Photo by: Vaevictis
Riot Russia made the headlines yesterday with one of the most senseless competitive rulings in recent times. Rushing to protect what they assumed to be the emotionally frail all-women’s team of Vaevictis, the LCL management warned two of their teams, ROX and Vega Squadron, for the most innocuous “crimes”.
What Riot Russia achieved instead is become the laughing stock of competitive League of Legends, ridiculed by its own players.
A short prelude
After qualifying for the LCL through the Promotion tournament, Vaevictis swapped its regular roster with five female players in the most obvious marketing stunt. What’s more, these players were barely fit for the LCL stage to begin with. All of them were Diamond players and one, bot laner Ksenia “Trianna” Meshcheryakova, was just Vaevictis’ manager before last month.
Vaevictis’ players fielded no illusions that they would have any success in the LPL. “The minimum goal is to not lose before minute 30. The maximum, of course, is to win,” Trianna admitted to Cybersport.ru.
One can argue that such a roster — created for the sake of publicity and admittedly far below the level of the field — has no business playing in the LCL. One can argue that if they cared about competitive integrity, Vaevictis should’ve used their other roster, the one they registered for the LCL Open Cup and which is actually winning games, play the LCL league instead. One would be correct both times.
But Vaevictis called for their all-female team and the players answered, because of course they would. The players are undeserving of any blame. LCL is the pinnacle of competition in the CIS region. When the opportunity presents to play against the best and develop your personal brand, you don’t say no. Why would you?
The story continues with Vaevictis’ first two LCL games. ROX were first, banning five support champions and winning the game in 20 minutes. Next week, Vega Squadron did have a normal draft phase, but wiped the floor with Vaevictis, ending the game at minute 30. The kill scoreline? 52 to 2.
Different people would read different reasoning behind ROX’s and Vega’s actions. Perhaps ROX were not taking Vaevictis seriously, proving they can “throw” the draft phase and still beat them. Perhaps ROX targeted five support champions, knowing that all of Vaevictis players played mostly support in solo queue. The way Vega Squadron played with their food could also be interpreted in several ways — from them just having fun, to dissing Vaevictis for what they are: a team who doesn’t belong in the LCL and contributes nothing to the tournament.
After all, what competition lets you beat it 52-2?
From all the possible interpretations, however, Riot Russia elected to believe ROX and Vega were disrespectful, misogynistic, a discriminatory bunch of evildoers, who deserve reprimand.
“Riot Games considers gender discrimination — and any other kind of discrimination — completely unacceptable, and expects no less from all players of the LCL who are to demonstrate competitive integrity and respect towards their opponents. ROX and Vega Squadron’s egregious behavior violated the guiding regulations of LCL, as well as paragraph nine of the Summoner’s Code.”
Riot Russia never went on to explain how ROX’s and Vega’s were acts of gender discrimination. They didn’t even follow their own guidelines, or at least the one line of actual definition and not vague and subjective “rules”.
“For the purpose of clarification, team composition and the pick/ban phase will not be considered when determining whether this rule has been violated.” Because of course it shouldn’t be.
Except, of course, in the case when Riot Russia want to do something, so they go ahead and do it anyway.
Discredit of own authority
Riot Russia’s involvement in Vaevictis’ case isn’t the first instance of going against common sense and logic. In 2017, the CIS branched issued a 6-months-long ban against Kirill “Likkrit” Malofeyev after he had spoken on stream about the plethora of problems in the LCL, scamming organizations and no-salary contracts.
“League continues to not be very lucrative for investors. Really, it is an expensive discipline, expensive as fuck,” Likkrit said, adding:
“You’re going to ask me, “What’s the takeaway? Is League dead?” Well, it practically is. Teams simply can’t keep up with players’ expectations anymore; there’s simply no money. There’s only a third of the money that was around back when we were ANOX. […] You could point fingers, but no specific person is to blame. The result is, though, that we’re all bare-ass poor except for a number of people employed directly by Riot Games.”
When Likkrit reached the topic of what the future of LCL should look like, he did not hold back.
“You know what ought to happen to our region? All good players ought to leave it. And that will be absolutely the right thing to do. No one’s gonna leave, because some have signed contracts, others have made up their minds to keep playing together, and then there are those who aren’t getting any offers of interest, so this is what we end up with… Frankly, our region ought to just die.”
