Richard Lewis is an alt-right Breitbart writer who almost killed a Dota 2 player backstage at an event, ruthlessly harassed and hunted down members and mods of the League of Legends subreddit and presumably eats babies and kittens as a pastime. Only this can explain the extreme reaction the esports journalist produces within the community.
Well, that's if you believe everything you read on the internet without context.
He is not alone in this targeted vitriol. Duncan "Thorin" Shields also often faces accusations of racism and sexism from others in the esports community. The mere mention of Thorin in some circles is reminiscent of the name Voldemort being uttered in the halls of Hogwarts.
Both have been nominated for Esports Journalist of the Year at the Esports Awards every year, winning in 2016 and 2017 respectively, and their mere inclusion always triggers reactions from people big and small within esports and games journalism.
With so much attention on the two men often seen as one in the same despite their relationship being a shared workplace in the world of Counter-Strike and a popular podcast, let’s look at the claims levelled by the loudest critics and the perception many people have within the community.
A PCGamesN article from 2017 claimed Richard Lewis and Thorin were “people whose histories include racist, misogynist, homophobic, and/or transphobic views, as well as those with violent or deceptive pasts” in a piece called ‘The esports industry has a problem with who it is choosing to represent it’.
Richard Lewis received support in the aftermath of the article from many women in the esports scene including CS:GO and PUBG caster Lauren "Pansy" Scott, Dignitas’ VP for Marketing Heather "sapphiRe" Garozzo and League of Legends player Maria "Remilia" Creveling, who he has housed and raised tens of thousands of dollars to help her get corrective surgery following previous surgery leaving her in chronic pain.
Richard has worked for multiple publications over the years besides than Breitbart (an extreme right-wing outlet he has not been afraid to criticise), including Esports Heaven, the esports section of The Daily Dot (considered a left-wing website), VPEsports and currently Dexerto. He has also written about the issues of racism within the UK many years ago among other things for the online magazine Sabotage Times.
Any writer knows that finding a publication that pays is often a sacred oasis and a high rate will trump any difference in viewpoint or concerns abou the outlet. To use Breitbart as an example of political alignment and support for the alt-right shows a lack of awareness when Richard Lewis is open with his views on social media frequently.
The infamous incident between Richard and Jonathan "Loda" Berg is far more complicated than is often reported. Those who were there have given a different version of events to the more commonly referenced Twitlonger and the absence of any arrests or police involvement suggests the 'assault' was not a sustained throttling or attempted homicide by any stretch of the imagination.
From match-fixing scandals to exposing prolific sexual abuse in the gaming industry, Richard’s wider journalistic work seems to fly in the face of the claims levelled against him. He has called out ESEA for using an actor with Down’s Syndrome to mock their competition, criticised Riot Games for hosting part of Worlds in Singapore due to their strong anti-LGBT law,used his position to raise awareness of issues on FACEIT for lesser-known individuals and been outspoken on The Richard Lewis Show on multiple issues.
In the immediate aftermath of the death of content creator Trevor "McSkillet" Heitmann, Richard spent time speaking to his mourning friends who had reached out to him and used BTN to call out those who found it appropriate to joke or harass McSkillet’s family and friends at the time.
In response to his prolific work, he has faced threats of assault and death from the FGC after pushing for ELEAGUE to host SFV, Tekken and Injustice tournaments on TBS, on top of various other threats over the years on social media leading to his unofficial ‘retirement’ from attending esports events.
Richard Lewis uses the block button on Twitter liberally, as is his right on his own personal social media, yet this has stirred up drama from mainly fans of the Blizzard title Overwatch. This is despite the community claiming to dislike him which raises the question as to why so many are upset to not be able to see his Tweets.
While many have questioned his decision to search for his own name on social media to respond to people who are critical or one of the many making threats of violence towards him, this is once again his right to challenge people spreading information as fact when the claims are entirely false. Reporting those making the threats is also the only safe course of action on the off-chance someone isn't simply making a joke about their intentions in the extremest cases.
It is also disingenuous for those doing so to then claim any response is 'bullying' or 'harassment'.
