Valve explained its decision to have a professional Dota 2 player compete in the upcoming The International tournament, despite concerns from his team, London-headquartered Fnatic, that mental health issues could impact his play and well-being.
In a series of emails between Valve and team Fnatic's management, the two parties expressed their concerns about balancing pro player Adrian "Era" Kryeziu's mental health while keeping competition for the upcoming The International Dota 2 tournament fair.
Yesterday, Fnatic posted to its website an account of their observations of Kryeziu's condition since January, in which they describe him having several anxiety attacks related to travel and being unable to practice with the team. They stated that they are currently undecided on whether or not Kryeziu will play in The International.
Fnatic is one of 11 teams invited by Valve to compete in this year's The International tournament.
"As we approach [The International], we are at a crossroads — to play with Era without knowing if we are damaging his health, or to be disqualified," Fnatic's post says. "To play with Era would also mean extreme lack of preparation. We have not been practicing as the original five for some time now because of everything recounted in this post. As such, even if we were once able to perform on that level fans love and crave, we cannot reproduce this performance without practice and preparation."
Today, following comments that suggested Valve was forcing Kryeziu to play despite being unwell, Valve's Erik Johnson published the email correspondence between him, developer Icefrog and Fnatic manager Patrik Sättermon on the Dota 2 blog.
"When we invite a team of five players, we are in fact inviting those five players."
In a series of emails, Sättermon describes what he had observed of Kryeziu's condition, asserting that Fnatic did not know if he was yet well enough to play as of mid-June.
"Several of our players have raised concerns about what implications our situation can result in when it comes to our participation at TI4," Sättermon wrote to Johnson. "As you can imagine it's still quite up in the air whether Adrian will be able to return to our team during the summer season. For the sake of us being able to prepare for the future, and guaranteeing success for our team, we must turn around every stone in order to be as ready as possible for the biggest eSports competition till date."
In early June, after Fnatic had played a handful of tournaments with amateur Dota 2 player Steve "Excalibur" Ye filling in for Kryeziu, Kryeziu emailed Valve stating his team was actively preventing him from participating in The International, even after assuring his team his doctor said he was well enough to play.
"With all this said, I had a Skype conference with the team two days ago when they returned from LA," he wrote to Johnson and Dota 2 lead designer Icefrog. "They said that they don't trust my health state and think it would be a risky and bold move to take me to [The International] as I can't go back to the bootcamp with them, therefore, they pretty much had me fired [from] the team (still contract signed) for the rest of the summer, as they think they can do 'better' with a stand in."
Johnson responded to Kryeziu, stating that the only one who could determine if a player was fit to participate in a tournament was the player itself.
"When we invite a team of five players, we are in fact inviting those five players," Johnson wrote. "Each of those players is allowed to control their participation in our tournament solely. To be clear, no, no one else can make the decision about participating in our event other than the player. If there is a real documented medical issue with a player, we review those on a case by case basis."
Six days after Johnson and Kryeziu made contact, Sättermon emailed Valve stating that "with blessing" from Kryeziu, Ye would be filling in for him at The International. Sattermon also said that "the team wants to reward [Kryeziu] in the event of financial success," which "specifically means that him and the replacement player will share any prize money winnings." Should Fnatic win anything, they want Kryeziu to still receive part of the winnings.
"we're not happy with the stress this is placing on their organization, players, and fans"
Johnson said that after Sättermon's mentioning of compensation, Valve had enough information to make a decision. Johnson contacted Fnatic to say that Valve had decided to uphold this philosophy, insisting that Kryeziu and the other four players original invited to participate in the The International be the ones to play for Fnactic.
Johnson reiterated Valve's stance on the Dota 2 blog, noting that they are standing by their decision to only accept Kryeziu's participation.
"As we've said to the players and management of Fnatic, we're not happy with the stress this is placing on their organization, players, and fans," Johnson wrote. "We don't minimize medical problems of any kind, whether physical or otherwise. That said, we believe we have a responsibility to make sure that all professional players are being treated fairly, both by their management, and by the decisions that we make that affect all of them. We take this very seriously."
Valve posted the full email exchange between the parties involved to its website in the interest of full disclosure, it said.