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I’m currently on vacation preparing for surgery and a follow up on my doping in eSports article, but as it seems to be nearly impossible to get an official statement from the companies involved even for me, I found some time to read two interesting articles written by Richard Lewis I’d like to comment on, as I think they are a tiny bit one-sided and bend the topic into a direction that doesn’t make Lewis seem very neutral about it.

 

What happened?

 

To summarize what Lewis is writing about, I’ll take his words as I couldn’t formulate it any better.

Nicolaj “Incarnation” Jensen has been something of a dirty secret in the European League of Legends scene for some time.

Jensen was at one time one of the most vilified players in League of Legends—and not without reason. At one point the number one ranked player on European servers, Jensen was also known for a terrible temper. When Riot Games permanently banned him from the game on the Jan. 23, 2013, it cited not just abusive behavior, but also allegations of DDOSing other players.

That was supposed to be the end of his career.

However after a period of reflection about his behavior, Jensen returned to the game. He focused on coaching, and was shortly recruited by the long-standing SK Gaming to help bolster their team. Jensen had an immediate effect.

In his first season coaching the team, SK Gaming finished atop the regular LCS season in the Spring split, boasting a 64 percent win rate. This split, despite a fourth-place finish in the regular season, they managed to qualify for the upcoming World Championships in Korea, a feat many had thought beyond them. The players all acknowledge Jensen’s contribution in this success.

Just two days ago, however, Riot Games informed the team that Jensen wouldn’t be allowed backstage, nor into the practice or stage areas, at the World Championships. This effectively prevented him from fulfilling his coaching role. The decision had seemingly come out of the blue, as Jensen had attended events and LCS tapings before. And it was only made public through the popular League of Legends talk-show “Summoning Insight” when Christoph “nRated” Seitz, SK Gaming’s support, appeared as a guest.

Source – Richard Lewis “Why Riot got the Incarnation decision wrong”

 

Lewis starts off with the following sentence. Do keep this in mind for later.

I had wanted to write about his path to “redemption” as a standalone article, but that was ultimately impossible, because SK Gaming were worried about potential reprisals. Before every interview with SK players, the small talk before the camera started rolling would usually culminate with a request to not mention Jensen at all, because they didn’t want to deal with the Riot aftermath.

– Richard Lewis

 

The Ruling

 

Lewis is only using a single out of context quotation from the whole ruling. Instead, let’s look at the full announcement from Riot Games senior eSports manager Bitingpig. It is important to know and understand the full ruling, as there are some things Lewis tries to hide from the reader to create a more compelling argument for his article.

 

League of Legends Competition Ruling

Player: Nicolaj Jensen / Veigodx
Region: Europe
Date of Ruling: 01.23.13
Subject: Suspension; Violations of Summoner’s Code

Facts
Recently, Riot completed an investigation into the account histories of the players on teams that are scheduled to compete in the upcoming League of Legends Championship Series (“LCS”) European Qualifier.

The investigation has confirmed some facts in the player history of Nicolaj Jensen (“Jensen”), including a consistent pattern of in-game verbal abuse, offensive behavior and negative attitude that require immediate action.

Jensen’s Veigodx account has been punished by Tribunal three times, including as recently as January 9, 2013. In fewer than three months since the creation of this account, the Veigodx account has established a consistent record of in-game harassment, abuse, and poor behavior:

  • 58.8% of reports against Veigodx were for Offensive Language, Verbal Abuse, and Negative Attitude.

Worse, however, are the violations in Jensen’s gameplay history:

  • On multiple occasions, he has publicly and unapologetically admitted to engaging in a series of DDOS attacks against high-Elo players.
    • Here is one example:

  • Jensen has been permanently banned twice before. In August of 2012, a majority of players on the Tribunal voted to permaban Wizikx, a previous Jensen account. After reviewing the facts, the Riot player behavior team upheld the ban. Another Jensen account, Wizikodex, was permabanned in December 2012 for similar behavior.

As a result of this player’s history of DDOS activity, abusive behavior and poor sportsmanship, the player behavior team has issued a lifetime ban on Jensen. His Veigodx account has been permabanned, and all future accounts will be permabanned on sight.

Relevant Rules
The Summoner’s Code establishes the standards of behavior for all League of Legends players.

Analysis
Jensen has consistently disregarded the letter and spirit of the Summoner’s Code. His disrespect for the rules of the game is unacceptable for any player, especially a high-profile eSports competitor who has a regular opportunity to lead the community by example.

Ruling
Jensen has violated the Summoner’s Code in a persistent and remorseless fashion.

