The Korean professional StarCraft 2 scene has been shaken this week by the sudden announcement that the SlayerS team, which was founded by StarCraft legend Lim “BoxeR” Yo Hwan, will disband in November following the Global StarCraft Team League tournament. His partner and team manager Kim “Jessica” Ga Yeon announced the move and explained the reasons behind it, citing conflicts with key team members and an ugly feud with the eSports Federation that saw SlayerS ostracized by their fellow teams and their players harassed.
Her statement shed light on the brand of vindictive politics practiced by eSports Federation head Won Joong Wook, who is also a coach for the noted StarTale team. He immediately resigned from his position as head of the eSports Federation and made a profuse apology to Jessica and SlayerS.
The full announcement from Jessica details the business of managing an eSports team, the personal tensions that arise between players and their management, and the contentious relationship between team organizations as they attempt to work toward common policies.
SlayerS began life late in 2010, and promptly won the March and May 2011 Global StarCraft 2 Team League championships. With players like founder BoxeR, TaeJa, GanZi, MMA, Puzzle, Alicia, and Ryung all playing beneath the SlayerS banner, they were instantly one of the strongest teams in StarCraft 2. However, as Kim’s letter reveals, the team was plagued by personnel problems from the start.
Kim “GanZi” Dong Ju’s arrival at SlayerS, for instance, was tainted by accusations from his former team, Incredible Miracle (Mvp’s team) that he had privately denigrated IM to other pros, and that SlayerS had poached him. IM coach Seong Sang Hoon tried to have GanZi suspended by the StarCraft 2 Confederation (precursor to the eSports federation), although SlayerS were able to demonstrate that IM’s allegations were false and that GanZi had chosen to leave IM on his own.
Relations between the Confederation (and the later eSports Federation) further soured due to a boycott of the North American Star League by the Korean teams. At issue was NASL’s refusal to pay travel fees for Koreans participating in the tournament and the requirement that teams make a deposit prior to participating in order to guarantee their players’ would see the tournament through.
When SlayerS refused to participate in the ongoing boycotts, due to a lack of results and communication from Confederation head Won, the other teams blackballed SlayerS and instructed their players not to practice with any SlayerS members. As a result, SlayerS declined to join the ESF when it succeeded the Confederation, and the practice ban continued.
Yet Jessica’s letter also reveals a series of disputes with team members like Mun “MMA” Seong Won and Yang “Alicia” Joon Sik that added to the pressures facing SlayerS. It details miscommunications that festered into toxic relationships, accusations of lying, and even a case where a team manager erroneously told players that Jessica was embezzling sponsorship money. MMA effectively walked out on his contract, calling it a “slave contract”. BoxeR left shortly thereafter, rejoining his old team, SK Telecom T1, as head coach.
While Jessica paints a portrait of ungrateful, petty, and bitter SlayerS members turning one another against management, newly-departed SlayerS member Alicia contends she skips over the real disagreements that arose between her and the team she managed.
In an interview with ESFI World, he said, “There are too many reasons for my departure from the team, but mainly it’s because of Jessica’s inappropriate interactions with fans and teams, and her excessive focus on GSTL while discriminating against non-GSTL players like me.”
Reading her announcement, you can see why her management of SlayerS might have created problems with players. At times she portrays herself as being somewhat controlling and hectoring, involving herself in players’ personal relationships and trying to cut-off and isolate team members who showing any discontent or team loyalty. She admits that time and again she was utterly blindsided by the team’s frustrations and complaints, but also shows scenes where she summarily dismisses players who do raise concerns.
On the other hand, she was fighting battles on several fronts. The ESF were sabotaging her team, and to some extent it seems to have worked. SlayerS pros got frustrated with Jessica’s disputes with other teams, because they were hurting SlayerS’ ability to compete. Already beset by problems with the ESF, it’s also understandable why she might have been angry when she discovered that leading players were starting to blame her for the team’s problems
With three SlayerS players revealing that they are quitting StarCraft 2 in favor of League of Legends, and the head of the ESF resigning for his part in the destruction of what was formerly one of Korea’s top teams, the dissolution of SlayerS is already disastrous for the image of the Korean SC2 professional community. It remains to be seen whether it will have lasting effects beyond revealing the tangled politics of a single team, its embattled manager, and the bare knuckle politics practiced among team leaders.