The (speculative) Chinese side to the Shanghai Dota 2 drama

5 min read


China is well known for its conservative and strict ideals, something many gamers perhaps did not take into consideration when the Dota 2 scene exploded after James “2GD” Harding was fired as the host of the Dota 2 Shanghai Major, and Gabe Newell responded calling James an ass. A Chinese Redditor offered his (speculative) insight into why this was such a big deal, and how Gabe’s response was somewhat justified. The insight was offered as China/Perfect World have not yet issued a statement regarding the drama which unfolded on the opening.

User BalboaBaggins offered a look at how things work in China, and his long post gives a Chinese perspective to exactly what may have gone down, and what led to the unfortunate firing for Harding. It’s a rather lengthy post, so I will quote the more important aspects.

He began to explain the strict rules and regulation posed by the Chinese government, and how their conservative views were deeply offended when James Harding opened with a porn joke, including that he tried to circumvent the Chinese government internet blocks, which is an extreme offensive statement to make to a Chinese production team, at a Chinese event, at the biggest venue in China as well as in the biggest city.

“China’s government tightly controls all media in the country, and one of the most longstanding rules is the near-complete ban on sexual content and pornography. Basically all porn is blocked on the internet. James’s opening joke on the first day was possibly the worst you could think of. Not only did he reference porn and masturbation, he talked about circumventing the government internet blocks in order to watch porn. While he was in China. In front of a camera talking into a microphone.”

Great Firewall of China
China is well known for another wall – The Great Firewall of China

He adds later in the post that while some of youth in China are slightly more accepting to sexual innuendos and sexual reference, for the general public this is an extremely obnoxious and disrespectful comment to make, especially on camera. He then continues to try add some perspective of Gabe Newell, having to hear about this news back home in the USA.

“Now imagine Gabe’s reaction when he hears about this at Valve HQ. “James did what??” Granted, as we know Gabe didn’t know about Icefrog telling James to be himself which is definitely a breakdown in communications at Valve. But again, James made one of the worse jokes you could make, basically making a sex joke and subverting the Chinese government joke in the same sentence, the moment after Gabe puts him in front of a camera. At this point Gabe didn’t yet fire him, but he was definitely on two strikes. This is speculation, but I’d imagine the “bottom bitch” comment was the last straw. Seems pretty innocuous in the USA, but it does have sexual connotations.”

It’s well known in the gaming world that China also have strict regulations on gaming and outside business in China. Dota 2 in China is not handled by Valve, and for a tournament as big as the Dota 2 Major to be hosted at the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai there were strict rules and regulations and the offence by James “2GD” Harding was severely disrespectful to the Chinese government and organizers of the event. It’s not certain how this will be handled in the future.

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China has not released a statement of its own, and this is still speculation, but it makes complete sense. It’s clear that there may have been communication issues between Harding and Valve, and IceFrog’s instruction to “be himself.” Many comments agreed with the initial post stating that Harding should have known that China are strict, and as a host should have had prior knowledge to the way things are run in China.

Needless to say reputations have been damaged on all fronts. Valve might struggle in the future when it comes to Chinese events, China may struggle to regain the acceptance of the international Dota 2 community and James Harding’s reputation will undoubtedly be called into question when offered to host future events (outside of Dota 2). In conclusion this post, while speculative, adds important insight and it is now clear that James Harding perhaps did step over the line and his release was warranted, but it’s James Harding, that’s why we love him.

Last Updated: March 2, 2016

Kyle Wolmarans

Critical Hit’s esports guy. I talk about esports and drink whiskey. I also write and cast for elsewhere – but my work here is independent of that.

  • Lardus-For the Chimichangas!

    Poke the bear and there will be repercussions. Don’t know the guy and don’t care about DotA 2 at all, but knowing your audience is important if you cast.

  • I actually used to watch a lot of eSports when it started to become popular, and it just became one big e-peen show for me later on and I stopped watching. And it seems to be just shout caster drama the last 2 years.

    • Commander Admiral Chief



    • Alien Emperor Trevor

      Well to be fair e-sports would be incredibly, soul-crushingly, despairingly dull if it wasn’t for them. 😉

      • True, but they need to keep their ego’s in check as well 😛

      • Have you ever watched sports without commentary of any kind?

        All of it is incredibly dull. 🙂

        Cept maybe golf. Not even commentary can save it.

        • Commentator: He lines up for his shot

          ….silence for a bit……
          ….bird chirp…….
          ….more silence….
          ….sound of swish and iron hitting ball…..

          Commentator: That is going straight for the fairway

        • Alien Emperor Trevor

          I have. I quite enjoy watching test cricket with the sound off.

  • Here’s the problem:
    Gamer culture.

    We are too used to the obnoxious attitudes that we grew up learning at Lan parties back when we were in school and all that.
    We all had this attitude of smack talk your opponent and all that jazz. We forget that now, with eSports growing the way it is, that this level of smack talk and insult is no longer ok. As a professional community (The eSports community) they need to take care of how they talk and present themselves publicly. Not just in China, but over the world.

    Unprofessionalism (is that a word?) in a sport trying to be taken seriously is not ok and should be addressed. Can you imaging our Rugby commentators saying things like that and not being slapped with a massive fine or being removed completely?

    • Pariah

      What this guy said.

