The recent controversy between THERIDDLER and avilo in a WCS Challenger match rubbed me the wrong way that I want to come out of hiatus.
Just a quick summary on the matter. THERIDDLER and avilo played a drawn out TvT game on Blackwater for more than a hour with both sides had mass Raven as their late game composition. The game “ended” with the admin calling for a re-game after avilo paused the game and discussed this with the admin. The schedule of the whole qualifying bracket was affected due to this unexpected delay. The same scenario happened in the re-game with THERIDDLE taking the win after it lasted for more than a hour.
Disclaimer: In this section, I mainly re-state what was said and discussed, and by no mean I am suggesting they are facts.
There are two main controversial issues. First, the admin apparently decide for a re-game without the agreement of the involved players. It was pointed out that the admin had the power to make such decision (assuming it is true), so the focus should be on whether this decision was the best one based on the circumstances. Some argue that it was unclear who was going to win, and a re-game was reasonable if neither player could win. Based on the same premise, others suggest the players should play out the game to decide who win. On the other hand, some suggest THERIDDLER had an advantage in resource and were slowly chipping away avilo’s buildings, so a re-game was unreasonable.
The second issue is the handling from Blizzard. THERIDDLER received a warning from Blizzard for “not actively playing to win”. See the image below.
If the admin has the power to decide whether the game should be a re-game or not, I do not have a strong opinion about the decision. I can see the practical reasons behind it due to schedule concerns. With that being said, I am leaning toward not having a re-game, because this may rob a player of a win. The in-game mechanics can decide whether it is a stalemate, so administrative intervention seems unnecessary in my opinion. This should be a lesson to improve the ruling to ensure the decisions make in the future about such situations to be as fair as possible. Overall, it is an ambiguous situation, and the admin made a decision what s/he thought was the best. And whether we agree with that is a different discussion altogether.
The reason I am writing this post is the way Blizzard handle the situation after the game. Let me quote the key points of the email THERIDDLE received from Blizzard.
the Admins believe that a player not actively playing to win.
the admin team believes you were playing to prolong the game for various reasons rather than playing to win.
the use of the username “avilo” suggests a personal relationship or agenda with said player.
Essentially, Blizzard were making an inference that THERIDDLER’s game play was not in line with the general “Play Nice, Play Fair” policy. It is very clear that Blizzard had an issue with a player’s motivation behind her or his action in the game. The implications are huge.
Before I continue further, I want to make it clear that I refer in-game actions as the literal moves done in the game (e.g., build a worker), so chatting in the game and pausing are not in my consideration. The latter actions can be easily judged according to the WCS Rule Book.
This is Blizzard’s way of saying there is a specific strategy to play the game, and other strategies are considered wrong. This judgment is not just ambiguous, it is also wrong. Games are defined by the goals and rules. Rules do not tell you what you cannot do, but they tell you what would happen if you did something. It is down to the players to make the best of the rules to win. Using basketball as an example, it is common for a player to intentionally foul (usually by hugging) another player who is perceived to be a bad free throw taker. The rationale is that that fouled player is likely to miss the free throws, and the other team has an opportunity to gain possession of the ball. Of course, ethics and sportsmanship come into play, so you do not send your worst player to break the arm of opponent’s best player in a basketball game to “trade”.
In this case, one cannot conclude that THERIDDLER was not playing to win. We can debate whether his choice was the best strategy, but his motivation should not come into question. A perfect example was the infamous game between Naniwa and Nestea (see vod below). Naniwa did a worker rush, which we could all agree was not the best strategy. However, we cannot conclude that, based on the action in-game, Naniwa was not playing to win. Going back to the current case, Blizzard could only make such judgment on THERIDDLER’s motivation when he publicly said that his intention was not playing to win. This is an extremely important distinction.
In fact, this is a huge topic in social psychology. Social phenomenons are often explained using cognitive processes and/or motivations . It is easier to provide evidence for a cognitive explanation as it can be controlled and manipulated under a lab setting. However, a motivational explanation is always up for debate. Fundamentally, only behaviour is observable, and motivation can only be inferred. I quote Ditto et al. (1998, p. 53), “… compounded by a lack of theoretical specificity regarding how motivational forces are thought to affect judgment outcomes, has led motivational explanations to be viewed as second-class theoretical citizens, only to be entertained if a cognitive explanation (no matter how covoluted) cannot be constructed.” 