Riot Russia issued the ban shortly thereafter. Suspended for a full split, Likkrit knew that this was the end of his career. Instead of fighting a losing battle, he announced retirement and one of LCL’s best player was gone like that.
The reason I go back to this anecdote is that it was another example of Riot misreading intentions — or rather interpreting them as they see fit.
“One thing is to criticise Riot Games, LCL, and its organizations – even if a player takes things out of context and is lying to a certain extent to meet his own goals and ambition,” wrote RiotBuckbeak. “The whole other thing is to wish death to other players/teammates/entire community of CIS players, which Likkrit did during his live stream.”
Of course, Likkrit did none of that. His message criticized an inanimate entity in the LCL region, not players, teammates or “entire community of CIS players.” Nobody thought Likkrit was calling for a modern-day esports holocaust. Nobody, except Riot, who, by the way, admitted in plain text that they’ve found a good deal of valuable feedback in Likkrit’s monologue. His crime was not being civil while criticizing — on his own personal stream — actions that had led to the decline of his home region.
“In Kirill’s remarks, we found a good deal of useful criticism. Unfortunately, healthy feedback was spoiled by toxic statements and insults to both League of Legends CIS community and Riot Games.”
In their treatment of Likkrit, Riot Russia discredited their own authority and the integrity of their rules and codex. Just like with Vaevictis’ case, Riot Russia chose to interpret that some words or actions were intended as something else, with no solid basis of proof. They took advantage of a vaguely written rulebook and acted upon a player’s career to teach him a lesson of “proper behavior”.
At that point, the community was already not taking Riot Russia seriously. In fact, since August 2018 and Kotaku’s report of its culture of sexism, it was hard to take the entire Riot Games seriously. How can a company so dead-set on preaching morality allow sexism to run rampant in its own house? How can its COO, Scott Gelb, be involved in multiple instances of inappropriate behavior, including smacking his employee’s genitals, only to receive a 2-months suspension.
Let’s put this in perspective:
— Criticize the LCL and blow the whistle on malpractices: 6-month, career-ending ban
— Humiliate and debase your employees through sexually inappropriate behavior: 2-month suspension, that will barely register
But I digress. Let’s get back to the fallout of Vaevictis’ case.
On Feb. 21, Trianna stated publicly, that she disagrees with Riot Russia’s ruling and they take no issues with what ROX and Vega did.
— Ksenia (@VS__Trianna) February 21, 2019
That’s OK, Trianna. Riot Russia has got your back anyway, even if you took no offense. After all, as it’s been clearly established, Riot have no forbearance towards sexism and similar offensive acts and do not support those who engage in them.
Adina “Shafu” Himer, another female player on a professional LoL team, also found nothing wrong with these matches and pointed the finger back to Vaevictis’ management — the sensible thing to do.
If you wanna competitive rule the teams for disrespecting, sure go ahead, but then also penalize the full female roster for hiring players that don't even MAIN the roles they're hired for.
I think that is also a competitive offense.
— Shaifu (@Shafulyn) February 21, 2019
“Just to remind everyone, Alexey Kholin [Vaevictis GM] is a genius. To receive so much media attention out of thin air — it’s not what our region needs, but what it deserves.”
LoL caster Michael “Olsior” Zverev also chimed in:
“Why use rules, when you govern a league based on comments on social media? I’d like to ask Riot Russia’s esports department to stop its sexist behavior towards LCL teams. In my opinion, all signs are there. I’m sorry, I can’t be silent while this is happening.”
Other teams — LCL teams of ROX’s and Vega’s caliber — took it a bit farther to protest the ridiculous ruling. In an LCL Open Cup game, Elements Pro Gaming and Der Zentral Magier took the piss on Riot Russia in the most obvious way: they banned 10 support champions.
To not leave any doubt, EPG head coach Denis “Ultimatum” Merkulov issued a statement:
“Being in a professional league and considering myself a professional, I would against the PRO GAMING team Vaevictis Esports the heroes I consider ban-worthy, based on the their players’ accounts’ data and their strategic picks in previous game. P.S.: I am not sexist.”
This is how the world sees you, Riot Russia. You’re a joke to them, and rightfully so. What actions will you take moving on? Are you going to warn Elements Pro Gaming, another one of your LCL teams — in fact, LCL’s current best team — for making fun of your verdicts? What will you do, if such mockery becomes commonplace in the LCL, because it might as well?
It’s your move.
Time to fuck up again.