The past few days have been tumultuous within the Turkish League of Legends scene. On Sunday, support player Mustafa Kemal "Dumbledoge" Gökseloğlu revealed that his unexpected departure from the Turkish Championship League team Papara SuperMassive was caused by systemic bullying and homophobia from other Turkish LoL personalities. The main culprit, according to Dumbledoge, was his very own teammate Berkay "Zeitnot" Aşıkuzun. Those mentioned by Dumbledoge then made public statements, ranging from apologies to denouncing Dumbledoge's allegations.
As the story developed, it started to become a larger part of the League of Legends community. As a result of the community's close watch of the Turkish League of Legends scene, the following Reddit post shot to the front page of /r/LeagueOfLegends:
In it, two Twitch clips are shared, both taken from the TCL's broadcast on February 22. In the first clip, a group of TCL fans can loudly be heard chanting "Zeitnot ban!" a couple of times during the match between Dark Passage and Beşiktaş Esports. The second clip shows Zeitnot's team, Papara SuperMassive, walking towards the front of the stage to greet the audience after a victory. In that clip, the audio cuts out for a couple of seconds.
Below are clips of the same moments, with extra footage to provide additional context.
Two parts of the claims made on Reddit and widely endorsed in the thread (at the time of writing, not one comment in the thread was skeptical of the allegation that the TCL stream was actively suppressing audience noise) hold true: The crowd did indeed chant "Zeitnot ban!", and the audio did cut out briefly when Papara SuperMassive greeted the fans. But did they combine into the third claim, that Riot was censoring crowd behavior?
We decided to look closer at the case that arose this weekend at the Turkish Championship League and came to the conclusion that no, Riot Games Turkey was not censoring the crowd.
A storm in a teacup
Inven Global spoke to someone who attended the TCL on February 22nd, the day of the alleged crowd-censoring. The source, who wishes to remain anonymous for privacy reasons, told us: "[The audio drop] was probably a technical issue. I was at the stage that day and [the crowd] chanted "Zeitnot ban" all day long. Riot didn't mute them at all. Also, the chat was spamming "Zeitnot ban" all day long. Riot could've easily used emote-only mode, but they didn't."
When looking at the Twitch chat of that day, there indeed is an awful lot of '#zeitnotban' spam. Later a Turkish, copy-pasted message is widely used in Twitch chat: "Açıklama yapacağınız yerde üstünü kapatıp hiçbir şey olmamış gibi davranmaya devam edin ülkenin e-sporunda bile mobbing ve zorbalığa müsaade ediliyor, böyle devam riotgamesturkish, utanın!"
The message translates to: "Keep pretending nothing happened while you owe us an explanation, mobbing and bullying are allowed even in the country's esports, so continue Riot Games Turkey, shame on you!"
While our source has a point in saying that Riot could've taken measures to prevent such behavior in Twitch chat, it doesn't completely take away the suspicion. After all, Riot could still have chosen to just censor the audio for VOD purposes. But did they?
In order to determine this, we watched the entirety of the TCL VOD of February 22nd. During the broadcast, which lasted four and a half hours, there are two moments where the audience could clearly be heard chanting "Zeitnot ban!" The first moment is linked earlier and is the one referred to in the Reddit post: during the champion-select prior to Dark Passage vs Beşiktaş Esports. The second time a group of people chants "Zeitnot ban!" happens just moments later, during the same pick-and-ban phase:
Aside from these two incidents very early on in the broadcast, the crowd cannot audibly be heard calling for the ban of Zeitnot. Before and after, there are some very faint murmurings, probably uttered by individuals, but the message is indistinguishable. During all the matches, the crowd is relatively quiet, as they have been during most matches on the TCL's broadcast. Every now and then there is audible applause, but not much other noise is made.
So what about the audio cutting out when Papara SuperMassive, Zeitnot included, greeted the fans? First of all: when listening to the clip of the audio cutting out, it doesn't sound at all like there were people in the crowd shouting anything. When asked whether the crowd did anything at the moment the audio dropped, our source simply said: "Yeah they applauded. Normally."
To compare, here are the audience's post-match responses to the other three teams victorious on that day. In order, they are the audience's response to Dark Passage, Fenerbahçe, and Istanbul Wildcats:
Aside from a couple of Fenerbahçe fans cheering for their team, the audience response is the same: polite applause. Even directly after the match between Dark Passage and Beşiktaş Esports, prior to which the two chants happened, the crowd behaves politely. It fits perfectly in the hole that's in the audio for SuperMassive's fan greeting. As our source said: "It's unlikely that they'll mute only for a couple of seconds. [It] was probably an unlucky situation, because the caster's voice was echoing at that exact moment."
The community's vigilance is understandable. When Blizzard Entertainment banned Hong Kong player Blitzchung in October, the gaming community was rudely reminded that game publishers are businesses at the end of the day. Shortly after, at the League of Legends World Championship 2019, Riot Games was criticized as casters kept abbreviating the team name 'Hong Kong Attitude' to 'HKA' after the company had instructed all involved with the broadcast not to discuss anything political. It turned out to be blown out of proportion, but the tone was set: gamers, especially esports fans, would no longer tolerate censorship.
Still, when adding everything up, the community's response seems like a gross overreaction. The production appears to be done in the same way it's always done, as we could judge from listening to snippets of other days. Instead of Riot Games Turkey silencing the crowd, it's likely that a bunch of friends felt brave and started the "Zeitnot ban!" chant twice to see if they could get other attendees to join them. When that didn't work out, they resorted to just enjoying the games they came to watch. The drop in audio was an unfortunate incident and was far too brief and random to come even close to censorship.