Games played on artificial ping remains one of the biggest controversies of the 2022 Mid-Season Invitational. Because of the change, some have called into question the competitive integrity of the event. According to veteran caster and esports figure Christopher "MonteCristo" Mykles, the problems run deeper than that. Inven Global spoke with MonteCristo to discuss the handling of the situation, the format of MSI, and how the game’s competitive integrity can improve in the future.
Editor's note: This interview was conducted before Riot Games' tech blog on the MSI 2022 artificial ping situation.
To begin, what are your thoughts on Riot's decision to replay Royal Never Give Up's games?
I think that's the only solution to the issue, and it's a good decision by Riot. Because if there are technical issues that you have caused as a tournament operator that create an unfair playing environment to exist, the only reasonable and fair solution is to replay those games. So I think it's the right call.
Looking at this entire situation — what course of action would you have taken?
My first decision would have been not to have RNG play the event and to proceed without them. Because it's a LAN event, and it needs to be played on LAN in a good and fair competitive environment for all teams involved — without punishing teams who are there, for a team that can't be there.
The problem with Riot is that they just aren't honest about their decisions. And I understand why they want RNG to participate. Because without RNG participating, they probably lose 80-90% of their viewership for this event, it causes business problems in terms of sponsors. There are very good financial reasons that RNG should be allowed to participate in this event.
Now, we can argue that they shouldn't design formats or systems in which that is possible. Because then it causes certain regions to be over-prioritized, which breaks competitive integrity. So the format is flawed for that reason. And the structure of the global system is flawed for that reason.
If you are going to have RNG participate, I think you have them play on ping while everyone else plays on low ping. You have RNG connect to the server on whatever ping that they have, and the teams at the venue play on the ping from the venue to the server (effectively zero). Because there's no reason for all of these other teams to adapt their champion picks and strategies to meet a higher ping threshold, especially when 90% of the games in the tournament are going to be played without RNG playing in the server.
I don't understand the logic behind creating artificial ping. It's not fairer — it's only more fair for RNG. It's bending everything to a situation that unfortunately affects one team when they can suck it up and deal with it.
What sort of format changes are you suggesting?
First off, even if the Chinese teams couldn't attend Worlds, there would still be a decent event because it would be competitive. When you effectively only have two competitive regions (China and Korea), only have one team representing each of those regions, and one of those seeds can't attend — all of a sudden the tournament becomes meaningless because there isn't real competition.
You need to figure out a system that increases the number of truly competitive teams which means allowing more Chinese and Korean seeds — because if you had two Korean seeds at this event, you would at least potentially have a compelling final between T1 and Gen.G, for example. There'd be some hype.
The problem is that the Chinese seed gains all of this power by not attending to bend or break competitive integrity at the event. In fact, they can just hold the event hostage if they wanted to, right? They're not doing that, but they can make all kinds of ridiculous demands. And I think you can't have competitive integrity if the tournament organizer doesn't hold enough power. And the power imbalance is in favor of basically the LPL and LCK seeds. No matter which team that is, the seeds hold those powers, and that's a problem.
So it's an issue of the format being incredibly garbage. Not only from a power imbalance perspective but from a competitiveness perspective where we're forced to watch all of these horribly one-sided games during the first phase of this tournament. It's effectively meaningless. No one I know within the scene — myself included — has watched all of these games. What I'm saying is: if all of the experts in your game refuse to watch all of the matches at one of only two major international events of the year, that's a serious issue. I can't even find guests for my shows after this stage, because not everybody has watched the games. I can't find a person.
To play devil's advocate — would this make much of a change business-wise? You'd have some more entertaining games, but if all the Chinese teams were absent, the problems with viewership and sponsorships would still be there.
Maybe, but there's a huge Chinese fanbase that watches the LCK as well. So even if you had an all-LCK final, I think you will still have pretty good viewership from China. Obviously not as good. I can't know because Riot doesn't report these numbers, and Chinese viewership stats that are publicly available are incredibly dodgy and probably falsified. We know this from interactions with China. So I think it's hard to say — I don't possess the information in order to make that call. It would certainly be down, but it wouldn't be as down as if RNG wasn't at MSI.
Do you think the other teams had enough leverage to prevent this from happening?
Of course. There are 10 other teams that are at MSI that are playing locally. It's very simple: those teams refuse to play under those conditions. It's not hard. You just say, "We're not doing this. RNG can play on ping, we're not playing on ping." End of story.
Are there any other opinions you had on this topic?
I think Riot needs to very carefully look at both Worlds and MSI and adjust the formats. It's clear that they understand what better formats are from looking at VALORANT, so there's no reason why this can't be changed. It's embarrassing that the circuit is running this way. And it's embarrassing the level of competitive integrity that's been sacrificed for this event.
And not only this event, but because of the existence of the Asian Games — which severely impacted the competitive integrity of the LCK this season. And now they're canceled, so it was all pointless in the end. You shouldn't prioritize tournaments that are not part of your official circuit at the expense of the tournaments that are. It's incredibly disingenuous, and Riot needs to make a decision whether they are fundamentally a marketing exercise or whether they are a sport. Because right now, they are not a sport. They are a marketing exercise, and I would like them to take steps in terms of format and competitive integrity to change that.
Why do you think they've been so stubborn to change anything for formats?
I have no f*cking idea. I don't know if they possess data that says that having these minor regions helps their viewership or creates engagement in their game. For all I know, they have data that says that during MSI, when ORDER plays, sales in Australia go up. Maybe that exists. Maybe there is a financial incentive that they understand, that I don't know about. However, I am not interested in how many skins they sell in Vietnam or Australia. I am interested in watching good League of Legends. And this doesn't do that.
The interview was edited for brevity.
I write. I rap. I run. That’s pretty much it.