Three days in, the organizer has already fired the main host James “2GD” Harding and the production team KeyTV, the Chinese content producer.
Valve vs. James “2GD” Harding
A Twitter post by James saying that he has been relieved of his duties at the Shanghai Major.
Sorry to say I won't be returning to the Shanghai major, I was let go after that last segment. We'll always have day 1 together. 🙁
— James Harding (@follow2GD) February 26, 2016
James has been working with Valve as the panel host at multiple events in the past, including The International 2, The International 3, and The International 4. During an interview at The International 4 he said, “This is probably the last time I am going to host TI,” which later become true.
No detailed reasoning for this development was given at the next TI 5 other than he decided not to collaborate with Valve anymore.
When announcing that he’d be joining the host crew at the Shanghai Major this year, there were positive and negative responses from the community, especially due to his personality and loose, relaxed style of hosting, something that is not everyone’s cup of tea.
After the community’s strong reaction to Valve’s decision to let James go as the host of the Major, Gabe “Gaben” Newell, Valve’s co-creator and managing director, created a Reddit thread and shared his own thoughts on what’s happening. The thread got over 2,500 comments in less than an hour.
“James. We’ve had issues with James at previous events. Some Valve people lobbied to bring him back for Shanghai, feeling that he deserved another chance. That was a mistake. James is an ass, and we won’t be working with him again.”
James firstly responded with a brief comment to the Reddit thread:
“This is why my statement is taking sometime. It seems more personal than professional. So I will respond. Just for the record gabe, I don’t think you are an ass. But I don’t think you are right about me (well maybe you are a bit of an ass for calling me an ass, but let’s find out what others think shall we?). Brb”
In the meantime he continued writing a 6,000 word explanation of the situation, including not only the back-story in the run-up to the event, but also the behind the scenes of what led to his dismissal. The story was firstly put on hold and posted the day after Gabe’s Reddit post.
A rocky relationship described
Putting it short, James explains the positive and negative interactions between himself and Valve in the past few years. According to him, the TI2 and TI3 went overall extremely well, but a change in producer and personal circumstances resulted in a conflict at TI4 between him and a member of Valve, who is simply referred to as Ali or “the villain.”
Disagreements at TI4 led to heated arguments, which 2GD believes Ali made personal, and that’s why 2GD criticized Ali’s work ethic later on. Apparently it was Ali who was responsible for 2GD being almost fired after day one. James also did not agree on Gabe’s comment that the company “had issues with James at previous events.”
“Gabe, you did say I am an ass, this might be true overall but that’s for me to decide. But also that you’ve had problems with me before. You really haven’t,” said James. “You’ve had some attitude at one TI where your guys weren’t kicking ass and sometimes not that pleasant either. But overall and at this event I’ve always been professional off camera. I am sorry for that attitude at TI4. But your opinion seems to not be yours and that of others.”
Trying to entertain customers
Looking at James’ statement, it can be seen that he was warned at least once during the Shanghai Major that his antics needed to be toned down. Judging by comments made by IceFrog, the creator of the Dota 2 game, and James’ performances at previous TIs, he was simply doing what he thought Valve wanted:
“Gabe, You are not an ass. I’m sorry if you don’t like my on camera hosting and if that is why you let me go, fine. But understand I try to entertain the customer. Something you at Valve taught me. Focus on the customer.
If you want me off that’s fine, It’s your show. But next time please do it professionally. I think it was the wrong decision to do so either way. I have done nothing here I haven’t done before with the Dota2 community and they were enjoying it, maybe you are slightly disconnected from your own community?
If you wanted something different don’t hire me or tell me in advance what performance I am meant to give. Did you notice the difference between this performance and the ones I gave at TI? Because your company gave clear instructions.”
Firing the production crew behind the Major
The coverage of the Shanghai Major has had its fair share of technical difficulties, with microphone problems, audio issues, and stream freezes as only some of the recurring issues. The production company in charge was KeyTV, the same Chinese company that was involved with hosting the Nanyang Championships in Singapore last year, which was also experiencing similar issues.
In the same Reddit thread, Gabe Newell addressed this problem, and according to Gaben, the involvement of the production crew with the Shanghai Major is also coming to an end.
“As long as we’re firing people, we are also firing the production company that we’ve been working with on the Shanghai Major. They will be replaced, and we hope to get this turned around before the main event.”
Despite all the drama, the games are already continuing and the schedule is the same as before. And judging from the past experience with Valve’s tournaments, the Major will definitely be a success, even if accompanied with a bit of drama.