Most of us can play whatever we want and, with the advent of streaming technology and software, share what we're doing with the rest of the world. But for those who play highly competitive games such as Riot Games' League of Legends competitively, it's not all that simple.
Yesterday, onGamers reported that team members competing in season 4 of League of Legends' Championship Series (LCS) were to be restricted from advertising certain companies and products "during or adjacent to League of Legends" for the duration of the contract.
The list of prohibited companies and brands is quite extensive, and not limited solely to direct competitors to League of Legends. Rival MOBAs on the list include Valve's DotA2, S2 Games' Heroes of Newerth, Turbine's Infinite Crisis, Hi-Rez Studios' Smite and Uber Entertainment's Monday Night Combat, among others. But restrictions are also places on streaming pretty much anything Blizzard has ever put out -- the entirety of the Diablo, StarCraft and Warcraft franchises, including World of Warcraft and Hearthstone -- as well as smaller games that take a different approach to MOBA-style gameplay such as Ronimo Games' Awesomenauts and Sony's Fat Princess, and Wargaming.net's World of Tanks and World of Warplanes are also forbidden.
LCS participants are disallowed from streaming the games outright, not just directly before, after or during a League of Legends match. (Lest you wonder who has the brain capacity to play two games at once, shorter games such as Hearthstone are a popular choice for those waiting in long queues to start a new LoL match.) They're also prohibited from streaming or advertising gambling websites, non-"over-the-counter" drugs, firearms, porn and tobacco.
Riot Games has since confirmed that the restrictions are indeed genuine. The company's grounds for the restrictions, as laid out by Riot's director of eSports, are that the company wants "League of Legends to be a legitimate sport," and that there is "a lot of structural work that needs to be done to ensure a true professional setting."
"I can't stress enough how these guys in the LCS are on the road to being real, legitimate athletes," runs the statement. "This is new territory for a lot of teams (especially in eSports), because the transition goes from being a group of talented individuals to being real icons of a sport and a league. Similarly, you probably wouldn't see an NFL player promoting Arena Football or a Nike-sponsored player wearing Reebok on camera. Pro players are free to play whatever games they want -- we're simply asking them to keep in mind that, on-stream, they're the face of competitive League of Legends."
Besides downvoting "RiotMagus" to oblivion -- the statement is on -294 points on Reddit at the time of writing -- many disgruntled League of Legends players noted that some of the comparisons were inaccurate; the NFL did indeed promote Arena Football on the NFL network, for example, and other users noted that real-world athletes such as Deion Sanders, Bo Jackson and Michael Jordan all made their name through playing multiple sports -- famously, Deion Sanders once scored both a home run and a touchdown in the same week.
Many players are perhaps quite rightly concerned that Riot is concerned more with the growth of the League of Legends brand than the eSports concept as a whole. Riot appears to be sticking to its guns for the moment, but this is clearly a fight that isn't over just yet.
What do you think? Is Riot reasonable to expect the professional players on its payroll to not stream themselves playing other games -- both MOBA and non-MOBA?