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Mar 14 2014

Hags of Lag – Promise

In Korea, e-sports are a “big deal”. They are the equivalent of our football players or basketball players. We may consider video games as a simple way to kill time but many  Koreans play the game like a sport. And one of the biggest games is League of Legends. I am on the North American Server as AvicennaLast (JT Eberhard is also there with me if you fancy a go as are some of my readers).

Warning!

Trigger Warning – Suicide Attempt

Like football, talented 15 year olds are trained until the age of 17 and then unleashed on the world on a professional scale. And like football there are wonderkids.

Promise was one such kid. Cheon Min-Ki is his real name.

Promise was a good player, I know many readers here are not into games so I won’t bore you with details. He was way way way better than me. The sort of better that comes with practice. And he was one of the best in Korea which is saying something.

And he was taken advantage of. His quality was utilised by an unscrupulous man called Noh Dae Chu. See, e-Sports are new. There is little to no infrastructure and everything is being built up right now. Money is a necessity and Noh Dae Chu was offering  a way to get money and be a star.

Promise saw E-Sport as a way out of poverty in the same way that kids from the Barios see football as a way out. And when offered a position at AHQ Gaming (a Pro-Team) he jumped at the chance. He thought he made it big. What he did was step into the clutches of Noh Dae Chu.

Noh Dae Chu had lied, the team he was building was not associated with AHQ at all. This was a sham team that shared the name. And he wasn’t the only one on the team. The team was made up of a core of new blooded talent. And with this golden opportunity Noh Dae Chu had power.

See people knew these kids were talented. They had seen them play. And unlike other sports, age is no bar. There is no prime age of play (yet) . This isn’t like football where your 18 year old striker will only really start playing at his finest at around 26 till the age of 32. This is a place where you can be good aged 6 and still be good aged 60. League of Legends has a spectator mode and these kids and their practice matches and non-professional matches were great.

Noh Dae Chu told these kids that they would not be allowed to play competitively and would lose their golden tickets unless they threw their matches. Unless they took a dive. They had to lose to Korea’s best teams.

In Pro-Wrestling there is a term called a “Squash” match. A squash match is a match where a wrestler loses so badly that the point of the match is NOT to entertain but to create an aura of unfairness. That the winner is so brutally powerful that it was never a fair fight. There are variants on this such as the handicap match where USUALLY the solo fighter wins versus two opponents because he really is that powerful.

And this fake AHQ team was precisely that. A fall guy team. A team that built up a reputation outside of crucial matches but balked then. You can throw a match quite easily at a high level. A simple wrong way jink can cost you the game. Not warding accurately. Unnecessary aggression, too little aggression. League of Legends is incredibly complex.

This would have carried on had  these players been paid. Promise being from a poorer family and who literally “won a golden ticket” since he played from Internet Cafes prior to hitting it big worried about money. He eventually wrote to the real AHQ in Taiwan about not being paid yet.

Later on, I contacted AHQ and talked to their management in Taiwan. They denied ever donating any money or computers. They only donated gaming gear meant for the players themselves, not manager Noh. I asked if we could keep rest of the gear for practice and they approved. Eventually, we discovered that Noh was selling our practice computers so he could pay off his debts and run…

…we confronted Noh and announced we’re leaving the team. We demanded payment for the months that he still owed us. Noh responded that he couldn’t give us the money right away, but he would instead waive the 50% commission that AHQ claimed on prize money. Since we previously talked to AHQ management, the entire team already knew Noh was lying. AHQ never sponsored us with cash, never had rights to prize money and the computers didn’t belong to them, so who is he trying to pay money back to?

The players had sold their souls to the devil.

I played sport at a higher level than most. Not professional but close to the border. To sell your soul and fix a match is to destroy who you are. You will never be trusted, you will always be the man who threw games for money. You will never be on a team because your team mates will never be sure that you are playing 100% at all times. We can tolerate bad form, but we cannot tolerate someone losing on purpose. Noh was gambling on negative outcomes for his team of known prodigies. He was boosting their profile and then having them throw a major game and profiting from that.

Promise had not just had his life ruined but any future in pro-gaming was in serious doubt and he had no money left.

Promise left a note on Reddit, then attempted to take his life by jumping to his death from a twelve story building.

I’m not in this world after 5 minutes, AHQ Korea was a team made by Noh to profit off illegal gambling, teammates didn’t know and we had to fix games because of this. AHQ Taiwan never sponsored our team, it was a lie. I am sorry for all of this, and I can’t tell you everything, but I’m leaving now as I cant deal with this anymore.

In most sport there are unscrupulous individuals. I play cricket too and that is plagued by match fixing scandals. Hell I am a big fan of boxing and pro-wrestling and I know both are fixed as fuck. We try and create a sense of honesty with the actual game by not linking the gambling side of it to the real side. We try and ban cheaters. We try and stop the gambling side from influencing the teams.

