The last month in the esports and gaming industry has been one of the most tumultuous in recent memory. The tragic passing of beloved streamer Byron "Reckful" Daniel Bernstein coincided with an inumerous amount of allegations ranging from sexual assault to unlawful misconduct surfacing throughout various gaming communities. Amongst those accused was Tempo Storm's Super Smash Bros Ultimate star Gonzalo "ZeRo" Barrios, who eventually confirmed that the accusations were true.
Like many esports and gaming organizations, Tempo Storm has severed ties with its player following allegations, but has also extended an offer to provide professional support for the victims involved in situations regarding ZeRo. The organization's official statement also mentioned that ZeRo would be connected with professional counsel and other sources of rehabilitation to prevent similar situations from occuring in the future and to help him grow as a person.
Tempo Storm CEO Andrey "Reynad" Yanyuk spoke to Inven Global's Tim Rizzo about the organization's approach to the situation surrounding ZeRo and its unique actions following the confirmation of the allegations.
Last week must have been tough in terms of the allegations toward ZeRo and the loss of Reckful; I extend my condolences. I can't imagine things have been peaches and cream in your camp.
Yeah, it's been an unfortunate couple of weeks, but, I don't know, we'll get through it.
When you first received notice of the allegations against ZeRo, what went through your mind?
I mean, I was disappointed, but I thought it was important to hear him out, too. I wanted to hear his side of the story before making any decisions.
You've been in the esports industry as long as just about anybody. Are you surprised to see the influx of these '#MeToo' stories over the past month or so?
I think what I was surprised at was at the individual cases. It was surprising to see who the allegations have surfaced against. It's such a touchy subject; there are so many wrong things to say...the extent to which this stuff is going on is definitely surprising.
However, I do think it sets a dangerous precedent to have mob justice via social media be the way this is dealt with. I think it's good that a lot of these cases have been brought to light, and overall, it's good that this happened to the industry, but I'm concerned about how easy it is to conflate something that isn't sexual assault with actual stories within this movement.
There's a wide spectrum of severity across the allegations in the industry across all games, and I think that it is great that the most severe cases are being brought to light. Still, I think it sets a very dangerous precedent to have teenagers on Twitter being judge, jury, and executioner in all future cases. Those are my concerns about it, but overall, I'm happy that this movement is taking place. It was surprising to hear the extent of what has happened, and also to hear who was involved.
Tempo Storm's press release mentioned an international investigation. How active were you personally in the investigation?
To be honest, the staff here at Tempo Storm handled it really well. We're a pretty small company, but everybody really came together and talked it through, and we thought this would be the best course of action. I think the ZeRo allegations were at most a day or two after Reckful's passing, so I was taking those couple days to myself away from things.
How did the idea of providing support to victims and ZeRo come about? Most organizations have been cutting ties with the individuals involved altogether, but Tempo Storm seems to have gone that extra mile to provide rehabilitation for those involved.
I think that in America people tend to equate punishment to rehabilitation. I don't think there is much purpose in punishing people for the sake of punishing them. If somebody does something that is not okay, then the important thing is to make sure it doesn't happen in the future.
Generally, I lean towards the rehabilitation side of approaching these things when possible, and it just didn't feel right to do nothing. Despite the allegations and his actions under or organization when he was younger, ZeRo was wonderful to work with, to be honest. We're very disappointed, but it didn't feel right to just callously cut ties with somebody in a public way and leave it at that.
I think any team that has worked with a player in this type of situation should extend this kind of offer. To just say 'Okay, we're dropping the player, leave us alone.' doesn't seem right.
Do you see a world in which ZeRo is able to rehabilitate himself and potentially re-join Tempo Storm in some capacity?
I don't know, I don't like to speculate about the future. I just take things one day at a time, you know? I think ZeRo is a very different person today than he was when he wrote some Skype messages at 19 years old. I think he's had a lot of personal growth over the past few years that I've personally seen, so I'm optimistic about his ability to recover.
Tim Rizzo is the editor and a reporter for Inven Global. He joined the company back in 2017.