Esports is one of the more competitive aspects of video games, often making the news for their prize pools (not like news anchors can go beyond the numbers anyway). But the relative calm is often destroyed by controversial incidents that put the “future of esports” in jeopardy (or maybe I’m just overexaggerating here). One such event happened during yesterday’s match in the Hearthstone Grand Masters between Seiko and Bozzton during the EU qualifiers.

Throughout the match, Seiko was seen to be multitasking behind the screen, and often peering down at something else. As expected (and was later proved), Seiko was playing Auto Chess on his mobile constantly throughout the match. Apparently, Seiko was playing in the Auto Chess qualifiers for getting a slot at the actual tournament to be held in Shanghai this October. Multitasking can be fine but can be (and will be) noticed when you fail to perform optimally in both places at once. Seiko was playing a combo deck in the Hearthstone Grand Masters, and a crucial misplay on his part led to him losing the match to Bozzton.

For the uninitiated, combo decks involve assembling certain pieces (or cards, whatever floats your boat) of the combo before successfully executing it. Making a misplay that leads you to lose one of the combo pieces doesn’t mean you lost the game – it means you threw the game. That’s extremely shameful for any esports professional because misplays aren’t very common in the professional arena.

Seiko’s misplay drew sharp criticism from the casters Nathan ‘Admirable’ Zamora and Simon ‘Sottle’ Welch. Sottle was quick to notice that Seiko’s attention wasn’t on the game, which made him utter quite some harsh words on stream. The words which reiterated the most said: “Seiko, free advice for you my friend – pay attention to the goddamn game you’re playing, when there might be hundreds of thousands of professional players who would love to be in your position right now – how about that?” Sottle’s words ached of legitimate rage and emotion, and after a while, it seemed that he wasn’t the only one angry with the misplay. This was further accentuated by the fact that Seiko actually had the nerve to post a tweet defending his actions and actually mentioning that he was playing the Auto Chess qualifiers while competing on stream in the Hearthstone Grand Masters.

 

Needless to say, Twitter and Reddit were up in arms because of the lack of professionalism from Seiko. Sottle was found apologizing for his anger while reiterating that it was a show of disrespect from Seiko for playing in a slot that might have gone to another “more deserving” professional player. The r/hearthstone subreddit has quite a few heated discussions about the alleged “throw” of a match.

Seiko had rendered an apology while justifying his stance on his Twitter. Official Hearthstone Esports Product Manager Drew H. maintained that Blizzard knew about Seiko’s decision to play in the Auto Chess qualifiers and his attempts to try and reschedule the Auto Chess match for later, and that Seiko would have to be present next week to play his match properly or risk losing out. Responses from both Seiko and Blizzard had triggered the community even more, with players asking for harsher punishment including giving away his slot to some other worthy player.

In the context of the entire controversy, the players were right. Blizzard’s marketing department for esports is nothing as compared to what other companies like Valve does, and events like these hurt its reputation even more. People have only started recovering from the complete collapse of the Heroes of the Storm esports ecosystem when Seiko’s actions give them a new reason for hatred. The new format adopted for Hearthstone Grand Masters had made many old players disillusioned (besides the ever-increasing cost of maintaining a decent collection for playing a meta deck), and lack of a proper response from Blizzard would further hurt its credibility. Hearthstone Grand Masters is the pinnacle of Hearthstone esports. If the players themselves do not take it seriously, there is little Blizzard can do to make viewers take an active interest in it.

 

 

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