When Thunder Gaming first entered the esports scene in 2019, it was clear that leadership wanted to make a big splash as quickly as possible. Backed by the capital of Thunder Studios and the momentum of signing a variety of high-profile Super Smash Bros. community members, things were looking good for the new org.
However, the next two years resulted in a litany of PR blunders, social media mistakes, and sloppily produced tournaments. Veteran Smashers were already skeptical of the orgs motives and flagrant spending and these mistakes only intensified the suspicion. As skepticism about Thunder Gaming grew, a series of damning videos by the YouTuber Technicals curated all of the orgs mistakes into one viral PR disaster.
On top of all that, Thunder Gaming wasn't paying contracted esports workers and people were losing hope of ever being compensated. Unfortunately, stories of bungled esports organizations are common, especially when they enter the esports scene quickly with loads of cash.
What is less common, however, are successful lawsuits against said organizations by independent esports professionals – over missing payments no less!
The plaintiff, Justin Duncan-Mills AKA Paperfairy was owed $1,990 by Thunder Studios inc. In the posted thread on Twitter, Justin tells the story of ghosted emails and ignored messages that were finally taken seriously once an attorney was mentioned. Thunder Studios claimed that Justin had no proof he had worked the unpaid days he claimed but, ultimately, the court (case number: 21LBSC00720) thought otherwise.
Many esports professionals have stories of unresolved payments but, considering the average gamers' legal inexperience and the inherent power disparity between individual contractors and investment-backed orgs, it is disturbingly easy for orgs to ignore the dispute indefinitely.
It took patience and perseverance for Justin to prevail and the esports community is right to celebrate. It is an empowering precedent to set, especially for independent esports tournament organizers and workers that make their living primarily working with 3rd party organizations.
Warcraft 3 is my one true love and I will challenge anyone to a game of Super Smash Brothers Melee.