The life of a League of Legends professional draws the glare of the eSports media spotlight. With an ongoing tirade of stories readily available – roster swaps, trash talking, arrogant superiority claims – it’s easy to lose sight of the stress the players experience in pursuit of their career ambitions. The eSports spotlight casts a shadow over the darker mental health issues that embroil the professional scene.
At first glance, the prospect of playing video games competitively as a career is a tantalising prospect for aspiring gamers across the globe. Playing the game you are passionate about and earning a living as a result, making new friends and receiving the adoration of like-minded enthusiasts all over the world, the thought of mental health issues doesn’t enter the picture for even an instance.
Popular North American figure William ‘Meteos’ Hartman is instantly recognisable as one of the original members of the Cloud9 roster, stepping in and out of substitute roles as required. Originally dubbed as the NA LCS’ ‘Superstar Jungler’ , Meteos’ performances at the 2016 World Championships failed to live up to fan expectations.
As Cloud9 exited the tournament in the quarter final stage, Meteos was exposed to widespread criticism and hate on various social media platforms. On one of his streams, he mentioned that he’d received death threats and had been told to kill himself. Having lost his desire for the scorn of competitive play, Meteos decided to step away from the stage spotlight following the conclusion of the World Championship – he has since returned after a much needed break, representing Phoenix1:
The mental strain of professional play has the potential to devastate an eSports players life, beyond the stress of online abuse. The story of Cheon “Promise” Min-ki, a former AD Carry player for South Korean team AHQ Gaming, is a tale wreathed in tragedy. Growing up as part of an extremely poor family, Min-Ki’s father walked out when he was only fourteen years old. Promise spent as much time as he could finding Internet cafes in order to play League of Legends, a game he displayed a natural aptitude for.
Before long, Promise was contacted by Noh Dae Chu and offered a position within their ranks as the team’s starting AD Carry. Promise and his newfound teammates were informed by their manager, that in order to continue playing competitively, they would have to intentionally lose to the more powerful teams – match fixing for cash. As they disappointed fans time after time by losing to their rivals, one can only imagine what it was doing to the mentality of the players, who were but pawns on a chessboard for Noh.
“When we first made the team, we were told that AHQ sponsored us with cash and computers. We didn’t know they only gave us gaming gear for rights to the team name.
“Our manager Noh had lied to us, and took out a loan to pay for our housing, living expenses, computers, and even our salaries.
“He was planning on placing illegal bets on eSports games and fixing them to win back the borrowed money and make a profit.”
Cheon ‘Promise’ Min-ki
The thin ice cracked when Promise contacted AHQ, who informed him of the truth of the situation. Noh’s web of lies began to unravel, and as the players announced to him that they’d be leaving and demanded recompense, the corrupt manager threatened them.
Promise had finally been mentally pushed over the edge. Unable to cope with his personal issues and the horrific ordeal he’d been through, the talented pro threw himself off of a twelve story building in a suicide attempt. Miraculously he survived this fall and went on to make a recovery, aided by Riot themselves.
The world of League of Legends eSports has its demons. Though Meteos and Promise lie at perhaps opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of the abuse that they suffered, the devastating strain eSports can place on an individual is clear for all to see.
More needs to be done to acknowledge the mental health issues that exist within the professional scene, a battle each player will have to fight at some point in their career. Just barely out of their teenage years, eSports pros are laden with the fame and subsequent stress of a star sportsman and are simply expected to deal with it.