If you’re part of the League of Legends community, or the Overwatch scene, the last few weeks have been pretty difficult publicly. The cool kids with their AK-47s have really enjoyed mocking the way players in League and the OWL have their behaviour monitored and censured by the authorities, but that same sensitivity came back in a positive way over the weekend, in an example some of the more edgy games could learn from.
When Team Liquid beat 100Thieves to win their first NA LCS title, and with it the spring event, there was barely a whisper mentioned about the week Yiliang Peter Peng, otherwise known as Doublelift, has had. The Chinese-American AD Carry is part of Liquid’s roster, competing in the match vs 100Thieves, but a few days before tragedy of the most unimaginable degree had struck his family, and rather than responding with edgy jokes or memes, the League community showed a level of maturity and respect all of esports could look to learn from.
At the beginning of April, it was reported that Peng’s brother, 30-year old Yihong Peng, had attacked their parents at the family home, killing their mother and grievously wounding their father in the process. Doublelift himself tweeted about the incident on the evening of Sunday April 2, and the instant reaction in the community was obviously shock. However, even when that had worn off, the vast majority showed nothing but compassion and respect for the player and his situation, and when he announced his intention to still compete in the spring finals the support was overwhelming and immediate.
There is no doubt that, had opposing fans wished to, they could have attempted to exploit the horror of the situation to their advantage, or worse pile on with more abuse. Doublelift’s relationship with his parents has seen strain in the past too, with him apparently having been kicked out of their family home as a reaction to wanting to pursue a dream in esports, yet the crowd was polite, and the post-game reaction on reddit a mature and reasoned response to an incredibly popular victory.
New level of media maturity
Even in the esports media, there was more intent on focusing on the game, while the mainstream American press and ESPN chose to lead with the gruesome details front and centre, as if they were somehow relevant to the game itself. As an aside, it’s clear some of the traits ESPN have brought into esports from their other divisions are not as positive as the massive pile of money they threw at names may suggest, and their leading with the tragedy in the title of their match report should be an indication as to their priorities in esports, clicks.
In contrast, the kill-or-be-killed attitudes in CS have been much discussed recently, especially in light of Matthew ‘Sadokist’ Trivett’s racist outburst on stream, or his encouraging a person he felt offended by to kill himself, and the contrast does CS no favours. It would be unfair to say anyone truly defended Sadokist, but if you compare the reaction to an obviously pejorative use of a racial slur to the way Blizzard react to racially insensitive jokes made by players, it’s clear things could have been a whole lot worse for the silver-tongued Canadian, and maybe should have.
Now, all of this might not fit with the mainstream perception of esports, but that could be because there is a gap in knowledge among certain mainstream writers. For the investors, many of who come from the world of sport and care more about age demographics than anything else though, the difference will be obvious. League is a game that cares about its players, and has fans that show not just devotion, but compassion, even to a rival. These are the sort of attributes many companies want to be associated with, especially when the choice is that or a borderline racist Canadian being edgy on his birthday, or a Twitch chat full of tough-to-explain memes.
As for the player, there are no words to describe the level of mental strength it took to motivate himself to play. Once in the game, Doublelift may have found relief, respite or just a chance to think about something else, but now the dust has settled he will need the support of his peers and friends to come through a horrific ordeal. Fortunately, the community has shown this weekend that they have the maturity to deal with such demands, and that will stand both League and League players in fantastic stead down the line.