Fired Dota 2 Commentator On Why Valve Dropped Him

Fired Dota 2 Commentator On Why Valve Dropped Him

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


  • Well, it sounds to me like Valve made the right choice, this guy sounds like every bit the ass Gabe Newell described him as.

    • I totally agree that this guy sounds awful, but I think he also has a point. What were they expecting when they hired him?

        • They’d hired him plenty of times before. They’d seen his personality. Just what exactly were they expecting?

          • Firstly I’m sure we don’t have the full picture and secondly I don’t imagine the icefrog discussion was the only discussion on the way valve expected him to behave. You don’t make the comments he made when you have such a massive audience that includes young people. That’s not the image that valve would want to portray and anyone with half a brain can understand that

      • Valve said they were willing to give him a second chance with something of an implication that he knew what was annoying them and why they didn’t hire him for some other events, but obviously he didn’t tone down his language and trash talking like Valve wanted him too, so they dropped him. If he truly didn’t know that they wanted different behavior from him then maybe he has a point, but I doubt it to be honest.

    • It’s one thing to be a little bit crass and cheeky on set while hosting – it’s a completely different thing to be vulgar to the point of offensiveness. People are drawing comparisons to the way Ricky Gervais does the Golden Globes however Ricky is much more adept at keeping his crass comments as tongue-in-cheek whereas 2GD basically comes across as a disrespecting dickhead. He presents vulgarity, not crassness.

  • Trying to play the moral high ground? This guy is ridiculous. From comments I’ve read and bits I watched he uses excessive profanity to the point that the bite and punch of swearing would normally have just fade and it becomes mundane. He has no flavour other than shit.

    • I’m not sure how his style of commentating negates his moral high ground? if anything it solidifies it. He is well known to be profane, and he has a fanbase because of it.
      According to his point of view: they fired him mid-event for operating under the direction they gave him, with no chance to meet their expectations. In most jobs in Australia that would give you a good chance at an unfair dismissal claim.

      • No this would not be unfair dismissal. It is contracted work not a permanent job and I’d say he got paid all the same. Also it was in china and run by an american company so i dont see what Australias workplace laws have to do with it. He has no moral high ground as far as i can tell. He was fairly warned and ignored it, he’s just having a hissy fit.

  • I hadn’t heard of this guy until yesterday. Now that Harding has come out and told his side of the story, it only reinforces just how much of a jackass he really is. Valve made the right call in firing Harding, but I do question Valve hiring him in the first place.

  • esports needs to be somewhat of a ‘family show’. Something that you can watch with a friend or family member, and it also needs to be something that can be presented to attract sponsors. Profanity is not wanted. Sounds like the guy was a jerk.

  • It’s going to take a few weeks for my eyes to recover. I’m pretty sure I saw the phrase “high brow” in an article about DOTA.

  • James is an ass. That’s part of his schtick. Valve hired him knowing that, so the mistake they made was hiring him in the first place and not telling him to reign it in.

    A lot of people who aren’t familiar with him are getting shown highlight reels of him being an ass. Appealing to the Twitch crowd with antagonistic, low-brow humour. It’s incredibly easy to make an opinion based solely on that. It’s not an accurate picture.

    He’s not just an ass. When asked to, James can and does act professionally. More importantly, he’s a very competent and capable host. He has a knack for getting great performances from other people he’s around. Normally he does this from a somewhat antagonistic angle but that’s not the only way that he steers conversation to be entertaining and informative. Track down some of the TI3 panel VODs if you want a great example of what he can pull off as a host.

    He’s also been the guy behind some hugely successful community initiatives. His GD Studio launched the careers of many popular figures in the Dota community. He hosted the EU community hub during the TI qualifiers. Sure, the first EU hub was mostly popular because he had a litter of kittens with a dedicated cat-cam but it still counts.

    The short version is that you shouldn’t dismiss him just because a snapshot of his public persona. There’s a lot of context missing from this entire situation.

    From where I’m sitting, quite a lot of this could’ve been avoided if Valve had better communication channels. If not avoided maybe there could at least have been a better outcome for everyone.

  • IF your going to work for a corporation then expect to be VERY extremely constrained on your comments and interactions with people. Simply expressing honesty or truth will get you fired faster then lightning.

  • If they want esports to be seen as a legitimate endeavor by everyone and not just those who play games, which they absolutely do, then people like Harding really just don’t apply.

    If the commentator of broadcast football games or such acted like him for half a second they’d be fired instantly.

    That being said, I do agree that Valve shouldn’t have hired him to begin with if this is how he is known to act. Or at least stating they wanted a certain level of professionalism.

  • Good comment. Most other people commenting here clearly haven’t watched any pro DotA and aren’t familiar with James. It’s disappointing to see so many harsh comments and negativity from people who don’t know what they’re talking about.

    He’s a great host who does push the boundaries – sometimes too far but I think he’s much more interesting and enjoyable to listen to than than the other type of “professional” host. The type that we see in mainstream sports broadcasts and are more polite filler than anything else – they never have anything really interesting or funny to contribute.

    He is an ass but he’s also very aware of it and tries to do it in good fun. The majority of his barbs are directed at people he knows who can take the joke. My friends and I who regularly watch DotA have missed him and are sad that he won’t be hosting the rest of the event.

  • CS GO and Dota both have these commentators with personas that aren’t what you’d expect to see on TV / Radio. CS GO Tournament organizers seem to be moving away from the Thorins and RLs of the world and moving more toward the style that LoL has.

    I personally prefer a bit of edge when watching these ‘esports’. I thought about how nice it was the other night that the pre-match panel for the Shanghai Major had multiple members swearing and making jokes where they all seemed relaxed and like they were enjoying it. In the not too distant future I understand this will disappear, far too much money coming into the scene to have this.

  • This guy seems like a mono-styled guy- which works as long as the employer wants the same thing over and over.
    Sounds like the two parties wanted different things and it could’t be privately mediated- which is a shame as neither party comes out looking professional from this exchange.
    As a host this guy isn’t handling it very well specifically- if he were smart he’d be keeping his mouth shut- reflecting on where he goofed and learning from it for the next gig. Now his next gig is in jeopardy unless he pulls a Charlie Sheen and takes his schtick on the road…

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