We have agents who shield the players from influences like this and who are hired directly by the player and so who have the best intentions of the player at heart.

Promise did not die from the fall.

His fall was broken by the roof of a recycling centre and some of the bins there. He survived but was in a coma. He woke up earlier and this morning was stable. However we don’t know the extent of his injuries. Some of the sources discuss a spinal injury.

A spinal cord injury is permanent. He may never walk, he may never ever play a game. His recovery will be wrong, painful and arduous.

The authorities are searching for Noh, but there is always light in the darkest of times.

I have always said that you don’t know who you are until you see yourself in the dark. And in the dark, the people who play League of Legends have shown their colours.

Yes, there are many trolls. Or wankers… Who were more angry about the lack of rigour and honour and integrity of a bunch of 15 to 17 year old kids. Yes there were many people who offered helpful suggestions a la Anita Sarkeesian only more racist and less rapey.

But there was real good shown. League of Legends is made by Riot Games and they have started an investigation into the matter and to stop future incidents. The South Korean police are taking it seriously, a far cry from the US Foreign Office who a few weeks ago was refusing to offer E-Sports Players a visa to compete in the USA despite E-Sports offering rather sizeable prizes to it’s winners.

I am pulling this from JT Eberhard’s post on this because he sums it up the best.

NA analyst and coach of Counterlogic Gaming, MonteCristo, is friends with representatives of AHQ Gaming in Korea.  He is arranging countless charitable efforts to cover Promise’s hospital bills so Promise’s family, which is not very well off, won’t have to.

Riot Gaming is not only launching an investigation, promising to make changes to prevent this from ever happening again, but they’re also going to make sure the family is ok:

The Korean branch of Riot, League of Legend’s developer, issued an official statement, which, according to Kotaku tipster Sang, states that it has formed an internal task force to investigate the match fixing. Riot Korea also added that it will spare no expense in aiding Promise’s full and complete recovery.

Wickd, the top laner for the EU LCS team Alliance (a team similarly constructed of purely superstar talent), is donating all the ad revenue from his stream today to Promise’s recovery.  I’ve had his stream on in my other monitor all day with ad block turned off.  I urge anybody to throw on the stream in the background and just turn the volume off.  The viewers of his stream have been bombarding the chat panel all morning insisting that Wickd play more advertisements – even when Wickd was playing.  When Wickd finished one of his earlier games he played two minutes of ads, right under the maximum allowed, and the viewers almost rioted.  Wickd quickly gave them three minutes of ads, and then another three minutes which cut into his next game.  Nobody seemed to mind.

There is a big tournament coming up this weekend, the Intel Extreme Masters in Katowice, Poland.  An elite team from every region of the world will be present.  The Italian group that covers the event, GoaCoast, will be donating all their ad revenue for the entire three day event:

@ggCMonteCristo here at @GoaCast we will donate too, all the streaming revenue that we will have for the 3 days of lol of IEM

— Carlo (@GoaCast) March 13, 2014

More players and more fans are coming together by the hour to try and unmake this tragedy to whatever extent is possible.

Noh  may be a terrible reflection of the greed and callousness of humanity. Promise may be the victim of honour, wealth and being trapped. But this is also humanity. Compassion, Kindness and Generosity.

The world is a terrible and cruel place. Life spins on suffering, it is our duty to try and make the world a better place through compassion for others.

If you too wish to donate then the link is here.

2 comments

  1. 1
    Kevin, Youhao Huo Mao

    This is why I have such a love-hate relationship with calling myself a gamer. While overall our reputation is assholish, misogynistic, and homophobic, we pull together for things like this – for things like Child’s Play, AGDQ/SGDQ, and such.

  2. 2
    left0ver1under

    It’s not just gamers, it can be anyone. Suicides and suicide attempts are a regular occurence in Korea and other Asian countries (e.g. Japan, China, Taiwan, among others).

    For whatever reason, a lot of people in these countries see suicide as the response to criminal charges, scandals (financial, political, social, nude photos or sex, etc.), poverty, or being outed as gay. It runs the gamut of these societies – CEOs, business people, actors, singers, athletes, principals, teachers, students, families.

    http://www.businessinsider.com/the-most-high-profile-business-people-who-turned-to-suicide-during-scandals-2012-8

    http://www.asianjunkie.com/2013/05/stardom-entertainments-former-ceo-commits-suicide-amidst-block-b-lawsuit/

    http://www.koreabang.com/2014/stories/desperate-korean-family-commits-suicide-together.html

    I lived in Korea for four years and now in Taiwan for more than eight, a quarter of my life in their countries and cultures and I can’t even begin to guess or explain why people do this so often. Or if it’s no more common than North America or Europe, why is the media here so obsessed with suicide?

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