James "2GD" Harding, an esports personality who was fired from his role as host of the Dota 2 Shanghai Major and renounced by Gabe Newell, has posted his explanation of the events that led to his removal from the event.
In a long, almost stream-of-consciousness essay, Harding goes into the extensive history of his interactions with Valve around Dota events and the reasons that make him suspect this firing was more about conflict with Valve personnel rather than his professional performance.
According to Harding, he's had a history of skirmishes with Valve over issues like compensation for on-air talent and with the way they have handled production at previous events. But he also explained that he felt he had a particularly poor relationship with a Valve employee who has had a senior role in production at both The International and The Shanghai Major.
In Harding's telling, he insulted this Valve employee over a segment he was unhappy with at The International 4, and the bad blood has simmered ever since until this week when it boiled over.
But Harding also acknowledges that when he was fired, he was told that it was specifically to do with his tone and some of his comments. In particular, one reason cited was an incident where he described one player as "the bottom bitch" of a teammate. He was also told that his commentary had been disrespectful towards players.
He'd been on thin-ice from the start of the tournament, where he decided to open the show (55 minutes into the video is when the show actually starts) with an anecdote about the difficulties of performing his pre-show pornography masturbation ritual in China. Harding's hosting brought his panellists up short, prompting David "GoDz" Parker to inquire whether or not they were actually live.
"After getting off the panel. Bruno [Bruno Carlucci, a Dota personality and Valve employee] told me: 'Hey... no more porn jokes,' (this was pretty much Gabe's feedback)," Harding writes (I've lightly edited his essay for grammar and punctuation). "I agreed and explained I had to open with something strong due to [the fact] I haven't been hosting for some time and my fan base expect this. And I just needed to do something high-brow once, to appease my fans and loosen up the panel. And now we can continue onwards."
High-brow probably isn't the exact way most people would describe that bit, but it is the kind of approach that Harding is known for. According to Harding, he thought Valve understood what they were getting when they hired him to host the whole event for $US12,000 ($16,839). He included a transcript of his conversation with IceFrog, the lead designer of Dota 2, in which IceFrog encouraged Harding to "be himself."
"Thanks for doing it [hosting]!" IceFrog wrote. "Should totally just be yourself @ the desk, people like you for who you are. ...Whatever you want to do is fine."
It was not fine. On the second day of the troubled tournament, in-between segments, Carlucci broke the news to Harding that he'd been fired on Newell's orders.
"It's hard for me to remember what we talked about it next. It was surreal being fired by my best friend on Gabe's orders for doing what esports has done for years: entertain the audience no matter the problems," Harding says.
One interesting conflict that Harding raises is his conviction that he is "esports" and Valve want their productions to be more like traditional sports. Explaining some of the issues he had with Valve at TI4, Harding explains, "I'm angry we are pretending to be sports when we are not."
It's hard to evaluate Harding's view of events given that Valve have offered so little detail about their reasoning behind his firing, beyond Newell's Reddit post. Watching the panel segments from the two days that Harding hosted, there are certainly a lot of things that Valve could have found objectionable: Harding was also fairly provocative throughout his time with the tournament, from his bizarre opening segment to his repeated declarations that he no longer follows nor knows anything about Dota, which could read as disdainful or indifferent toward the event he was supposed to be covering.
But if all of this is cause for Harding's firing, its predictability is a good reason why he should never have been hired in the first place if Valve wanted a more professional and respectful type of presentation. That's one major reason why Harding feels like he's been badly wronged in all of this: he was fired for doing exactly the kind of job that he's done in the past.
"So, if I'm wrong Gabe, and you just fired me because I'm not your cup of tea as a host. That sucks, you fucked up. And now I seem to be paying for it kind of. I dunno. It's a weird situation to process."
We've reached out to Valve for comment on Harding's statement.
Top photo: James Harding at The International 2012, by Valve Software. Source