League of Legends: Riot Does Itself No Favors with IWillDominate Ban

League of Legends. Photo Courtesy of Riot Games.
League of Legends. Photo Courtesy of Riot Games. /

Riot recently elected to ban popular League of Legends streamer IWillDominate from their League Partner Program. In doing so, they wasted two golden opportunities.

When news broke that Riot had decided to ban the popular League of Legends streamer Christian “IWillDominate” Rivera from their League Partner Program (aka the “LPP”) my initial reaction was a mixture exasperation and glee. I have never been the biggest fan of IWillDominate (or “IWD”) and his aggressive, non-stop flaming style of streaming and I found his co-streams (largely in the same sort of style) a bit abrasive as well.

That said, while I do think IWD is not the sterling example of what Riot should expect out of its League Partners, I do recognize that IWillDominate provides a significant amount of value to the LCS community and to the League of Legends community as a whole. Not only does he co-stream all LCS games (which he can no longer do as part of the LPP), but he does numerous talk shows about the LCS including the Crackdown and Facecheck.

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All of these are incredibly educational tools to the LCS viewers who want a better understanding of how the professional League of Legends teams and players operate. IWillDominate not only provides the hindsight of being a former pro player himself, but he also has insider knowledge with many friends within many of the LCS organizations.

This could have provided Riot with a fantastic opportunity to partner with IWD to help expand the burgeoning LCS podcast/talk show stage. Obviously, the LCS already has their foot in the door with The Dive and organizations like Cloud9’s The 9s, but those shows are somewhat limited in their perspectives given who ultimately signs the checks. IWillDominate was almost never constrained in how he talked about the LCS.

In fact, we’ve seen that sort of tone coming to the LCS broadcast, with casters like David “Phreak” Turley and Sam “Kobe” Hartman-Kenzler unleashing a bit more criticism on teams while casting games. As long as it’s not over-the top (and I think the current LCS casters are just shy of the limit) I think this tone is wildly more entertaining than the typical, reserved traditional sports broadcasting style. Banning IWillDominate removes the possibility that the LCS can learn from him and improve their broadcasts.

The other, bigger, issue is that Riot’s ban did not come with sufficient warning or notice. In the notification that IWD showed on stream, the only explanation given was that his social media posts were flagged and violated the terms of Riot’s code. That explanation is, frankly, unacceptable.

Back in March, when discussing Hai’s suspension, I noted that Riot has to do a better job of communicating the reasons for punishment to their players, providing additional resources to making sure punishments are fair and equitable, and fixing their broken reporting system. While the company has said that they are making such efforts, it is hard to see how in the light of this decision.

If Riot has the “receipts” of IWD’s bad behavior and negative comments that violated their terms of service, they should have provided them. If he was on the probation program, he should have been aware that his social media was being monitored, in addition to his League of Legends in-game chat. It does not appear either of those messages were properly communicated.

In addition, attributing the ban to “social media” is far too nebulous and vague. Did they mean that his comments on Twitter, while co-streaming, or on his Youtube page were being considered? Again, these are standards that need to be clarified and having a high-profile streamer being banned and not knowing the reason causes players to lose faith in the company and how they operate.

Now, there is every possibility that Riot did clearly communicate these standards to IWillDominate and he violated them anyway. It’s possible that they did provide him the “receipts” and he is not showing them to us. However, from the outside it looks as though Riot simply took offense to something he said on stream or Twitter (maybe both) and banned him for it.

Riot has a history of letting banned streamers back into their good graces and even embracing them as part of the LCS community (see Tyler1). It shows that a player who is popular enough can be “above the law” if they are in with the right people, and in this case it doesn’t seem that IWD is in with the right crew.

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Right or wrong, streamers do need to be treated differently than the average player because they have a larger audience and they are a bigger target (someone once said something about great power bringing great responsibility). Riot needs to invest in the streaming community and create real outreach so that their game continues to thrive for another ten years.

In the meantime, we’re just left to lament the lost opportunities for both Riot and IWillDominate. Hopefully, he’ll be back to flaming under-performing LCS mid laners soon. I might not be watching, but I know plenty of people will.