Hearthstone pro Linh "Seiko" Nguyen threw a Grandmasters League match while attempting to play an Auto Chess qualifier simultaneously, later apologizing for the attempt on Twitter while addressing why he had made so many mistakes during the match he played on stream. Hearthstone Grandmasters League is a weekly tournament series that has some meaningful prizes attached to the end of it, with players competing for the chance to play an 8-player tournament with a $500,000 prize pool at the end of the year.
Hearthstone has been getting more competition as an esport thanks to the advent of MTG Arena, a digital platform for Wizards of the Coast's tabletop game that has been generating a lot of fan interest and offering up a large share of a $10 million organized play prize pool for 2019. Because of this, Hearthstone's Grandmasters League - which streams multiple times a week and is viewed as the pinnacle of the game's competitive scene - needs to maintain its status as a prestigious competition that qualified players are both proud and happy to be a part of. That hasn't been an issue from week-to-week, with many pros openly revealing that Grandmasters League has kept them in the scene or made their practice better - until now.
During the last weekend of Hearthstone Grandmasters League, Seiko played a match against Elias "Bozzzton" Sebelius for the European region's league. During that match, Seiko would often look down at his lap or away from the screen for lengthy periods of time, and his noticeably distracted demeanor led to a number of puzzling mistakes on his side, where the talented pro would often miss obvious information or fail to play around common responses from opposing decks. Seiko later admitted the reason for his poor performance in a tweet that revealed the pro was multitasking Hearthstone Grandmasters League with an Auto Chess tournament qualifier for a $1 million competition:
The response from other members of the professional Hearthstone scene has been something of a mixed bag, but most players are happy to hear it wasn't done out of disrespect for the game, but rather because Seiko is a fan of both and wants to be an active competitor in both.
Its important to hear that you didnt do this due to not caring about Hearthstone or anything similar and how you did your best to make this work prior to the incident— T1 Orange🍊 (@HS_Orange) September 15, 2019
In hindsight it could've been handled better by all parties involved. Appriciate the apology and explanation♥️
No rules were broken here. Should a player be allowed to play another game on camera on broadcast, obviously not, but it’s on Blizzard to prevent this. A player is simply responding to incentives from the system. Without a cam there is no story, just another misplay.— T1 BoarControl (@BoarControl) September 15, 2019
Commentators, on the other hand, have been a bit harsher in their evaluation of Seiko's actions:
Yes, this is technically true. No rules were violated so he could argue his innocence in a court of law.— Frodan (@Frodan) September 15, 2019
However, there is also the court of public opinion. Based on choices he made to display for everyone to see, he must accept the consequences/backlash.
Everyone loses here.
But I do strongly believe that Seiko's actions were very insulting to the GM program and to thousands of players who would kill to be in position.— Simon Welch (@coL_Sottle) September 14, 2019
I take my job very seriously, too seriously at times.
Ultimately, it does seem to be somewhat disrespectful from Seiko's position, which is one that, as Simon "Sottle" Welch correctly points out, many players simply dream of without ever having the opportunity to occupy. For a game in Hearthstone that wants to legitimize itself as a genuine esports contender, something that players can have a career in, it also hurts that perception, even if some of the players are taking this as an opportunity to fairly criticize the flaws in the Grandmaster League's current iteration.
While it's definitely a funny moment, the many factors that went into it occurring are much less humorous. It's indicative of a scene where some players feel it is wiser to split their time between games than pursuing Hearthstone full-time, something that could be a precursor for bigger issues to come.