We have yet to develop the first Bo Jackson of esports, but Linh "Seiko" Nguyen, a Hearthstone Grandmaster from Germany, gave it a shot this weekend to disastrous results.
Here are the facts as we understand them. Seiko was playing a Hearthstone tournament match against fellow professional Elias "Bozzzton" Sebelius. Over the course of that match, Seiko could be routinely seen staring down at his lap, away from his computer monitor, and seemed generally unfocused and detached from the action on screen. This led to a number of misplays, causing Seiko to throw the game.
How are we supposed to take GM seriously when even the players in it don't?? Honestly, you can see Seiko is doing something else during his match and it's so frustrating to watch. Fuck this.https://t.co/owJCZvxlqRSeptember 14, 2019
That alone would be weird enough, but after the carnage, Seiko disclosed on Twitter that he was simultaneously playing a qualifier for the $1,000,000 Auto Chess tournament during his Hearthstone responsibilities. The internet immediately started roasting him for his lack of discipline, the overzealousness of trying to pilot two demanding strategy games at once, and the murky waters he was delving in for tempting fate in the first place.
As someone who has followed Hearthstone esports for a long time, I mostly find this pretty funny. When Hearthstone was one of the biggest games on Twitch, League of Legends streamers would routinely play games during their solo-queue downtime as a way to show off their plate spinning skills, and it's hilarious to see that stunt rear its head again when there's so much money on the line.
That being said, there are some people in the community who are understandably miffed. Simon "Sottle" Welch, who is the best Hearthstone caster we've got, called Seiko out immediately after the match for unprofessionalism, and was even more open about his displeasure on Twitter, saying, "Seiko's actions were very insulting to the GM program and to thousands of players who would kill to be in position."
But I do strongly believe that Seiko's actions were very insulting to the GM program and to thousands of players who would kill to be in position.I take my job very seriously, too seriously at times.September 14, 2019
And you know what? That's totally fair. As Hearthstone beat reporter Tom Mattheisen mentioned over at Inven (opens in new tab), Blizzard has made it clear that the Hearthstone Grandmasters is the pinnacle of their game, and it feels a little cheap and invalidating to the sanctity of competition to hamstring your focus with an entirely different game in the middle of a match.
Here's where things get even more strange, though. Blizzard's Hearthstone esports head Drew Higbee issued a response himself, admitting that Seiko had told the higher-ups that he was participating in the Auto Chess bracket, but that the expectation was that he was going to play in that tournament around his Hearthstone duties, not during them.
"The expectation is that players should be entirely present for their Grandmasters Matches," explained Higbee (opens in new tab). "That being said, we acknowledge and apologize that our response to Seiko obviously engendered confusion and our communication will be more clear in the future."
And of course, Seiko himself posted the customary apologetic Twitlonger (opens in new tab), and happily flagellated himself.
"I really thought I had enough practice, that I could handle playing both games without paying too much attention to Auto Chess. Unfortunately it took too much attention though, which didn’t end up well in Hearthstone," he wrote. "I got really punished for this and regret that I couldn’t evaluate the situation correctly. Even though it sucks to throw away months of practice to not participate in the qualifier I was looking forward to so much. I should’ve known it’s the right thing to do. I learned that I can’t handle both games at the same time and even though it hurts as someone who likes competing I will have to drop from the qualifier to not lose my main focus."
So basically, it's a giant mess with two rival esports scenes and one over-ambitious player. But as someone who remembers the drama over Deion Sanders taking Atlanta Braves at-bats during his Falcons career, I love it. We've finally got our first pro gaming multisport controversy. We've made it, baby!