No matches

So, previously we talked about the borderline psychotic levels that esports fandoms will go to if you simply state uncomfortable truths about the players they obsess over. Specifically we looked at the emergence of a cult of personality around someone who seemingly has no personality outside of Twitter, Shuaib “d0cc” Ahmad.

Writing these articles found me morose for a variety of reasons, principally because it needs to be written at all. Why am I having to write a column about a player who hasn’t even been linked with a professional team yet? The answer to that is this is going to happen with increasing frequency, the blurring of the lines between prospect, entertainer and professional making what was always a pure esport more like some of its new wave counterparts. The conventional wisdom that raw talent does not always equate to professional relevance has been discarded. Crucially, this is what the “community,” the most absurd term for what a group of esports fans are, want to talk about. This is a topic dominating their thoughts despite all the other issues out there.

Yes, I am morose because I do not understand why this one player, with all the dubious history in their back story, would hold such allure for a community that claims to be all about getting behind young talent but ignores the proven young talent we have. Ludvig “Brollan” Brolin, Rokas ‘EspiranTo’ Milasauskas and Jere ‘sergej’ Salo are already competing on professional teams, winning tournaments in some cases, and yet combined have generated less hype and even have less Twitch followers. It is beyond bizarre to see so many flock to back a proven liar. And yet, perhaps it is understandable if you look into a little bit more.

FACEIT as a company have consistently been building good will with the Counter-Strike community. For the most part this is because they have done almost everything they have tried they hand at correctly. It’s easy to forget how far they have come, beginning their life as a small start-up with offices in Italy, to a globally recognized esports brand about to host one of the biggest esports events on the calendar. Of late though I think it’s a fair criticism to say that they have fixated way too much on appeasing the community that congregates on social media, so much so there have been a few embarrassing errors of judgement ahead of the major. This hunger for praise has never been more evident with their handling of the FACEIT Pro League.

The Pro League has been a good source of cultivating talent.

On my podcast I’ve poked fun at how they have consistently tweeted out laughably untrue statements to make it seem like FPL has been responsible for the emergence of every up and coming piece of talent in the game. They even seem comfortable exaggerating their role in the success of teams such as The Imperial, which seems incredibly reductive of the efforts of players, managers and coaches. Funnily enough, FACEIT certainly could lay a serious claim to having contributed to a lot of the problems that The Imperial team is having. Most notably the huge ego of the team’s star player that has led to him pretty much controlling the roster except when sponsors get involved. The reach of FACEIT certainly is greater than that of most second and third tier organisations. Their constant announcements to the world how great the players who use their pick-up game service are not only feeds the cult of personality around players that have done little to earn such followings but it also creates runaway egos that FACEIT will never have to deal with.

So, back to Ahmad. It is a great concern to me that a company would be so keen to prove their support of a young player with the craziest line of excuses ever put out into the public domain that they would invest money and resources to travel as close to his home as possible and create a LAN environment for him. Oh, there was much rejoicing for this from the fandom… They said it was a sign of a surefire great company, one that loves its player-base. The reality is a lot less romantic but you have to wipe your eyes clean of the steady stream of bullshit if you want to be able to see it. The FACEIT Pro League (FPL) gains incredible marketability off being the place that produces young talent. Suddenly using their service is THE path to pro and the teenagers lap it up like a dog eating hot chips from a dirty sidewalk. This is the way you crush ESEA, who never understood how Rank S could have been similarly used. This is the way you ensure hopeful young players with more money and time than sense are delivered via a conveyer belt to your servers.

The Ahmad situation then reeks of skewed priorities. If a player, no matter how good, doesn’t meet the criteria for an invite service then, in the interest of the vast majority who do, you have to simply exclude them until they’re up to code. The issue with Ahmad, whether or not anyone was suspicious of his phenomenal win-rate and constant positive scorelines, was that he did it all without talking. Multiple players have been removed from FPL for ineffective communication due to language barriers, which is the reason we are told Ahmad was removed from FPL in the first place. Now, for some reason, ignoring the thought process behind why he was “benched” they have decided to spend their own money to try and prove the player’s legitimacy in a way they have never done for anyone else. It is inarguably unfair to give any player this level of support, even if the public applaud you for doing it, if you wouldn’t do it for anyone else. If they’re so committed to having people get so many second chances to play in FPL I’m sure the money they spent on trying to “clear” Ahmad of suspicion would have paid for an English tutor for at least one of the players they kicked out of their league for poor communication skills. Of course, those players can’t really be used for marketing purposes, so fuck them, right?

All of this to me feels like a reasonable position to take. It is simply stating the obvious and I’m amazed no one else has publicly said anything else about it. Instead it’s a wall of mouths all burbling the same nonsensical questions. “Why must you criticise a young man, a child really, just trying to make it in esports Richard? Do you hate him? Are you jealous? Are you so jaded and bitter that all you can do is tear people down?”

Which brings us to the publicity stunt bootcamp held on July 28th. I’ll add this. This article started life with a very different tone. Indeed, after the first day I was ready to write what the d0ccheads would most likely interpret as an apology. The first day of supervised play for him saw him hit some impressive highs and only one low point where he looked like a shadow of himself. And hell, wasn’t that to be expected? If the player is as shy and introverted as everyone keeps telling me he is then why wouldn’t his performance be impacted slightly. “Name me any other player who should be expected to deliver his best while playing on a LAN style set-up with two admins sat looking over his shoulder” the now deleted article reads before concluding “add to that his social anxiety and you have to be complimentary.”

On that note for someone so shy that he can barely speak in-game it seems insane that he runs such a slick line in self-promotion and trash talk on his Twitter feed. Every time I am linked to one of his tweets I feel like I’m being exposed to advertising, only I am not certain what the product is…

The second day came around and he didn’t record a single positive score. A decent amount of kills most times but always more deaths. And you know what, those stats across the boot camp aren’t as consistently good as those from home. Once the bootcamp had finished he went home and was promptly dropping much higher in-game scores, albeit playing against what people will say is a lower tier of opposition. Regardless, the performance of his first game wasn’t replicated across the rest of the bootcamp and people are still none the wiser about where his skill ceiling actually is. It was no surprise to see the people who had been spamming social media about how good he had been after his very first game (with an albeit impressive 30-12 stat line) were nowhere to be found after his second day of performances.

Again, these are all statements of fact and ones that will lead to another week of abuse and threats. The people sending the abuse will talk of the mitigating circumstances that I too recognise but they will ignore that part. The D0cchead will now claim I wrote an article saying he is a cheater, even though you will find no such words on the page. The same people claim I have said he is a cheater when only footage of me saying the exact opposite exists. Facts do not matter to these people. This is why the summary of this player’s career has ignored all the dubious nonsense, lies and suspiciously wonky screenshots. This is why you have to pretend the bootcamp was a resounding success, that the performances were all stellar. This is why they won’t even question the extraordinary lengths FACEIT have gone to in the name of a player that seems to be running an elaborately coordinated scheme to gain notoriety.

You see there’s a flawed premise at the core of FACEIT’s mission here. There is no way to “prove legitimacy” of a player simply by having them turn up and play under LAN conditions. All it can ever do to any degree of accuracy is give us an idea of what the player can perform like in those conditions. The chest-thumping to the contrary is embarrassing for all involved and there’s a worse downside. You’ll notice that a lot of the D0ccheads screeching at me are teenagers, young and impressionable. Trying to stamp out healthy and justified skepticism because it benefits your business model is a net negative for a scene that has consistently found people looking to exploit the goodwill of the young and naive who occupy it.

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