I don’t tend to write very much, preferring to speak directly to folks through video. I think I’m much better at talking than at writing, but there are occasions where a well thought out and organized post can be a lot clearer than a vlog.
A Few Things To Note:
I have read many conflicting statements in the past couple of days (and further back) about some of the things that I will be writing about here. Obviously, this means that ultimately, many of you will have to decide if you trust what I am writing here or think that I am lying. I can promise you that I will be as transparent as I am capable of being and be completely honest about everything I say. I have always favored transparency and honesty to blanket PR statements or ignoring the community for the full duration of my three years in the industry and will continue to uphold that.
In the past, I responded to people directly in the comments or would write up a couple of paragraphs in a self-post on reddit. I plan to be extremely thorough and discuss several different topics that the recent reddit ban has brought up. Apologies for the –extreme- length of this post. I have broken it up into distinct sections to make reading it as easy as possible.
Finally, please note that everything I write here are personal recounts, statements, and opinions and in no way reflect those of my colleagues or the company that I work for. Let’s dive in.
My Reddit Timeline
I really love reddit. I started going to it after Digg.com started to die and when I began to get interested in StarCraft 2, League of Legends, and esports in general. It was through reddit that I first met Doublelift and also through reddit that I first dipped my toes into esports content creation, for what I initially thought would be a simple hobby and would later became a career.
I have been very much tied to the community of players and fans that visit the League of Legends subreddit for the past three years. I think it is important to make a distinction between my connection with reddit.com and my connection with the League of Legends community that exists there.
When I create content for fans, I don’t tend to think of it as “Oh, this will be something that the reddit website will appreciate.” I think of the people that visit that subreddit and the comments they’ll leave and hope they’ll enjoy the video. I view the reddit website as the pipes through which I can deliver content to people who appreciate it: those are the people I try to connect with. This is important to bear in mind as we discuss any “departure from reddit” or the idea of my content not being viewable there.
This doesn’t mean that I am not greatly appreciative of the wonderful community tool that the reddit admins have crafted, simply that I will always think of the people that visit it first.
There has been a great deal of discussion about “Travis getting banned from reddit.” I have read many comments marked with a great deal of upvotes that spread a lot of misinformation on the topic or try to paint me as someone constantly abusing the reddit system to make some great amount of money or something (remember that my very first piece of content, SotL Ep. 1 was posted there the day I made it). I’ll reconstruct the timeline here for clarity and future reference:
First ban August 2012
Shortly after I started producing a lot of interviews, rather than just my show, I was banned. Being still a relative newbie to the scene I had violated reddit rules by asking for upvotes for a couple of my interviews on Twitter. I made this mistake out of ignorance for the rules. It is worth noting that this is something many streamers and tournament organizers did at the time, as the League subreddit and scene wasn’t that large and people didn’t really know it was something inappropriate. This was also before the mods got involved and started educating content creators on the rules.
If you click on the link above, you’ll see the top comment was from Hotshot who vouched that I wasn’t doing this to milk money off the subreddit and had good intentions.
This was a very important moment for my relationship with reddit, as after this I realized how important it was to stay up to date with the rules. /r/leagueoflegends mods from that time and going forward can attest to how I did my best to stay clear on the rules. I also helped educate other people when they came into the scene on how to appropriate use the sub (i.e. Thoorin before he was my colleague).
I apologized to the admins and was unbanned.
Second ban August 2013
This was strictly a false alarm. I had an admin reach out to me and tell me that it was triggered by false reports and had my access to reddit immediately brought back.
onGamers domain ban April 2014
To date, I am personally still not entirely sure exactly what triggered this ban other than that it seems to have been a factor of tweeting reddit links (which had been previously allowed) and alleged vote ringing. I’ll talk more about the vote ringing part down below.
It is important to note that while many members of the onGamers staff were banned in this, I was not shadowbanned.
onGamers domain ban June 2014
This ban was entirely triggered by the actions of one of our senior staff, Rod “Slasher” Breslau. I’ve seen people claim that even after getting banned two months ago, we all decided to try to manipulate or vote rig our way to the top. This is simply not true and it’s pretty easy to show how that’s not the case.
Here is a search for all onGamers domain submissions to the League of Legends subreddit. I encourage you to search through the past several months leading up to our ban. The only thing that seemed to ever reliably hit the front page or get decent upvotes are most (not all) of my LCS interviews and breaking news. Several of my LCS interviews went nowhere, and many of our articles.