Competition Penalties
Jensen is:

  • Ineligible to compete in the LCS Season Three European Qualifier in Warsaw, January 25-27, 2013.
  • Ineligible to compete in the LCS indefinitely; this suspension shall commence immediately.
  • Ineligible to compete in any Riot-affiliated League of Legends tournaments indefinitely; this suspension shall commence immediately.

 

The Discussion

 

Lewis’ argument is that Riot Games has no proof of Jensen performing a distributed denial of service attack (DDOS) and that consequently, the ruling is based on second-hand information. Lewis believes that when you are going to make a decision that will invariably affect someone’s livelihood and reputation, you have to be certain.

That you need compelling evidence to make a case might be true Richard, but let’s see what the ruling says, and if that alone is not justification enough for the decision Riot made about Jensen.

“As a result of this player’s history of DDOS activity, abusive behavior and poor sportsmanship, the player behavior team has issued a lifetime ban on Jensen. His Veigodx account has been permabanned, and all future accounts will be permabanned on sight.”

The analysis of the ruling doesn’t state that it was purely or even because of the DDOS activity but because of the simple fact that:

“Jensen has consistently disregarded the letter and spirit of the Summoner’s Code. His disrespect for the rules of the game is unacceptable for any player, especially a high-profile eSports competitor who has a regular opportunity to lead the community by example.”

You simply have a player that shows constant “toxic” behavior over the timespan of multiple years, even creating new accounts after he was permanently banned and no longer welcome to play the game.

On top of that Jensen was talking about a distributed denial of service attack in a public game, as well as providing personal information about another competitive player. Information that put that player at much greater risk from such attacks.

Also, keep in mind that just because Riot Games only showed a single screenshot, does not mean they don’t have many more. However, the information we can reliably obtain from the shot in question is enough to make an educated guess about Jensens disposition. He was willing to permanently disrupt service for the player Youngbuck, and potentially cause financial and reputational damage to both him and Riot Games.

A company like Riot Games needs to protect their players as well as themselves against this kind of behavior as aggressively as possible. In fact, Riot Games was kind enough not to press criminal charges, nor press charges for damages potentially caused by Jensen. I say kind enough because, performing distributed denial of service attacks (DDOS) is no child’s play. It is a criminal act that involves taking over the personal devices of unknowing / innocent people through the use of Malware, and subsequently using those devices to cause a disruption of service. In this case, Young buck’s ability to play on the gaming servers provided by Riot Games. For someone relying on live streaming and practicing for their livelihood, this is one of the worst things that can happen to them.

Based on the information we are presented with so far, Jensen should be denied access to any competitive element in professional League of Legends for life. That was indeed Riot Games original ruling.

However, Lewis argues that Jensen said:

“I was stupid, just a kid in a lot of ways and claimed that I was DDoSing the players to make them afraid of me and to have others respect me. It was really stupid.”

This quote is problematic. First Jensen claims that he only bragged about DDoSing. Next he “admits” to being a stupid kid back then, and appeals to our emotions by supposedly demonstrating personal growth. Why is he appealing to our emotions if he claims not to have done anything wrong in the first place? I think Jensen is smart enough to understand that he can’t openly admit to DDoSing for legal reasons, but he still pleads to receive a second chance. But let’s suppose Jensen is being truthful and never really DDoS’ed anyone. That leaves the rest of his attitude. For someone to receive a second chance, they have to make an active effort to show that they’ve bettered themselves.

Let’s take a prime example of proper reforming and compare it to Jensen.

 

The difference between being sorry and pretending to be

 

I have known Carlos “Ocelote” Rodriguez for quite a while. When Carlos joined SK Gaming, we had an open talk about a few things including the interest of a few of my sponsorship contacts to work with him. At that time, Carlos was known for having a bad temper and insulting / cursing at other players too. He once even wished someone cancer. He very nearly got into big trouble with Riot Games as well. After taking the time to come to terms with the situation, Carlos felt truly sorry for his behavior and accepted his responsibilities as an idol for thousands of young people. He has apologized publicly on several occasions and has kept working to become a better person and to be kind and respectful. No matter if I was watching him play a ranked game in the office, or play and interact at an exhibition with fans, I saw a man that publicly demonstrated his dedication towards reform. While his gaming performance might not be top notch anymore (sorry Carlos), Ocelote’s behavior these days is. Through his hard work, he regained acceptance and the respect of the community.

Has anyone seen that kind of behavior from Jensen? I have not seen a single apology from Jensen anywhere for his multiple years of toxic behavior. Instead of being honest and trying to show everyone that he has reformed, he showed not a single bit of regret until Riot Games killed his coaching career, once more showing him that he is not welcome in professional league of legends.

