Hearthstone Player Waves His Hand, Sets Off Controversy

Last weekend's Hearthstone championships at the new Blizzard arena in Los Angeles were filled with the kinds of moments that can shape a competitive esports scene. Not only did the tourney feature one of its first female competitors, it also raised questions about the thin line between playful animation and outright rudeness when playing Hearthstone in person — and it all came to a head in a single match.

For the most part, Saturday's series between Wang "BaiZe" XinYu and Chang-Hyun "Cocosasa" Kim unfolded as you might expect, with some comedic moments from Cocosasa, who's known to be an animated player. But toward the end of one Priest vs. Shaman matchup, something weird happened: after summoning a powerful Prophet Velen card, Cocosasa lifted up his hand and waved.

"Did he just wave goodbye?" shoutcaster TJ Sanders asks and in the moment, it looks like he might have. At that point, Cocosasa had taken a solid hold on the game and for the entire match so far, he had reacted as if his opponent wasn't even there, sitting right across from him.

It might seem like an innocuous gesture, but in the immediate aftermath of the match, the Hearthstone community erupted in controversy about Cocosasa's wave. Some players saw his irreverent behaviour as unsportsmanlike conduct, while others thought it might discourage women like BaiZe from wanting to compete in future tournaments.

In response to the immediate backlash, high-profile players like Brian Kibler, Sottle and Lothar came out to defend Cocosasa, saying the move was all in good fun and that Hearthstone benefits from having players who are animated and even a bit over-the-top.

Earlier this week, Cocosasa apologised to both BaiZe and HCT spectators for his behaviour and attempted to explain some of it, saying that his reactions to Hearthstone are naturally very expressive and that his prior poker-face behaviour in the game versus BaiZe was a strategic attempt to send out false signals about his current hand.

Regarding the hand wave, he explained that the gesture wasn't meant as a "goodbye" for BaiZe, but as a "hello" to the Prophet Velen card he'd just summoned.

This type of in-person bluffing doesn't happen often in Hearthstone, and its increased presence might have to do with how front-and-center the personalities were at the Summer Championship. While competitive Hearthstone games have been played in front of live audiences before, something about the Blizzard arena made the whole tournament feel like more of a spectator affair.

And with animated players like Ryan "Purple" Murphy-Root and Chen "tom60229" Wei Lin playing some of their own mind games in their match, it felt like player-to-player interactions were beginning to become more of a factor in live tournament games.

More than a controversy about manners, the response toward Cocosasa's behaviour was a first step toward figuring out the nuances that differentiate live-arena Hearthstone from its online counterpart. In a game like Hearthstone, where luck plays a big role in who wins or loses a game, one of the few tools that players have at their disposal is their ability to read an opponent's expressions.

Why shouldn't players take strategic cues from more established games like poker? While there's definitely a paper-thin line between good clean fun and outright disrespect, professional Hearthstone can use all the spice it can get.


    This has me......dumbfounded. I don't follow Hearthstone tournaments at all, but the idea that a wave in any e-sports competition can be seen as something that might prevent "women like BaiZe from wanting to compete in future tournaments" is downright moronic.

    Man or woman; if a gesture as unambiguous as a wave can prevent you from joining a tournament of ANY kind, well, you shouldn't be anywhere near e-sports. Or online competitive gaming as a whole.

    For the record: not accusing BaiZe of feeling this way, but obviously the sentiment exists within the fan base of Hearthstone and that just..... puzzles me, greatly.

      Of course there's no need to ask BaiZe. Why would we want her opinion?

      We are all shocked and appalled on her behalf therefore she MUST also be shocked, appalled and insulted... and most likely too shocked to ever set foot on another Hearthstone Tourny ever again... because we all "felt" so on her behalf!

        Yes, the internet White Knighting still exists strongly, and even after all this time, it's still a lame stance to take in attempt to "protect" women. They can handle this shit, and if they have any problems, they'll speak up.

        Let them elect their own moral ground. I really can't stand seeing random's create a compass of morality for someone else and then get offended on their behalf, without confirmation of the subjects feelings towards the matter at hand.

        Settle down, internet. Settle down.

    Jeeze see some of the counterstrike tournies if you want malicious behaviour. Waving is pretty innocent either way

    A relevant point would be what BaiZe thought of the gesture but I don't see it mentioned here.

      I know right.... A long winded article quoting a bunch of brokens on Twitter... but not asking the person the wave was directed too.

      Could this be fake news? On Kotaku? Surely not!

        I think the term "fake news" gets bandied around so much its lost all meaning..

        I would say this is less "fake news" (as the event did technically happen as did all the outrage) but more of "sensationalist spin"

          Spot on, rock_m.

          Trump uses fake news all the time when most of the time the news is actually real just maybe not particularly relevant or is sensationalised to seem worse than it is.

    "And with fair shake of his hand entire empires fell into hysteria..."

    What a non-issue.

    there's an entire article dedicated to this shit? wow

    If he had "Show us yer tits" written on his palm this might be more interesting.

      You say this and now I’m imagining a “send nudes” edit on Reddit.

    It's sad that he felt the need to apologise. In the old days a simple "get a life you fkn losers" would have sufficed. But these days with the internet being what it is everyone feels the need to back down to the insane vocal minority.

    So a guy waves at his opponent in a hearthstone match but because his opponent was a gasp female, we get 1000 words and drama over nothing?

    This was frustrating to read. All I wanted to know was BaiZe's opinion on the matter, but all I got was a bunch of statements from people that had nothing to do with the actual situation. Lame...

    Whos going to say it? Baize is hot.

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