80 tweets, 15 min read
It's weird that despite supposedly being in the unassailable, privileged position, ever since the first moment I achieved anything in esports and became "someone" there's always been people trying to take it away from me. It's been this way since 2005 if you can believe it.
Back then I was a blogger, doing work on a now defunct site. I started producing the first 3000+ word articles that Counter-Strike had written about it as well as starting the first "gossip column" about the scene. As you can imagine I was called an "outsider" and a hack.
Death threats were a lot more common back then, being on forums and such... There were no consequences really. I had to go to small events where people would come up to me and threaten me to my face all because some new guy had written about their team without having "played pro"
After that, in about 2006, I got offered jobs to write about the much more popular game, 1.6, exclusively. I turned all of those down and made a lot of enemies in the process. Why wouldn't I want to work with these people? Why wouldn't I want to write about the "better" game?
The people I turned down didn't forget and made sure I was reminded of it every time some freelance work came up. I was working a full time job, a stressful one, desperately looking for an out. Esports was that for me but already there were some high level politics at play.
I took some work from TNWA who were buying up UK esports properties. They had a string of failed businesses behind them and I had spoken out about their shit publicly. Many people in the scene came to me and told me to shut up because there was a paycheque in it for them.
Desperate I took a gig as a writer for them even though they didn't really have a dedicated site. My articles were published on sites no-one would see and I was paid peanuts. I was promised the world though... I was going to be sent to Korea, the US, a salary, a future. I slogged
Of course, it was all lies. None of it ever materialised. I had worked so hard I had thrown in a sick note at my "real" job and was now barely covering rent. In the end these pigfuckers did it again, shut down shop, and left me and many others feeling like idiots.
I was remembered as the guy who wouldn't play ball coming out of it. People liked my work but felt, because I'd spoken publicly and honestly, I couldn't be trusted. The irony of that. I went back to volunteer work, pissing away my savings and waiting for the next thing.
During this time I missed rent payments, had to beg, borrow and steal to stay afloat financially. I shopped exclusively at the supermarkets with the off-brand food. A typical day's food was 4 fishfingers and a tin of beans. I was 25 years old and living like this.
Fortunately, CGS came along and it was clear that CS:S was going to get its shine over 1.6 and all the other bullshit. Due to my voluntary writing on Cadred I was offered a spot. $1200 a month for 4 articles about the league. Complete PR bullshit but this was it. The big time.
I'd been one of the guys who had been saying CGS was a bad thing. It was, almost entirely, but they bought my silence. It was the last time anyone ever did this but this felt like the last chance for me to be "someone" and succeed.
CGS for me was a clusterfuck of ups and downs. I got two promotions in two weeks, I even got my first camera work, taking a spot from a legend like 2GD. By the same token everything I had ever said or done was being sent to the people who ran the league. "Look at this asshole"
It got to a stage where people were even taking photos of me at events and sending them to CGS. Seriously. Someone pulled my trousers down at a LAN and someone was on hand to send pictures of my saggy ass to my employers. Every forum post was screenshotted and emailed.
Eventually they started to censor my writing, even putting my name on other people's work. I left before I could be fired. I was despondent but at least I had my reputation and felt I could get more work now. I was so fucking wrong.
CGS went crazy. They told EVERY esports site that if I was hired, even on a voluntary basis, they would have their press credentials pulled. They went all out to drum me out the industry entirely.Back then, these WERE they power players... My friends shunned me to save their jobs
I had made friends with the manager who ran the LAN centre that CGS was held at, Omega Sektor, and they offered me an ambassadorial role. CGS threatened to pull their hiring of the venue, worth $60,000, if I was allowed to work their during season 2.
I couldn't even go to my own workplace. I had to take holiday when CGS was on and keep a low profile. If people ever wanted to know why I was releived when CGS collapsed, this is why. A corporation of that size wanted me out of the business. They did all they could but I hung in.
After CGS went under so did Omega Sektor. The signs were all there. My manager lost weight, started sleeping in the office... We got paid in cash from a safe. I had to carry a grand in notes down a street notorious for drug dealing related stabbings and muggings. This was work.
They couldn't afford to fix a blocked toilet, which was clogged up and fountaining shit for months. I had to go back to full time employment and started working for Birmingham City Council in a variety of roles. I was done with esports this time.