Also by not presenting him as a part of the team, SK Gaming tried to hide him and his involvement from the public covered by eSports journalists who did know about the problem but refused to talk about it.

As Lewis openly admits he avoided to write an opinion piece about Jensens “reform” and was asked not to ask questions related to Jensen, something that I’d call your job as an “investigative journalist.” Instead, he obediently followed the wishes of SK Gaming’s Management until now.

At the same time, bending over for anyone is something I’m not used to by Alexander Mueller, the CEO of SK Gaming. He’s not the kind of guy afraid of picking a fight if he feels one of his players or employees is wrongfully accused of something, even if that means picking a fight with Riot Games. So I have to wonder why he didn’t step forward and pick a fight if he believed in the change and innocence of his employee.

Another problem I see with Jensen’s behavior is that he never actually fought against the accusations. If I get publicly shamed in front of millions of players with my full name for something I didn’t do, then I’m going to war with that company. Jensen didn’t do that. Instead, now that someone at Riot Games finally did their job properly, and enforced the original ruling by taking the sledgehammer to Jensen’s career as a coach, there is a sudden uproar.

What does this say about Jensen and his motivations?

Anyways, all of this was something to be figured out by Riot Games and SK Gaming privately. Moving on.

 

Why Riot got the Incarnation decision right

 

Lewis is not happy with the wording of the ruling decision. So am I. Just as there are no rules against doping or any fair play guidelines and standards in the official LCS ruleset or anywhere published by Riot Games, there is also no passage that regulates coaching in professional League of Legends.

But I see it differently than Lewis. He argues:

“For whatever reason, the ruling focuses on Jensen’s capacity to competenot to coach. You would need to twist language to a breaking point for it to encompass anything other than playing.”

– Richard Lewis

If you take the coach as part of the team “He is actively involved in the game by being near the players at almost any time and giving opinion and strategic direction from a spectator view”, being a part of a professional team that “competes” in a professional event you are actively forbidden to compete in, I think Riot Games actually has the right to prohibit you from even entering the venue.

If Jensen is employed by SK Gaming as a 3rd party or “consultant” that is different, though. But that would mean he is not allowed to access “Team only” areas and communicate with the players in between a series of game breaks.

The easiest way for Riot out of this mess would be the announcement of an MVC award for Worlds (Most Valuable Coach) and, therefore, have the coaches “compete” with each other in a sanctioned League of Legends event. As Jensen wouldn’t be allowed to compete, he also wouldn’t be allowed to coach the team.

But if we put all this definition nonsense away, there is still the fact that Jensen is a liability for Riot Games at the World Championships. As he has proven with his actions that resulted in multiple bans of his League of Legends accounts, he is able and willing to manipulate the competition. Giving someone like Jensen “AAA” access is something you want to avoid at all costs if you run the most important series of games / tournaments of the year.

 

How close is too close?

 

In the end, everyone needs to make up their mind about Riot’s decision. Richard Lewis has some excellent arguments, especially when it comes to Riot Games incompetence to provide a ruleset that doesn’t leave much room for interpretation. At the same, I think some of his other arguments lack a neutral viewpoint. Which brings us to the fun part.

I had wanted to write about his path to “redemption” as a standalone article, but that was ultimately impossible, because SK Gaming were worried about potential reprisals. Before every interview with SK players, the small talk before the camera started rolling would usually culminate with a request to not mention Jensen at all, because they didn’t want to deal with the Riot aftermath.

– Richard Lewis

How close is too close Richard?

I think that if you are closely involved with an organization – in this case, the actual and former management of SK Gaming – you should make it clear to your readers in the first place. Especially so as a journalist on a non-eSports site.  What many people don’t know is that Richard Lewis is a client of Global eSports Management. The agency co-founded by Min-Sik Ko, the former team manager, employee and close friend of SK Gaming CEO Alexander Mueller.

Now that by itself is not troublesome at all. But I have to raise an eyebrow if a client of the former team manager of SK Gaming publishes two extremely one-sided opinion pieces, shortly after said person got a nice new present from the CEO of SK Gaming for no particular reason.

Hardware presents in eSports are usually a sign of saying “Job well done.” Of course anyone involved will say I totally misinterpret intentions here.

And who knows, maybe I do. You have to decide for yourself.

Thank you for your time.

Bjoern Franzen

P.S: Please use the Reddit thread for discussion as comments on my personal website are disabled. Thank you very much.