Claims that I have been involved in some scheme to get others to submit my own work are also false. If you look at the OP’s on these, they’re a bunch of different people. After the ban came through and I saw what the reddit admin had written, I went through my messages to verify I hadn’t even implied that anyone should submit something for me. The only things I was able to find was a thank you sent to a redditor who had submitted several pieces of my work over a couple of weeks and a request that someone remove an irrelevant champion flair from an interview they had posted because I thought it was confusing people.
In this case, again, I was not shadowbanned.
Final verdict: If you see any reddit comments discussing my “continual banning from reddit” for manipulating the system, the actual truth is that I was banned once for manipulating out of ignorance at the start of my career two years ago, banned another time as a mistake, and was not banned either of the other two times. In my mind, the only bannable offense I’ve had in my tenure as a redditor occurred a long time ago and I’ve since learned.
I want to make it very clear that I have never been a party to or have witnessed any vote rigging at the site. There are many right now, including other content creators, who have implied that all of the employees at onGamers are working together to vote on reddit threads to get them to the top.
It’s a very believable scenario (though as I mentioned further earlier, evidence points to the opposite). This was something that the IPL group got slammed for way back in the day. I’ve heard rumors of community managers or social media people at IPL sending out emails with a new reddit thread and asking for upvotes.
Following my ban from reddit two years ago, I became a big advocate of doing things “the right way” and playing within the rules. It’s a very easy thing to drop a reddit link into a large skype group and ask everyone to upvote it. Internally, I have worked to make sure this never happens in any of our skype chats. We have worked with many different freelancers since the launch of the site, not all of whom are well versed with reddit rules. As such, I have worked to be vigilant against this kind of behavior and to help educate when necessary.
What makes this situation so frustrating is that I am completely aware of folks who have run these kind of skype group chats in the past for their sites and have seen at least one comment publically admonishing us for behavior that I do not believe we are guilty of, while being guilty of it themselves.
Rod "Slasher" Breslau
As of today, Slasher is no longer with onGamers. He has made his own statement regarding his departure. Following the initial ban, all members of the site made a commitment to double down on our efforts to remain within reddit guidelines. This involved completely stepping away from submitting onGamers content to reddit and no longer tweeting links to any of our content. This put us at a disadvantage over many other content creators and editorial sites who continue to submit their own content and tweet links to reddit threads to this date.
(As an aside, I was greatly worried about the effects of this, but it seems to have worked out fine. I would actually encourage other notable content creators to follow suit. Being able to tweet links to your own content, at least within the first few hours, very clearly gives you an advantage in the new queue and is unnecessary.)
Slasher is a close friend of mine, but I do have to acknowledge that after all of us agreed to make 100% certain to get out hands-off reddit and make sure nothing like this could ever happen again, he independently took actions that affected every employee and freelancer at the site and scar its brand in a place that hadn’t fully recovered from the drama of the initial ban in April. As Thoorin said during Live on Three tonight, it was hard to come to much of a defense for him internally this week.
All of that said, I would rather discuss what drove him to make the decisions that would ultimately necessitate his departure from the site.
Rod has been a good friend of mine since I first met him at MLG Providence in 2011. He has mentored me in many areas I was lacking and I would not have found the success that I have in the industry without him. I have enjoyed working with him at events and he has also been there for me during a few personal rough patches in the last 18 months. I have met very few people in the industry that have as honest of a passion for the scene and all the titles in it as he has.
When he first started to create content around the League of Legends scene a couple of years ago, people in the League side of the industry looked at the controversy around his breaking stories and said to me, “Slasher just must really hate esports.” I had to inform them they couldn’t be more wrong about anything.
Rod has similar relationships with Thoorin, and Cyborgmatt. I have seen some comments that assert he has somehow become a scapegoat for this situation. I promise you that if there was any injustice in the decision of onGamers management on this issue, the three of us would be stirring stuff up like crazy and would not have accepted it.
I personally wish that I did not have to comment on the departure of a colleague at all, but his high profile in esports has created quite a discussion.
I will continue to consider him a close friend and sincerely hope the best for Rod and really hope our career paths cross again in the future.