GotFrag was the only site that stood up to them. I went there and got them nominated for an esports award, their first and only one for CS:S coverage. When I asked for a paid job they called me a parasite and said I was killing the industry with my greed.
But how do you walk away from your friends and a place where people know your name? I couldn't stay gone. Now CGS was dead I was welcomed back at Cadred and started writing again, regularly. It was all apologies and handshakes. CGS were the bad guys, not us. Home.
Cadred got bought by a company called Heaven Media. With this new money came new expectations. I wasn't deemed fit for a managerial role but for my columns they would pay me 400 pounds a month. I quit my council job, where I was treated like shit, and was back in the game.
Slight problem with that.... 400 pounds isn't enough to live off. I had to leave my place and move in with my friends who had just got married. I rented their tiny spare room for the going rate and that left me with about 40 pounds a month disposable income.
I spent that tiny amount of money on basically any form of intoxicant I could lay my hands on. I lived on tins of tuna and apples. I new if I hung in there the big time opportunity would come around again. In the end Heaven Media gave me a payrise. 1000 pounds a month.
They gave me a title too. Editor. Wow. I was pretty pleased. Sadly, now I had a title to lose... Well, you can imagine. Part of my job was moderating the forums. I deleted a lot of shit and banned a lot of people who didn't get it. Every one of these guys complained to my boss.
Some of the guys were longtime users, former writers... They would spam the forums with bots making threads telling me I was going to lose my job soon. They abused me for being Jewish for some reason. The forums were a constant source of misery. Every complaint was investigated.
So a weekly humiliation was to be pulled into another meeting for another disciplinary investigation about whether or not I was abusing my forum privileges and representing the company the right way. The trolls had a lot of power over on that site for reasons I never understood.
Simultaneously a rumour was spread that I personally was the reason that CS:S was picked over 1.6 in CGS. I have no idea how this started but it led to a ridiculous amount of abuse from fans of that game, some of the worst I'd had until the FGC. Again, threats were daily.
If that wasn't bad enough every time I published a big story, companies and organisations not paying players etc, they would pick up the phone to Heaven Media and demand something be done about it. This happened all the time. They know who they are.
Fortunately the owners understood that my work was valuable and they backed me every time. Of course, I was a pariah in the industry despite being one of its top journalists. "Why do you never write anything positive" these liars and thieves would scold. Imagine that.
I watched a lot of people leave Heaven Media and go on to better things. I stayed because the owners had been loyal. In the end, their plan to merge sites backfired horrendously and I, as editor, was blamed for that. The CoD4 community went from friends to an angry mob.
When it came to going to esports events, it wasn't a guarantee I'd be allowed. I was blacklisted by a lot of people, especially when Starcraft 2 came out. This was meant to be the new wave of esports cool and I was the same old Richard I'd ever been. I called out bullshit.
I went against anyone who broke promises and shilled for sponsors that didn't give a fuck about esports. These weren't the battles of yesteryear. These were heavy industry hitters who had real influence. This was CGS 2.0 and I suffered every time I said the emperor had no clothes
Ben Kuchera went after me during this period, the patient zero for goony beard men, as well as a bunch of other people. I was passed over for work, even guest appearances. I was told I'd never be good enough to work a desk, I just didn't have what it takes for camera.
Then when League of Legends came out and started to get big my employers pulled me up and told me a few things. 1) The site was struggling due to Reddit and 2) I had to get us into this game to help ease that burden. This was quite the mandate.
Despite being called a hack and a liar by every fan of every big organisation in SC2, I'd managed to win that community over with good reporting and trying to protect them from the people who would use them. Surely that reputation would transfer to League, right?
Course not. Every roster swap I wrote up was dismissed as lies by the subreddit I needed it to be on in order to keep my employers afloat. I was right every time but the abuse was unreal. The worst offenders? The moderators of the subreddit of course.
They would delete my work routinely and kept reaching out. They told me to change titles and paragraphs to allow the work on Reddit. I explained they were not my editors and they had no input. For this, they deliberately penalised me and every one I worked with.
