The realm of eSports has long harbored abrasive and unfiltered personalities, for better or worse. Among the most well-known in that category is James “2GD” Harding, an eSports commentator with a body of work focused primarily on Starcraft II and DOTA 2 and a particular brand of destructive comedy encapsulated in a highlight reel with more than 400,000 views. Harding – a veteran host for three consecutive years of Valve’s flagship DOTA 2 tournament, The International – was hired to host the Shanghai Majors 2016, another Valve-sponsored DOTA 2 tournament still ongoing at the time of this writing.
After Harding went missing from the broadcast on the second day of the tournament, stream viewers were left without any explanation until a tweet from Harding announced that he had been fired. In the ensuing uproar, Valve CEO Gabe Newell himself posted to Reddit. His clarification: “James is an ass, and we won’t be working with him again.” In the context of numerous stream failures and other technical problems, Newell also announced he would be firing KeyTV, the Chinese production company for the Shanghai Majors.
With the dust settling in the several days since the firing last week, several reactions and counter-reactions have been registered across the DOTA 2 eSports community. Harding himself was one of the first, publishing a lengthly statement that presented his story of what had happened behind the scenes as well as his immediate suspicions regarding Valve’s reasoning. A producer by the name of “Ali” is fingered as Harding’s “arch enemy” of sorts in the document, having clashed with him in some capacity since the second International. The trigger for the dismissal – ordered personally by Newell – seems to have been Harding’s risqué comments on-air, such as an opening joke about pornography censorship and the ribbing of pro DOTA 2 player Niklas “Wagamama“ Högström, a longtime friend of Harding’s, as a “bottom bitch.” This hosting climate did not emerge from thin air, however, as Harding included a series of private messages from anonymous DOTA 2 lead developer Icefrog advising him to “be himself,” – which would seem to approve of similarly edgy banter.
Commentator Paul “ReDeYe” Chaloner voiced support for parts of the statement despite adding that “I am not a fan of how James does things in regards to hosting.” Genna Bain, a former Starcraft II team owner and CEO of husband Total Biscuit’s management company, commented on Twitter that “anyone who has ever seen [Harding’s] body of work and hires him anyway should be smart enough to know what they’re getting themselves into.” Referring to Gabe Newell in another tweet, she added that “it’s a shame that a person in such a high position of power used [Harding] as a scapegoat. He’s our eSports ass thanks. We’re keeping him.”
Reaction from the DOTA 2 fanbase has so far been overwhelming in support of Harding, with a YouTube farewell video of his work at the Shanghai Majors garnering over 90,000 views and 2,000 likes since its posting yesterday. Harding himself has published a second (shorter) statement expressing his gratitude for support received and a desire to make things up with Valve for future DOTA 2 events. “I did email [Gabe Newell] 2 days ago,” James writes. “I doubt I will get a response.”
What are your thoughts on James’ hosting and his future in DOTA 2’s professional arena? Do you think Valve handled this in the proper way? Let us know in the comments.