Despite Host’s Infamous Toxicity, Independently-organized Tyler1 Championship Series Rivals Official League of Legends eSports Viewership

Curator's Note

Last month, popular League of Legends (2009 - current, Riot Games) streamer Tyler1 - who boasts over 700 thousand subscribers - hosted and casted the first Tyler1 Championship Series. This grassroots event peaked at over 200,000 concurrent viewers during the finals, more than the average official North American League Championship Series game in 2017. The tournament was sponsored by Tyler1’s website rather than Intel, Samsung, or any of the other computing companies regularly involved with League of Legends eSports events. It featured interviews with his younger brother as well as numerous advertisements for Tyler1’s personal protein brand “Bloodrush,” which readers should let nowhere near their bodies. Many popular streamers attended the event, including PantsareDragon and RedMercy, and the tournament was provided even more legitimacy by the participation of a team of popular ex-professional players sponsored by Echofox, a professional North American team.

While many outlets and fans are reporting that the Tyler1 Championship is an example of the potency of independent streamer brands, what makes the event noteworthy is that a successful, large-scale, grassroots tournament could be organized by such an absolute jerk. Referred to by some as “the most toxic League of Legends player in North America," Tyler1 is famous for his hypermasculine rage, threatening commentary, and aggressive sexism. His behavior has raised enough concern that Riot Games issued a permanent ban on his accounts. That so many viewers tuned in to watch a series sponsored by a streamer so outwardly toxic- not to mention that Echofox and a number of well-known players supported a player banned by Riot Games - illustrates the uphill battle to create a safe and ethical eSports community. If the lessons of Gamergate have not made this clear, the popularity of the Tyler1 Championship Series demonstrates that, despite disciplinary action from YouTube against streamers who propagate in hate speech, such as Pewdiepie and Jontron, there is a still massive community support for toxic showmanship. Scholars excited about eSports (myself included) should keep in mind that much of the community is not simply willing to accept this kind of behavior; many, a dangerous many, love it.

Update: The same day this article was published, Riot Games lifted Tyler1’s permanent ban following an incident involving hostile comments made by a Riot employee on Reddit. That same day, Tyler1 gained over 1,000 subscribers.

Comments

Laurel Rogers & Dan Lark's picture

This is a great post that

This is a great post that touches upon some important issues in esports and game studies. You’re also asking similar questions that Laurel Rogers and myself ask in our IMR post.

I have to wonder: Are streamers like Tyler1 successful not in spite of their toxic behavior, but because of it? As you’ve observed, many people identify with his brand of sexism and toxicity. In addition, I wonder what our expectations should be for platforms like Twitch, who in some ways benefit from this sort of behavior, even as they might seek to control or ban it.

What would a set of ethical guidelines for esports look like?

-Dan Lark

Eric A James's picture

Thanks!

I totally agree. While companies like Riot Games have done a lot of work in rolling out new tribunal ban systems for their games, featuring cosplayers and artists rather than toxic streamers, and hiring women casters (though not nearly enough), they’re constantly struggling with the fact that streamers such as Tyler1 are a huge part of what unites their playerbase/spectators. Even beyond the historic relationship between gaming fandoms and hate, what makes developing a set of ethical guidelines for esports (which I love your characterization of) even more difficult is that eSports fandom seems to behave something like an entanglement between traditional sporting fandom and online televisual fandom. The macho structural (and legal) limitations of the former combine with the absurdist humor of the latter in some hard to manage ways.

Eric A James's picture

also...

The same day this piece was published, Riot Games lifted the permanent ban on Tyler1’s account. Really demonstrates what you were saying.

Lindsey Decker's picture

space, Overwatch

This is quite a problem in esports — but, more generally in nearly all online spaces. There is something about the online space that shifts what offline would likely be microaggressions into aggressive behavior that can be sexist, racist, homophobic, ableist, etc. With this championship series, were the people in the same physical space, or was the space of the series a virtual space? I would be interested to know if player behavior changes when players are physically together rather than just virtually together (though I know that isn’t exactly the topic of your post!).

Also, though, have you heard about the recent gender controversy with pro Overwatch teams? There is an okay piece about it on Kotaku and it might be of interest: https://compete.kotaku.com/no-overwatch-league-team-signed-the-games-most-notable-1821968992.

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