During this time period every time I hit "approve" on a piece of work that related to League of Legends, a series of things would happen. It would be downvoted, with the same trolls calling me a liar. Then it would be deleted for "reasons." Then weird shit would start to happen.
I'd get emails people were trying to hack my social media accounts, my Skype. Threats would appear in my Reddit inbox. Organisations would relish in the hate and call me a liar, only for what I reported to come true days later. This was just the reporting mind you.
When I wrote opinion pieces, a medium the children on that sub still don't understand, it was ten times as worse. I told my bosses "this isn't worth it for me." And they would tell me that the articles made up 70% of all our traffic and to stick with it. I was in a bind.
The stress led to the mods drama. They never banned a single person for abusing me but they banned me a few times and certainly deleted my work whenever they felt like it. Each time they deleted something my bosses wanted to know why. They thought it must be my fault somehow.
My girlfriend couldn't understand why I put myself through it at the time. I was kind of ashamed my life just couldn't be normal, that each time I released an article we'd have to spend time apart while my life and work was fucked with by internet strangers.
Like, every day I ran something my job could vanish because of a group of anonymous people on the internet. Not just mine, but that of my colleagues too. And it would be "my fault." These mods, all kids, did that, and when I called them out it got worse.
On the day the Reddit drama kicked off a user pretended to commit suicide and then have his "brother" log into the throwaway account the next day to ask mods why I had made him do it. My Reddit ban led to lies I had mocked a suicidal person until they did it.
My information got leaked to people on Reddit somehow. SRS certainly drove that. People threatened to kill me, rape my girlfriend, messaged me to say they new where I lived. The "suicide" issue was so sensitive, even though I hadn't done anything people went crazy.
Me and my GF had to leave the house. We went on an impromptu holiday. This killed our relationship stone dead, even if it lasted for about half a year after. How could I explain people threatening to rape her over League of Legends?
Anyway, I left Heaven Media and joined the Daily Dot somewhere along this period. It had been a stressful 6 years but they were good folk. The Daily Dot got the tail-end of all this bullshit and ended up suffering from the content ban that still makes no sense to this day.
The content ban definitely hurt the Daily Dot, and it was specifically designed to do that. The head mod admitted it and said "people who insult the subreddit shouldn't make money from the subreddit." They even deleted the work of people I appeared as a guest alongside. Nuts.
The Daily Dot was a woke publication for sure and I didn't really subscribe to a lot of that but was definitely a "liberal" as it was defined in 2014. 2015 was a bit fucking weird though and I wanted to branch out. I was tired of esports. It had treated me like shit for 10 years
I started writing about political stuff, tech and topical issues. My work was censored and vetted because I didn't just swallow narratives. Not everything WAS sexist. I covered the Tim Hunt story, the recording that exonerated him, and they refused to publish it. Why?
I argued with the higher-ups over this and suddenly got a label as a "bad egg." I'd been the guy that built their esports section before Jacob Wolf and the crew took off. Now people thought I was a toxic element to the business over a few stories. It was clear I wasn't welcome.
During this time I met a guy called Milo. He was a good friend to me and told me about a new project he was heading up. He told me I'd be valued and respected and could write about it whatever I wanted. One problem for me... It was fucking Breitbart.
As a student of journalism and someone who followed the history of the medium religiously I knew all about the hack bullshit that had been published. The retractions, the scandals, the selective editing of videos, the climate change denial. BIG FUCKING YIKES AM I RIGHT LEFTISTS.
But back then it wasn't called a white supremacist rag by anyone really. And I was told it was a separate vertical (it was) and wouldn't be forced to go along with any of the political shit (it wasn't.) Recently the tech section wrote anti-Trump articles for example.
I knew the Daily Dot was going to fuck me any time so I had a choice... Take the job working with my friend, or turn it down and hope for something better. I took the job. Why wouldn't I? I knew what I was about politically and had no idea the election would get so crazy.
I was there for just 6-7 months and did great esports work I thought. Ever since then I've had to eat shit for ever being at that publication. I've been called a racist when I'm not. I've been called a homophobe when I'm not. I've been called a transphobe when I am obviously not.
Brianna Wu even tried to have me removed from a panel because I was an ex-Breitbart writer. I think it was the first time she had ever spoken about esports. The election changed what the site was known as and it didn't matter what I'd written. I was guilty by association now.