Reddit’s Role in Esports Journalism and Editorial Sites
I think it is very unfortunate that the current ecosystem for content has brought us to this point. As I discussed earlier, reddit has been a huge boon for content creators and has helped launch my career. It’s a great tool for communities. Unfortunately, for many of those esports communities, it is also the central gateway for content. This whole topic could be a very lengthy editorial in itself, and many others have written, and will continue to write, their own opinions on the subject. I’ll share my own thoughts and theories on the situation here, for context.
When reddit was first created, the idea was that fans of technology, sports, video games, etc. could come together into groups to share cool articles/videos/images and more with each other. All these genres existed before reddit’s existence and all the Engadgets, ESPN’s, Kotaku’s, GameSpot’s, and other major editorial sites had their own communities and were completely sustainable before it really blew up.
While esports has also been around longer than reddit, it’s very hard to argue that the major explosion that came along with the creation of things such as StarCraft II, League of Legends, Dota 2, and Twitch happened after reddit became popular. Many people at these companies and individuals in these scenes (pro players, casters, etc.) started to engage and even funnel their audiences into these communities. This created a fantastic concentration of fans that allowed tournaments to get attention, projects to get crowdfunding, and content creators to get noticed.
I have spoken of the downsides of this situation specifically in the League of Legends side of things for a while. Back when I felt the moderation of the subreddit was poor, I championed the idea of the /r/summoners subreddit. Many have pointed to the existence of TeamLiquid in the StarCraft scene and feel it proves that a viable alternative to reddit can exist. It’s important to note that TL existed before the SC subreddit as a SC: Brood War website. Montecristo has also recognized the issue and has hopes to address it with the newest version of ggChronicle, though the reboot is still in early days and doesn’t have enough of a community yet to push hard traffic from what I can tell (though perhaps that will change).
All of this is necessary to help people understand that when they see claims that large percentages of our traffic (most of them vastly overestimated, by the way) come from reddit. This isn’t because the entire business model of the website banks itself on 'milking reddit for views' but rather due to the fact that the hardcore esports community lives on these subreddits for the most part, especially with /r/leagueoflegends. If you are making content for hardcore esports fans, you can bet that if it’s high quality you’re going to get a ton of your traffic from these communities.
Discussing a departure from reddit or not worrying about getting content seen there is virtually synonymous with a discussion of removing your content from the eyes of the hardcore and most dedicated fans.
Ironically, the very editorials that admonish esports sites for having a huge amount of their traffic from reddit will likely get most of their views from reddit themselves.
The State of Esports Journalism and Editorial Content
I’m not sure what the absence of reddit traffic directly to our site means for onGamers. I’m not involved in those calculations at CBSi, though I’m sure it can’t be good news. IGN was banned from reddit for a long time but their YouTube videos were still allowed to be submitted to reddit, so I suspect that fans of my LCS interviews and event coverage will still be able to enjoy them on the league sub.
I’ve seen comments in the past from people who aren’t a fan of my colleagues (or our video player, heh) say that I should leave the site and go somewhere else.
First off, I just want to say that I really like working with my colleagues (though we often have very differing opinions) and really enjoy working for CBSi. That being established, I think people look at the stuff that Riot, Valve, professional teams, and other big companies do and don’t really take note of how behind the journalism side of the industry is.
A good example is the upcoming 2014 League of Legends worlds. The event is taking place across three countries, over five weeks. If I want to provide floor coverage of the whole thing at reasonable levels of quality, I’m unaware of any strictly editorial site that would allow me to do that. I think CBSi is my best chance at being able to support myself and the content I create in this way. I don’t think fans remember what my content was like and how few events I could go to before GameSpot/onGamers. The only international travel I ever managed before then was a week-long trip in Korea that was kickstarted by the League community and looking back now, I’m still embarrassed by the quality of that content (hello handicam!) that I produced there.
I don’t think that this is a complete doomsday scenario necessarily, but I work every day to make sure that CBSi’s bold investment into esports journalism and editorial content doesn’t fail. I firmly believe that esports needs a thriving journalism and event coverage sector in its ecosystem and we’re not even there yet.
I know this whole situation seems pretty light-hearted and it’s easy for folks in the industry to poke fun at the whole thing, but the situation doesn’t seem great right now. I work with a lot of people who I would never want to see out of a job and I really would like to see this “whole esports journalism and editorial content” thing succeed. I just want to create cool content for you guys.
Thanks for all your support.