Recent controversy has arisen regarding Evil Geniuses’ poor response to take care of their star AD Carry – Danny – during the 2021 when overwhelming stress has impacted both his mental and physical health to the point where he was hospitalized. This isn’t the only instance in the past few years where esports organizations displayed problematic behavior towards their staff and players so let’s take a look whether or not these places are toxic environments for the esports competitors.
Esports Organizations in 2023
Two esports organizations, namely Evil Geniuses (North America) and PEACE (Oceania), have been surrounded by controversy in 2023. Evil Geniuses are currently being investigated for forcing their League of Legends ADC, Danny, to play the competitive season despite having knowledge and being informed of the player’s rapid decline in mental and physical health due to the stress that comes with playing the league.
Oceania’s PEACE have recently been disqualified from the league due to the LCO committee discovering that they did not meet the deadlines to pay their staff and players. PEACE is not the only organization in Oceania who were implied to not pay their players fairly or on time. Unfortunately, there are many esports organizations around the world who are having financial problems as well and while not all of them are treating their employees unfairly yet, there might be one or more who might soon do the same.
There are also esports orgs who are facing controversy due to their CEO such as TSM and G2 Esports. A lot of issues lately have been due to controversies regarding leadership. Even now, recent events have proven that both male and female leadership are not safe when it comes to the bureaucracy of the company prioritizing its brand image and profits over the well-being of its staff and players.
While the financial and structural state of esports organizations today are significantly better than the conditions of esports teams and orgs in the early 2010s, many people believe that the organizations today have grown too greedy. However, it is important to note that teams before barely had any money to support the wages of their players and they didn’t have resources such as in-house gyms, therapists, and health experts that closely monitored their staff.
The Toxic Culture of Esports Organizations
It is every serious player’s dream to get signed by an esports organization to fulfill their dreams as either a branded content creator or an esports competitor. However, those who have experienced playing for an esports org knows that it’s not always the life that they dreamt off as the training schedules, meetings with the coaches, promotional events, and tournament matches turned out to be extremely stressful and mentally draining as a whole, depending on the esports culture of the region.
Those points are not the reason why esports orgs are toxic, as they are only the basic responsibilities of the person as a contracted individual for the company. Work is still work no matter what your job title is or what type of industry your are currently working in. The problem arises when the management, staff, or even teammates start exploiting the members of the team for stuff that are not part of their duty as esports competitors.
It’s important to remember that esports organizations prioritize their earnings above all else, especially in North America. The main source of income for these companies lie in sponsorships and the sale of their merchandise. This means that they need to maintain a good brand image to the fans and potential sponsors by showcasing the facade of a working and successful organization that continuously presents a positive image to the esports community.
Having a positive image often involves manipulating the events behind the scenes. Players are required to play as much as possible to maintain a presence among each of their fanbases, which in turn, creates more sales for the company. This is why Danny was forced to play for Evil Geniuses despite his health failing as the management didn’t want him to quit playing before the season ended as it would also increase his own brand image and increase his value on the market if EG planned to sell his contract to another team.
Can Esports Survive Without These Organizations?
The answer is hard NO. Unfortunately, esports has evolved so much that the only people who can afford the franchising costs of competing at a major league are the organizations. Even secondary and Academy leagues are extremely expensive to enter so it’s almost always the same organizations from the main leagues that own a minor league team. The only exceptions are the Collegiate tournaments but those are so unpopular that the Riot Games won’t profit from the exposure they bring.
Each League of Legends region already cost so much in terms of staffing, venue costs, production, and miscellaneous projects. The quality of viewing would severely drop if Riot Games stopped relying on the payments they collect from franchising esports organizations. You could argue that Riot Games has the resources to do all these but it’s wishful thinking that a large company will shell out that much money for such a small return.
The Future of Esports
Esports will survive despite all the controversies that come. This isn’t necessarily a positive message as that only means that there are countless people (who are sometimes minors) who will be exploited by these big esports organizations. Unfortunately, esports is only growing bigger and the impact of these controversies won’t really make a dent on how people view their favorite game overall.
The good news is that the current trend of cancel culture has some merit after all by forcing the greedy people in management to step down from their roles or at least make massive changes to appease the fans for the sake of their brand image. Eventually, the big esports companies will be forced to tiptoe around the treatment of their staff and players. The question after that is whether or not the change in culture will affect the quality of players and esports overall, especially in western regions.