The Controversy King
To call Thorin a controversial figure would be an understatement.
He admits to playing the villain character on talent desks at events and knows how to get people going, but many take issue with the man himself.
Perhaps his most infamous comments include those about Poland, leading to his removal as an analyst for the EMS One Katowice Major in 2014 and a Tweet made about Luminosity Gaming in 2016 that seemed to compare the players to monkeys. This led to some fans from these nations making threats against his life and Thorin being labelled racist.
The latter Tweet is something Thorin has since apologised for as seen above and there was also an apology in the wake of the Poland comments. While there was a line that was crossed in the way Thorin expressed his view, it is worth noting on a personal note that out of every country I have visited, the only place I have experienced blatant racism has been in Poland.
I do not think Poland nor Polish people as a whole have an issue with race and I have never met anyone from Poland in the UK with such views, but Thorin’s observations about attitudes towards black football players in Poland itself are not baseless.
Footballers had made similar observations before Thorin had, racist marches have taken place and while the country might not be ‘shitty’ or ‘one of the worst countries in Europe’ as Thorin stated, there is definitely an element to be discussed among what was said four years ago that is still prevalent today.
Recent events at a football match in Bulgaria also show that the region of Eastern Europe is not free from blatant racist attitudes within parts of society that goes unchallenged.
Another frequently referenced event is Thorin referring to TSM owner Andy “Reginald” Dinh as an ape following the blacklisting of OnGamers. Well, he actually said Reginald is similar to Caesar from Planet of the Apes, with no racial elements behind the comment, referring to his character and not his appearance or ethnicity (Reginald is of Vietnamese descent).
In the last year, Reginald appeared in a ‘Reflections’ video with Thorin to talk about his career addressed their personal beef and said of the Caeser comment, ‘honestly, I didn’t care … you’re obviously not a racist person, I just thought it was funny that you used that term and got shit on for it’.
So is Thorin actually a racist? To quote the man himself, there is abig difference between rude and racist.
Are people so desperate to cry racism that pointing out that the USA dropped a nuke on Japan or that there is zika in Brazil are racist? Pretty sure those are just facts which ended up being using in bad jokes.— Thorin (@Thooorin) February 11, 2018
Big difference between rude and racist.
What about sexist? Does Thorin hate women? He spent an hour talking about the topic in a video looking into whether sexism exists in esports, and while agreeing that women do have barriers that could prevent their growth or rise in esports, ultimately, talent and skill will take you far and many organisations want to see more women involved in esports. Shanghai Dragons signed Se-yeon “Geguri” Kim, Overwatch’s first professional female player, who was also one of the youngest pro players to enter the APEX scene at 17 years old.
The reality is that there is more work that needs to be done for female players to be at a level to compete at the same events and hold their own instead of tokenism coming at the cost of the highest level of play and deliberately taking chances away from better male players at tournaments.
From community vitriol to facing harsher criticism than most of their male counterparts, it isn’t just female players that are judged. CS:GO website HLTV.org frequently has threads and comments about Emilia Hult, a popular streamer who is dating Astralis player Nicolai "dev1ce" Reedtz, and girlfriends of other professional players often appear in ‘[18+] rate gf’ threads.
Hack journalists may paint me as a misogynist but as they fail to inform their readers of the women I’ve promoted in esports they miss a key distinction: I didn’t help any due to their sex, but rather their talent and drive. That’s what equality looks like. - Duncan "Thorin" Shields
There are likely things I have not included or have missed considering the journalism / esports careers of Richard Lewis and Thorin combined are longer than my own lifetime. I know plenty of ‘journalists’ in esports have displayed far worse traits and take part in, or stand by in the face of actual racism, sexism and bigotry.
It is easy to understand why some feel the need to attack them, but when examined, the reasons do not hold up and no evidence of the so-called blatant sexism or racism can ever be provided when asked. Instead, the only examples are the same trotted out each time that have been debunked or acknowledged.
With stories of sexual assault not infrequently emerging and game developers pushing workers to their limits publicly known, there are issues in esports and gaming that truly need attention and could be tackled if people stopped looking at those they dislike and instead worked to expose the true dangers in the scene.