But does the same apply for esports? After all, minus the recent trial of home matches in the Overwatch League (OWL) and things like the CS:GO major stickers, the financial gain (tickets etc) goes to the event organisers rather than the teams themselves. Do the crowds hurt the integrity and professionalism of esports, or does it grow and provide extra entertainment?
Let’s start with the negatives. Despite many esports having sound-proofing headsets and/or booths, sometimes crowd reactions can give away players locations or if they are doing some kind of sneaky play. Take for example Call of Duty, where often a player may try and sneak a ninja defuse in Search and Destroy. While the players may not be able to hear the crowd, they may be able to see their reaction in their peripheral vision. This has happened a couple of times in the past few years.
Secondly, you can have those “fans” that aren’t exactly fans. They’re there to cause trouble and that alone. There are several instances of this, for example in CS:GO’s ESL Pro League Season 4 Finals, where the Brazilian crowd was full of nasty people sending out death threats to players and stalking their families. Another instance is again in Call of Duty, at the Black Ops 3 World Championships when Cloud 9 knocked out OpTic Gaming, and Cloud 9’s player Lacefield got swarmed with racist remarks and chants.
Now, we get onto some controversy and this is what sparked this article in the first place. From Friday May 3rd to Sunday May 5th, several events were taking place in a multitude of esports. But today we’re going to speak about two in particular. The Call of Duty World League Open London (CWL London) and IEM Sydney for CS:GO. As you’ve probably noticed, these two esports come up a lot in this article.
Let’s first talk about IEM Sydney, as it’s the less complicated of the two. IEM Sydney is the only mainstream Australian event on the circuit and has been for the past three years. The venue is always packed and the event is more on the light-hearted side. It will often feature a show match of Team Australia vs Team UK, in what they dubbed “The Caches”, a pun on the cricket series “The Ashes” that the two play. The crowd often will go nuts, insulting the UK team (namely CS:GO commentator HenryG) and cheering on their home team. All of this is done in jest and if you haven’t seen one, you need to go and watch it to have a laugh. The event has been often dubbed as a major event due to the crowd and hype, despite not having that Valve-sponsored status. And if it did, the ‘banter’ for a lack of better words, would be lost.
But their controversy comes from this clip, where the crowd started to shout “F**k you Overwatch”, as the Overwatch League contenders finals were taking place next door. No prompting, just passion. Some may see this as unnecessary hate, others as just a joke.
Now onto CWL London. They responded to said clip, despite not being directed at them calling CS:GO “w*****s”, but this was just the tip of the iceberg. Now see, what some people may not realise is the culture in the UK. Being a brit myself, I can say that while football hooligans exist, a lot of them are just jokers who have a bit too much to drink. And this is what happened during this event. In the UK, you only need to be 18 to drink, rather than 21 in the US. You can also get beer any time of day with no questions asked. During CWL London, the Copper Box Arena actually ran out of beer!
Why am I giving you this context? Because one team, Luminosity Gaming (LG), was subject to this football ‘banter’ and from the outside looking in, it looked like the crowd were purposefully victimising them. LG, for some reason I do not know, were not liked in the UK to begin with. They were booed in CWL Birmingham the year prior (which they also won). But CWL London was on another level. During their Losers Bracket Round 2 match against FaZe Clan, a glitch in Game 3 caused Luminosity to wrongly win the map and go 2-1 up in the series (see more here). FaZe, who has two British players, had the fans on their side and so LG ended up getting several football chants against them. When the decision was made, there were chants of “the referee’s a w****r” and then when LG ultimately won the series 3-2, they were told to “F**k off”. These chants continued throughout the event, with the most popular being the Anti-Tottenham chant “What do you think of”, but instead of Tottenham, it was LG. It got so big, that another British player, Tommey, instructed the crowd to erupt in the chant on the third day, despite LG having been knocked out!
With the constant abuse, were the LG players phased, annoyed or angry? Not in the slightest. They saw the fun in it, as LG’s captain Slacked tweeted out later on after they had been knocked out.
So what do you think of this? Do you think that these types of crowds are good for the esports scene, or do you think they are toxic and this type of conduct shouldn’t be allowed in events? I personally thought the CWL London crowd was amazing, but maybe I have bias due to the fact it was my home country. As long as players can take it and understand that it’s all a joke, and death threats/racism aren’t brought into it like previous instances, I see no issue in this type of chanting and crowd reaction.