Last month, popular League of Legends (2009 - current, Riot Games) streamer Tyler1 - who boasts over 700 thousand subscribers - hosted and casted the first Tyler1 Championship Series. This grassroots event peaked at over 200,000 concurrent viewers during the finals, more than the average official North American League Championship Series game in 2017. The tournament was sponsored by Tyler1’s website rather than Intel, Samsung, or any of the other computing companies regularly involved with League of Legends eSports events. It featured interviews with his younger brother as well as numerous advertisements for Tyler1’s personal protein brand “Bloodrush,” which readers should let nowhere near their bodies. Many popular streamers attended the event, including PantsareDragon and RedMercy, and the tournament was provided even more legitimacy by the participation of a team of popular ex-professional players sponsored by Echofox, a professional North American team.
While many outlets and fans are reporting that the Tyler1 Championship is an example of the potency of independent streamer brands, what makes the event noteworthy is that a successful, large-scale, grassroots tournament could be organized by such an absolute jerk. Referred to by some as “the most toxic League of Legends player in North America," Tyler1 is famous for his hypermasculine rage, threatening commentary, and aggressive sexism. His behavior has raised enough concern that Riot Games issued a permanent ban on his accounts. That so many viewers tuned in to watch a series sponsored by a streamer so outwardly toxic- not to mention that Echofox and a number of well-known players supported a player banned by Riot Games - illustrates the uphill battle to create a safe and ethical eSports community. If the lessons of Gamergate have not made this clear, the popularity of the Tyler1 Championship Series demonstrates that, despite disciplinary action from YouTube against streamers who propagate in hate speech, such as Pewdiepie and Jontron, there is a still massive community support for toxic showmanship. Scholars excited about eSports (myself included) should keep in mind that much of the community is not simply willing to accept this kind of behavior; many, a dangerous many, love it.
Update: The same day this article was published, Riot Games lifted Tyler1's permanent ban following an incident involving hostile comments made by a Riot employee on Reddit. That same day, Tyler1 gained over 1,000 subscribers.