Every day during this period was a fucking nightmare. The work was the only thing that kept me sane. That and the booze. I was working on desks at the time, freelance work, and the whole "Breitbart" issue was creeping up constantly. I was so fucking ill during this period.
I developed a lot of stress related illnesses. I had an out of control ulcer, ravaged by the alcohol. I would regularly vomit blood at events. I've left out the time I had cardiac arrest, which people mock me for assuming it was weight related, which it wasn't. Still too painful.
I can't really talk about it candidly because of the stigmas around it. People who know me know what happened. Guess we will leave it there. But yeah, I was very ill mentally and physically at the time.
Which is why the Loda situation went down the way it did most likely. The attempted intimidation on Twitter then in person just came at the wrong time. As soon as I felt threatened I lost my cool, which isn't like me at all. In that moment, it was ALL the industry hostility.
That incident will never be forgotten and it was lied about because I was the lowest person on the foodchain. Facts remain, I was never arrested, didn't choke anyone and wasn't the aggressor. Still, I was the one who had to be offered up because I was the smallest.
And fuck it, I'll take that one. I never tried to justify it outside of what Breitbart told me to write because they wanted my version on record to avoid smears and lies. No-one ever paid attention to my story.
Then came the Turner gig. Wow. A TV company wanted me to be on a TV show, so soon after that incident. Holy shit. I had to get my shit together. I did. I dropped everything, which is just as well because most of it dropped me. The missus bailed. I left my handful of friends.
It was always a validation for me but I'd said going in I was still going to do YouTube stuff and write. I felt I owed it to the core fans who had stuck with me and Sam of course. You can't imagine the saltmine that was uncovered when I got this job. Holy shit guys.
Someone even tried to physically fight me at the first meeting we had. No shit. Right there in front of the TV executives. Fuck me, it was insane. Every week Turner were messaged with something along the lines of "do you actually know who this person is?"
Every time I published a YouTube video exposing a liar, or someone engaging in a conflict of interest, they would email. "What are you going to do about it? How can you allow this." These people would literally take it all from me if they could, my job, my house, my Visa.
Still, the CS community loved me (BamBam nonsense not withstanding) and had my back. Every time we did a new game though... Here come the smears. Here come the threats. I've had to file police reports over some of them. I had a bodyguard at the major. What is this?
The Tekken backlash lasted a week. People again going after my job, saying I'm a racist, whatever other vile lies they choose to concoct. I had to skip out on going to Final Round due to people saying they would attack me on site if I attended.
And maybe that's par for the course now... Maybe this is how I have to live because I did spend 6 months at Breitbart, so it's totally fair. Whatever. At least I will have this 13 years of work that people can appreciate and say I was good at and get the respect of my peers.
Oh, I can't have that either. Every panel I'm on I get flagged either for my "politics" (they always get them wrong) or my gender or my race. I can't win. I've given starts to so many people in the business and always stood by anyone being bullied. Ask people.
This includes my gay colleagues, my trans colleagues, my female colleagues, my black colleagues, my Latino colleagues, my Asian colleagues, my Jewish colleagues... I have never stood in the way of anyone and have always tried to help everyone in esports. That's who I am.
Esports gave me everything I have now but it took away everything else. That's the truth, so when people say I've had it handed to me because of what I am, I can't abide that. I bled for this business and I can't even get props for sticking it out without it being spoiled.
The reality is I don't have anything else beyond esports. It's everything to me. People will mock me for that, and maybe they should, but I went all-in on something and it took me places I never thought I could go. I wish I could enjoy it. I guess it's asking too much.
Anyway, if I can't represent esports then I don't think I'm fit to represent anything else.
Oh, an addendum. I am proud of a lot of work I did down the years. I got people paid, I got people out of bad situations, I helped police a certain element looking to exploit the industry. There's one thing I got to do that will always eclipse everything else.
When I met Maria, the former LCS player, she was in bad shape and in an awful situation. I'll always be glad she trusted me enough to get her out of it because I hate to think what might have happened if she didn't. Seeing her flourish now makes everything else pale in comparison
So, if the only thing I ever get out of esports is that... Fuck it, as the kids say "worth."
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