Controversy, Manners, and How North American E-Sports Distinguishes Itself
by Brandon Garrett
Let me take a moment to say that I am an Idra fan, so that any perceived bias towards him throughout this article is probably totally there. In light of Idra's comments about Cruncher in recent history (TSL3, Team Liquid Forums, NASL Thursday Night) it is clear they are rivals in some way. Obviously Idra would never say they are rivals in terms of skill, but merely that he dislikes Cruncher and the feeling is mutual. Incontrol made an astute observation Thursday night, albeit masked in 16th century rhetoric, that it is absurd to think players do not let their emotions become involved in playing the game competitively. There is not just a lot of money riding on tournament play but a player's reputation as well, so it is reasonable and expected for them to take it seriously.
To ask for some level of courtesy and conduct is certainly something everyone expects, especially in light of a more publicized E-Sports environment. A player's conduct is certainly more policed now that it was before simply due to the transparent nature of the internet and the large number of viewers looking for anything to tweet of make a reddit post about. Nonetheless, we as a community should not discourage rivalries, even if they are rather unfriendly. Rivalries between sports teams are what make matches more interesting than they otherwise would have been, especially when they are unfriendly. If you stop to think about any other professional sport there are certainly vulgar displays of emotion on a regular basis. One only needs to read a football or basketball coaches lips to see a stream of explicit commentary not regularly heard on a primetime network.
The debate about manners and conduct has been going on for a while now and Idra seems to be the center of controversy every time it sparks back up. While many people like him specifically for his openness about his feelings, it is certainly viewed by others as unprofessional and bad for the community's perception from the outside world. From the perspective of those who knew nothing about brood war, I have found that the fascination of the community regarding "manners" is pretty much completely bewildering. Many people who are just coming in the game tell me that they do not understand why players are so nice to each other.
Certainly most members of the Starcraft community are friendly towards each other and no one is saying that this is a bad thing. North American E-sports was around before Starcraft II, with WoW, Counterstrike, and Halo being extremely popular outside of Korea. Not only does this show that the E-sports community can separate itself from Korea, but that an infrastructure existed before North American Starcraft II tournaments began to blossom. People were rivalrous and controversial before the idea of professional manners became widespread in the North American scene. This is largely due to the influence of Korean tournaments and styles. No one is going to argue that the quality of players in Korea is not something we should emulate, but obviously we are culturally different. Where BM is a notably large offense in Korea, it is not nearly the same in the U.S. From the GSL rulebook- "There should be no communication between the players other than ‘GG’, ‘gg’, ‘ㅎㅎ’,'ㅈㅈ' and etc to surrender the game." I don't think anyone would argue that that is the authoritative way to create good levels of play, but nonetheless it is an integral part of the dynamic of the GSL.
To conclude, controversy is fun! None of us spectators are directly affected by it, and it seems that every time something dramatic happens the community jumps all over it. Are we really the community that is so sensitive everything Idra tweets needs a 300 comment thread on reddit? I don't think anyone wants to hear much more about the Idra- Team Liquid controversy either. As a community we should embrace and encourage rivalries by taking sides, not by condemning players teams or organizations. No one who plays a video game like Starcraft competitively is going to escalate a rivalry (internet tuff guy) to anything beyond words so what do we have to be afraid of?