      I said a similar thing on the initial article, but this breaks it down a little more. Imho, as eSports grows, there will be less and less opportunity for “smack talk”. It’s a simple fact.

      And yes, I believe James was wrong. I watched his segment, I was cringing the whole time. It was bad.

      • I don’t think being fired is the way to go. One also has to remember that this is the way gamers have been for a long time. This is the time to “train” the people on how to do things right. Not fire someone everytime they are wrong. That being said, common sense really should have prevailed a bit when he decided it was a good idea to make the jokes he made.

        • Pariah

          To be fair though, the Dota caster community in general has better sense and a less dirty sense of humour. While it made some of the other casters laugh, I still am not sure if they laughed because it was funny, or awkward.

          I agree though, now is the time to train casters on being more professional, educate them on how and why they need to be more professional in today’s and the upcoming era of eSports.

    • The Sten

      Fully Agreed

      Sponsors (The guys with ALL the money, the money that YOU want) cannot be affiliated with someone who smack talks like these guys do. If esports is to be like a “real” sport, then players will have to accept that they can never act like that even in a public game.

      • Pretty much this. Proper sport, proper conduct

    • Or a football commentator losing his shit every single time a goal is scored? Huehuehuehue

      • Pariah

        We’re talking about REAL sports here, stay on topic…


      • Alien Emperor Trevor

        Isn’t it called a touchdown? I don’t follow American sports.

        • Something to do with horse shoes apparently.

          • Alien Emperor Trevor

            I like horse shoes. I hang them on my doors to keep out evil spirits and esports.

          • Pariah

            Evil spirits aren’t so bad once you get used to them though. Call them government officials and it makes life so much simpler.

          • Alien Emperor Trevor

            Lesser of two evils I guess.

          • At least they have a purpose?

          • Alien Emperor Trevor

            Which one? Horse shoes or evil spirits?

          • Both!

    • Commander Admiral Chief


    • BakedBagel

      Ill just leave this here. Pflax explaining it like a boss. I say again Esports dont need no professionalism Keepo.

      • Yeah, well if it doesn’t professional up it will never be taken seriously, regardless of how much money the prizes are.

        • BakedBagel

          It got pretty far without it.


          • Justin Beiber has got pretty far too.

          • BakedBagel

            Thats cool. Glad you follow him

          • I don’t need to to know he makes more money than eSports.

          • BakedBagel

            Does he? I would like to compare numbers.

          • Yup. He does. Not that money is any indicator of professionalism.

          • BakedBagel

            Google tells me he is worth $200 mil.

            First time ive seen trash worth that much.

          • Commander Admiral Chief


          • The point you seem to be arguing against is being professional and that being a good thing about sports. Can’t fathom that logic.

          • BakedBagel

            Is it hard to understand, seeing something that you followed for years, to slowly turn corporate all for the motive of “professionalism”

            Why was James there in the first place. Because people like him. The community does.

            Its just funny seeing people with no real history with dota moaning about what some englishman said in China. And hoping for it to be “more” professional.


            Edit: words.

          • Pariah

            Yeah I’ve been playing dota for years, and watching is what got me into it. I think James was out of line, and being professional doesn’t mean being boring. It means not making inappropriate comments and/or jokes and making the other casters and event organisers feel awkward.

          • BakedBagel

            Look i agree that he was out of line, and opening your segment with the whole china internet porn skit was too far. But its the fact that he got fired.

            Yes he is an ass, but he is our ass(lmao) He is dota2’s ass. and he is loved.

            He was one of the only people in the trenches pushing esports* before it was even a thing* he was one of the people helping to get Esports where it is today, as you know. I just feel like its a major slap in the face to someone who has given SO much to esports. Regardless of what was said.

            Did you not see Blitz on day2? Most of that panel and other casters where sad af. you could see it. Was it awkward to you? Yes. Was it to me? No. And i would believe he never made the panel awkward as im sure 100% of that panel is friends with 2GD.

            Meh. Anyway Shanghai is not end all be all.

            Edit: Shanghai in general compared to the last major and past TI’s was so trash

          • Okay, that first part makes sense, not wanting something to become mainstream. But it IS mainsteam now. That’s what every defensive of whether is a sport or not seems to tout.

          • Pariah
          • lol I thought so too. Fanboys everywhere!

      • I still stick to the belief that profesional sporting requires profesionalism to be taken serious beyond gamers. We want to start having more people interested including those who are not inherently gamers. But that’s my own view

        • BakedBagel

          Thanks for having something constructive.

          Rare around these parts

          • Commander Admiral Chief

            Don’t mind Rince, he is an idiot

          • Coming from you that is HYSTERICAL.

          • Commander Admiral Chief

            See what I mean

          • Indeed. We call can.

    • Yup.

  • Anyone with half a brain can get at porn in China. It’s one of the biggest ‘not kept secrets’ that even though they try oh so very hard (get it!) people can access loads of stuff they shouldn’t.

  • Alien Emperor Trevor

    I’m confused. If he was told to be himself why wasn’t he used to unscrew something or tighten a nut?

    • Pariah

      He wasn’t 2GD it seems.

    • NO!

  • I doubt China will make a statement. They hate being called on anything concrete at a later stage which his why it takes them fifty fucking years to say ‘oh that war that Russia supports is rubbish’.

  • A friend of mine from China is playing on dota steam without any problems.

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