The Future of the Overwatch League

Time To Put Up Or Shut Up

Image Credit: Robert Paul, Blizzard Entertainment

It was reported early Monday morning that DPS player of the Boston Uprising, 21-year-old Jonathan “DreamKazper” Sanchez has been accused of inappropriate sexual advances and interactions over Twitter, Snapchat and FaceTime with a 14-year-old girl. Both the Uprising and the league itself has suspended him indefinitely. Since then, at least one other 16-year-old girl has come forward and DreamKazper has been released from the squad.

If you have been following my recap articles, you know that I’m a huge Boston Uprising fan and have been a massive DreamKazper fan for his incredible play in the league. However, with the convincing amount of evidence that has come forth, he deserves to go to jail. Full stop.

Early on in the messages between the two, she told him her age and he continued to say more and more lewd things to her. Unlike xQc, Taimou, Eqo, Undead (now hYpnos) and their issues, this is one that could equate to real-life jail time as he coerced her into sending nude photos which constitutes owning child pornography. This is a case of an adult manipulating a child. It started off with him buying her a copy of Overwatch and devolved quickly as time went on.

Obviously, this is a terrible situation and one that both the Uprising and the league are heavily looking into. However, taking a step back and looking at the Overwatch League’s brief history thus far is necessary to examine the potential longevity of the league. So far, suspensions have ranged from the more innocuous account boosting to racism, homophobia and now sexual misconduct with a minor.

This doesn’t bode well for the future of OWL. Both Jake and Rawkus were recently on the mainstream morning talk show, Megyn Kelly Today, and the stereotypes of out of shape kids who live in their parents’ basements is still a reality. And the stereotypes about gaming culture and the “kids on Call of Duty” throwing racial and homophobic slurs is being reaffirmed on a much more public stage. Some players are making it difficult for this league to gain respect and be the flagbearer for esports in the mainstream consciousness.

Yes, these are professional Overwatch players, but they’re still young and, in a lot of cases, kids. xQc is 22, Taimou is 24, Eqo is 18, Undead is 22 and DreamKazper is 20. This does not excuse them whatsoever for their actions. But the Overwatch League needs to understand that bringing these young people in and just expecting them to “act like adults” was and continues to be an unrealistic expectation. These are the people who were raised on the internet and the ability to say what they want from behind a keyboard without repercussions has been a reality for most of their lives. In a stream shortly after xQc was released from the Dallas Fuel, he explained that he was “raised by Twitch chat” which is a truly terrifying notion. These are young people who have been quickly thrust out into the public eye and trying to adapt.

While Undead’s situation is disgusting, DreamKazper is on a whole different level. But when it comes to the other players, was there media training? What kind of infrastructure is in place to educate them about why what they said or did was wrong other than a suspension and a fine? In my experience, many people who say ignorant things are just that, ignorant. Whether it has been the people around them, the environment they grew up in or what, racism, sexism and homophobia come from a place of not knowing and privilege. The prison system in the United States originally had the goal of rehabilitating those who had done wrong to educate and inform them in order to be successful once they were released back into society. For a long time, that has become far less prevalent. For OWL, it seems like a similar situation from an outside perspective. A slap on the wrist, a few games out, a couple thousand dollars and the players are back. But were they told why what they did or said was wrong? How much goes on behind the scenes that we, as the public, do not see? Whatever the case is, if the league doesn’t address it in a much more beneficial way rather than solely fines and match suspensions, we may not get many more seasons of OWL.