Let me give an example, how do you know someone make a donation to charity is out of altruism? One can donate to charity for self-serving reasons. People perceive those who give to charity more positively, so such seemingly charitable act can be due to impression management. Logically, as proposed by some scholars [3, 4], one can design an experiment in such a way that the contrasting motives are in conflict that satisfying one directly not satisfying the other. However, the act of giving is intrinsically rewarding, so one can always argue giving to charity is self-serving. Therefore, how, when, when, and why people attribute behaviours to certain motivations is researched extensively in social psychology .
To make things more complicated, motivation is intertwined with cognition that our motivation affects how we perceive things. Let’s use information evaluation as an example, as it is directly related to the current situation. We as human often hold a certain beliefs, and we favor information that is consistent with our existing beliefs . We expose ourselves to consistent rather than inconsistent information , and we are more critical about inconsistent than consistent information . There are two motivational explanations. One is a defensive one, as we want to defend our existing beliefs to reduce cognitive dissonance. The other is an accuracy one, as we perceive inconsistent information has lower utility. That means, we often perceive information in a way that fit our existing beliefs even though the information available does not allow us to make the conclusion we are motivated to make.
How is this motivated cognition account relevant here? Based on the warning email, the justifications provided by Kerry LaRose (Associate Esports Manager, StarCraft Esports) could be attributed to bias induced by existing beliefs. For example, THERIDDLER is accused of having a personal agenda with avilo as he uses “avilo” as his account name. The underlying presumption is that avilo “owns” the username, and others who use it has something personal with him. It is normal for players to share the same username, and it is hard to conclude the motivation behind it. It is not like THERIDDLER used “avilosuck”. Look at how many players use “innovation” in StarCraft. Then, does it mean that THERIDDLER cannot use avilo? If that is the case, he should be told to change before this. Then, it goes back to the question, does avilo owns “avilo”? Therefore, I question the rationale behind Kerry LaRose’s motivation to cite this as one of the reasons for the warning. Given that the in-game behaviour is ambiguous such that it is difficult to infer the player’s motivation, the presumption that the player is perceived as having specific motive suggests the perceiver has a specific pre-existing beliefs about the player (or his play style). To put it more explicitly, Blizzard do not have sufficient evidence from an impartial standpoint to suggest a player has a dubious motive based on his in-game strategic choices. That fact that Blizzard issue out warning suggests they are not impartial, and they are plausibly biased by pre-existing beliefs.
Part of the community are guilty of this too. Some are calling out avilo for his past behaviour, and use that to judge the current issue.
Also, many are linking this to the play style. The controversy should never be about the Raven in the late game. The focus is on the judgment that Blizzard believe a certain play style is against their policy. Importantly, there is no exploitation of bugs, so it is solely a strategy choice. We can hate the style all we want, but that should be a discussion about game design and balance. We can judge the players who adopt this style in terms of how we like that player, but we, especially Blizzard, cannot condemn the motivation behind a strategy. On a side note, THERIDDLER gave a good explanation about his strategy choices. Of course, that is trivial to this matter.
I want to bring up the controversial MarineKing versus ByuL game (see vod below). Based on Blizzard’s rationale, they should conclude that MarineKing was “not actively playing to win”. MarineKing had vision of the creep at the back of his base, and this suggested ByuL had a proxy Hatchery there. Typically, the Terran player has to set up defensively against the incoming attack, but MarineKing play it out as if he did not know about it. We can argue that MarineKing played a poor game, but can we conclude he did not try his best to win? This implies he was match fixing, which he was accused of due to this game. He was cleared of the accusation as one could not use behaviour to infer motivation for official ruling.
This matter cannot be resolved by “oh, we warned avilo too.” It is about Blizzard using the in-game behaviour to infer motivation and issuing an official warning. We have good reasons that this judgment call is unacceptable. Blizzard should issue an official statement about this because the implications are substantial. I can see several options.
- Apologise and retract the warning because it is not admissible.
- Uphold the warning but change the reasoning.
- Prove that the behaviour is indeed motivated by the accused reasons.
Option 1 is unlikely because Blizzard as a respectable company that pride themselves as caring for the community is unlikely to ignore it. A combination of 2 and 3 is most likely.
Blizzard earn the world’s respect if they do 4, because that is a Nobel Prize level contribution to human knowledge.
EDIT: Wall Street Journal just published this article about a basketball game being stalled due to strategical reasons. What a topical coincidence. I was using basketball as an example in this post.
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 Ditto, P. H., Scepansky, J. A., Munro, G. D., Apanovitch, A. M., & Lockhart, L. K. (1998). Motivated sensitivity to preference-inconsistent information. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75(1), 53.
 Batson, C. D., & Shaw, L. L. (1991). Evidence for altruism: Toward a pluralism of prosocial motives. Psychological inquiry, 2(2), 107-122.
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