Examining the Life Situation, Without the Moralizing.

Rumors are circulating that the match-fixer Life is back on the StarCraft II ladder, rekindling the familiar debates about his lifelong ban from progaming.

While I have strong personal opinions on Life, I don’t think the discussion would benefit from any more moralizing. Instead, here are some observations that might help StarCraft II fans understand Life’s situation better, and thus make more realistic suggestions on what could be done.

◘ It’s completely within Blizzard’s power to keep Life banned indefinitely, which it probably will for a very long time.

So far, Blizzard has not played an active, public role in banning the convicted StarCraft match-fixers from esports. KeSPA is the only entity that has actually passed down official bans, with other organizations implicitly following KeSPA’s lead (we haven’t seen any match-fixers competing in non-KeSPA tournaments).

While Blizzard hasn’t had to flex its muscle (that we know of), it holds the ultimate power should it choose to exercise it. A read through the Battle.net EULA will tell you Blizzard can basically ban you from playing its games for whatever reason it wants, for however long it wants.

Blizzard hasn’t commented publicly on Life, but its actions reveal its stance. His BlizzCon 2014 win has been effectively vacated, his name has been removed from the BlizzCon trophy, and his banner is notably missing from the BlizzCon Hall of Honor (the same happened to Savior). You won’t see his face or hear his name in any WCS promotional materials after his arrest. Basically, Blizzard has done everything it can to erase Life’s legacy without having him digitally removed from every single WCS video.

I can’t tell you why this is Blizzard’s stance on Life. But seeing as Blizzard have kept Savior’s name erased from official records for crimes uncovered in 2010, it’s clear that they have a long memory regarding match-fixing.

As long as this remains Blizzard’s stance on Life, there’s no way Blizzard would allow him to openly compete in StarCraft II tournaments, even if the tournament allowed it. And as long as Blizzard bankrolls a large chunk of StarCraft II esports, no major tournament organization is going to ever entertain the idea.

◘ Life and other StarCraft match-fixers are banned from streaming on all major platforms.

For a while, the old Brood War match-fixers were allowed on AfreecaTV and stream their games. However, following the 2015 PRIME match-fixing scandal in StarCraft II, KeSPA requested that streaming platforms ban all convicted match-fixers as a part of their effort to root out corruption in esports.

Twitch and Azubu quickly acquiesced to the request, banning the match-fixers from streaming official KeSPA games, including StarCraft: Brood War and StarCraft II. AfreecaTV resisted briefly, but quickly fell in line after a barrage of negative PR from the Korean community.

This leaves Life without any avenues to stream StarCraft on a popular gaming platform and profit from it.

Some fans have noted that KeSPA no longer holds StarCraft II Proleague, and that all teams besides Jin Air have disbanded their SC2 squads. However, that won’t have any effect on StarCraft II’s status as an official KeSPA category. Brood War hadn’t been played professionally for over three years when KeSPA requested the ban in 2015, but it had kept its status as an official KeSPA game all the while. Why would the situation be any different for StarCraft II?

One more thing on streaming. In their request to the streaming platforms, KeSPA quietly included a section saying it would be “cooperating with the game developers who hold the intellectual property rights” to prevent personal streaming by match-fixers. Blizzard, and all other game publishers, basically hold all the rights to the broadcasting/streaming of the gameplay from their games. This was KeSPA showing that with some calls, a ‘request’ might become an ‘order.’

◘ But for fun, let’s theorycraft a scenario where Life could be active in StarCraft.

Unless Blizzard thaws (HAHA) its stance on match-fixing, there’s no way Life can openly engage in StarCraft related activities. However, if one were to get creative about it…

Let’s say a player named “Leif” suddenly showed up on Twitch and started streaming top-tier Zerg play from the Korean ladder. Leif would have no webcam or mic, and would even keep his typed communication to a minimum. Some progamers might suspect he was Life, and some might even refuse to play him out of that suspicion. But ultimately, there would be no conclusive proof about Leif’s identity.

Now, there’s nothing that will galvanize organizations like Blizzard and KeSPA like bad PR. Leif’s stream would probably cause a huge row in Korea, become a daily topic of discussion on message boards, and fuel countless media articles. Blizzard/KeSPA would be forced to expend actual effort to uncover the real person behind the Leif account.

However, I can also imagine a scenario where the Leif stream garners some attention but doesn’t become an all-consuming scandal. Even Savior’s stream, before it was banned, only sparked moderate outrage from the Korean community (compared to what you would expect, anyway). There’s a narrow space a Leif stream could exist in, despised and under suspicion, but never garnering enough negative attention for anyone to get to the bottom of it.

Oh, who am I kidding? That’s just plain silly.

Anyway, thanks for reading, and hopefully this will compel you to have more interesting discussions about match-fixing, instead of rehashing the same terrible moral arguments over and over.

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