25 Sep 2020 5:21 PM +00:00

The Many Faces of Riot’s Competitive Rulings

The recent Tainted Minds investigation sparked a fierce discussion on Reddit. Was the punishment right? Was it wrong? And is there a larger issue hidden beneath it? We take a look at the history and faults of Riot’s competitive rulings. 

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Making an Example

The first documented competitive ruling happened all the way back in 2012. It addressed the toxic behavior of a European AD carry, Hosan, and issued a one-tournament suspension as a punishment. Other rulings followed this example. They dealt with players and offenses ranging from toxicity and ELO boosting to taking a glance at the stage screen during a competition. Many players got off with warnings, although some of the more severe cases resulted in fines, suspension, or even bans.

For the most part, League community seemed to support these decisions. Even the first rulings dealing with organizations were received well, and CLG’s repetitive fines became a running joke on Reddit. Of course, not every case went this well. A team failing to present a complete roster for Playoffs could be relegated out of the LCS. And let’s not even delve into the LCK where an entire team could get a life-long ban for making odd picks in a match that had no effect on the standings.

The main thing to note is that most rulings felt just, and punishments tended to fit the crimes.

A Worrying Trend

As competitive League of Legends grew and evolved, more and more rule breaches happened. Understandably, Riot was forced to tighten its policies. The first thing they cracked down on was poaching, and approaching contracted players would lead to fines and suspensions.


In addition, toxicity bans seemed to hit at the worst possible times, preventing teams from performing in Playoffs. The first signs of turmoil appeared as players and organizations argued that their punishments were too strict or unwarranted. And even though most people were still on Riot’s side, the investigative process became obscure. The same offense could translate into a $1000 fine or a suspension. With no chat logs or other tangible proof to examine, there were little means to confirm if the punishment was justified.

Another point of contention appeared when LCS rules were changed to be retroactively applied to the owner of Renegades, Chris Badawi, and ban him for poaching—an offense that previously only warranted a fine. Still, it wasn’t until the Renegades and TDK ruling that the shortcomings of Riot’s system came to light.

The Renegades Situation

If you don’t know much about Renegades, the gist of it is that they were a team whose owners—Chris Badawi and Christopher “MonteCristo” Mykles—were forced to sell their NA LCS spot for compromising player safety, granting a banned owner a stake in the organization, and trading players with a Challenger team, TDK.

Now, while these offenses sound serious on paper, there are a few things to consider here. First, most of the team’s players stepped up and said that their safety was in no way threatened during their time with the org. Second, the de facto team structure had no mentions of Chris Badawi’s share. Third, all player trades happened within Riot’s ruleset. Finally, the owners themselves disputed their punishment, arguing that they weren’t presented with proof that Riot was acting upon.

In the end, this did little to change the result, and Renegades were still forced to sell their LCS spot. Were Riot Games justified in making this decision? Perhaps. After all, Badawi’s story did have some holes in it. Regardless, with this move Riot affirmed its status as League’s judge, jury, and executioner. An entity that could back up its decisions with little other than a few lines of text on the official website.

Whatever you think about Renegades and their ruling, this display made it clear that any newcomers could be easily kicked out of the LCS if they were to take a few wrong steps. And that didn’t bode well with organizations and investors that were looking to enter the scene.

Here and Now

This brings us to the present days and the Tainted Minds ruling. The Oceanic team’s players broke an NDA and exposed the faults of their organization. In particular, Tristan “xPecake” Côté-Lalumière has made numerous public statements on the topic. His accusations touched on issues with player safety, sketchy roster moves, breach of contractual obligations, and conflict of interest. Of course, this case doesn’t completely mirror Renegades’ ruling. Still, given the gravity of the accusations and the fact that players provided extensive proof, you’d expect an equally severe punishment.


Yet the results of this investigation were… different.

A $7,000 fine with a 6-month probation period was all she wrote for TM’s many missteps. This decision brought up a lot of questions about Riot’s investigative process. First, why is the whole thing shrouded in mystery? We only get to see results laid out in a matter-of-fact manner, and it’s hard to tell how Riot approached the situation to arrive at these conclusions. Second, why is there no one involved to keep Riot in check and make them accountable for errors in judgment? Finally, why is there such a great emphasis on conducting investigations behind closed doors? If xPecake didn’t come to Reddit, then chances are that the public would still be unaware of the Tainted Minds problem. These questions need to be addressed—not only for the sake of League’s community but also to encourage further growth of the industry.

Moving Forward

The idea of bringing in a third party mediator to monitor Riot’s competitive rulings isn’t a new one. And while it certainly would fix most of the problems, the prospect itself is unrealistic. For starters, it’d be close to impossible to find an impartial arbiter that’d have enough control over Riot’s actions to take on this role. And even if you could find such an organization, there’s no way Riot Games would agree to let go of the reins of their own competitive scene. After all, it’s their game. But such a drastic approach isn’t necessary to give the community a satisfying answer to its questions.

Because the one thing that the competitive ruling process needs most is clarity.

The same Tainted Minds topic had a Reddit user /u/ituralde_ explain the supposed logic behind Riot’s decision. His points certainly could be disputed, but they also made you see the situation in a different light. But why exactly should a Redditor do the job of Riot’s Esports division? Why can’t a similar explanation be a part of the competitive ruling so that everyone sees how Riot approaches these issues.

It doesn’t need to include heaps of documents. A simple breakdown of the investigative process would go a long way in adding more transparency to Riot’s investigative process. And in times when so many people are looking at eSports as the next big thing, this can be the difference between stagnation and exponential growth.

What do you think of Riot’s competitive rulings? Let us know in the comments!

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