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Ban them!?

Tempo Storm and Suomi faced each other in the Age of Empires II WDC semifinal last weekend. Things did not go as planned. This triggered passionate discussions in chat and on other platforms — a post with the facts, thoughts on people’s behavior, and learnings for the future.

The Facts
  • The match was scheduled for Saturday.
  • Suomi won 3v3.
  • Liereyy won 1v1.
  • Hera was next but went offline due to a power outage in his area (apparently caused by fire).
  • Suomi, Tempo, and admin agreed to reschedule for Sunday, moving the final to Friday. GamerLegion – the second finalist – graciously agreed.
  • The match resumed on Sunday, and Hearttt did not show up for his game – nobody knew why.
  • Suomi got the Admin Win.
  • Later we learned that Hearttt’s phone died, and he overslept.

This triggered many reactions based on individual animosity rather than what is best for ViSCaP (Viewers, Sponsors, Casters, and Players – aka ‘the community’). So far, so bad. Yet, during this time, quite a few people in chat were toxic towards Tempo’s team and especially Hera.

Surely, a power outage following a fire is force majeure. Yet, as soon as Hera was offline, people started flaming him. Many thought he tilted and brought up the recent match vs. Mr. Yo, on which I also shared some thoughts on Twitter.

Tempo, Suomi, and the admin constructively worked on finding a solution. After it was clear that Hera would only be back after a few hours, they eventually agreed to postpone the semi to Sunday and the final to Friday, pending Gamer Legion’s acquiescence.

“This had made many people very angry and has been widely regarded as a bad move.”

– Douglas Adams

This made many people very angry. Some thought Tempo should just be declared losers by the admin. Others even argued they should forfeit any prize money they had won so far. Quite a few called them disrespectful (the irony!) and suggested banning them from future events. Sad as this is, I was not very surprised to see toxic messages and how quickly people were willing to judge and condemn. What did surprise me is that many people only seemed to care about being aggressive and not at all about what would be best for the #ageofempires community.

The Twist

In the end, Suomi got the Admin Win on the next day, when Hearttt overslept. Interestingly, the backlash at him was much more restricted than it was for Hera. Considering that his reason was negligence rather than force majeure, I find this very telling. To be clear: I am not blaming or attacking Hearttt. But this shows very clearly how different standards are applied to players and situations. A differentiation, not based on facts but apparently on bias and like – or rather dislike – of people.

The bigger picture

ViSCaP want to watch/cast/play games. Sometimes, life happens, and things don’t go as planned. What is the benefit of banning teams or players from events unless for a really good reason? Clearly, players understand this better than viewers, as demonstrated in all the involved teams’ willingness to accommodate Tempo. Overall, the #AoE2 community is quite wholesome. But sometimes it gets ugly here, too.

Learnings – Suggestions

What can and should we learn from this? A few suggestions:

  1. Toxic behavior needs to be addressed by everybody. Streamers, moderators, and viewers alike. Not by getting toxic ourselves but by making clear that we neither want nor allow such behavior in our community.
  2. If an event includes team games, each team needs to have one ‘backup’ player to step in if and when needed. If a team cannot comply with this, they won’t be able to participate. If they cannot play, Admin Win will be declared after an agreed amount of time.
  3. Teams and their members need to take these events seriously. Admittedly, if you can win 5kUSD in a series of 1v1 circus games, it might be hard to motivate yourself for an event across several days/weeks to win 1.8k as a team. We need to increase the value of such events.

This can be done with higher prize money – which is fine to a certain extent but can spiral out of control and lead to further imbalances in an events’ financial value. However, “value” is not only financial. If events were more meaningful than individual, detached competitions and had a recognizable purpose for players, this would help.

The good
  • The Age Of Empires community is growing.
  • We see more and more high-quality events.
  • At the same time, fun events with unusual settings and challenges cater to other needs and wishes.
  • The vast majority of people are civil, helpful, and intent on enjoying the game.
The bad
  • Relatively few toxic viewers spoil the overall experience.
  • Pro events are often not attractive enough for participants compared to fun events.
  • Event rules and organization are not as well prepared as they would wish to decide and react fast if things go south.
The beautiful

At least some of these points can be addressed by setting up two series of events. They will benefit ViSCaP (Viewers, Sponsors, Casters, and Players) and help grow the community. Below is a short video explaining the concept.

Age of Empires II – World Series

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