OpTic India’s PR-spinning shenanigans were destined for embarrassment and community backlash

The whole week has been very troublesome and disheartening even for those who are not a Counter-Strike Global Offensive player. I have concerns about Forsaken getting caught and thrown out because sooner or later, sponsors support such individuals until they are caught. They rely on the organizers and admins to ensure what they are being fed is genuine. This affects everyone in this field- the sponsors, the organizers, the volunteers for these events, the team members, the teams that lost to this, people who provided support.

My opinion about the Indian gaming media and promoters

PC Gaming and PC hardware have a symbiotic relationship. I keep an eye on sponsored gamers, bloggers, streamers, etc. in India whenever they promote a product. While some do the usual marketing stuff like photos and using products on livestreams/events, some exaggerate and oversell their sponsor’s products in events and promotional launches. Some of the products don’t need such a marketing pitch. Some of them make people raise questions.

Some of these promoters (bloggers/reviewers/”media houses”) even had one or many conflicts (s) of interest because they hold a position as a writer of a site that informs its readers but in reality, are ‘for-hire marketing contractors’ or employed by the brands they write about. It is only after we posted the news, one individual made a conscious effort eventually and declared himself as an employee. There’s nothing wrong unless you declare it in the articles. Even companies need to have in-house content for their social media promotion. Whether the reader will give any importance or not, is their choice. You can always choose to leave and/or sell your website – like how Jon Gerow who left Jonnyguru and passed his torch. Anand Shimpi of Anandtech did the same and sold his website before joining Apple. Clinton Jeff, who ran UnleashThePhones for seven years, eventually shuts the site down and joins Xiaomi India, later switching to Honor. The day before he joins Xiaomi, he puts this last post on the site to thank his readers. You don’t need an instruction manual to understand what is wrong and right about this.

Other shenanigans happen from time to time. Some people look for jobs in these companies. Again, not a problem- unless the motivation and the reasoning behind it are unethical. It is not too hard to point out such people from when you know who did what. There was a time I informed a company who was looking to hire a plagiarist (unknown to them) as their marketing specialist. The company decided to look for another candidate. The person who joined eventually also runs a gaming site, but he indicated he is working for the company. There’s nothing to hide unless the intentions are dishonest. People rather deal with a charming but eccentric fellow than to deal with trash. The things people do to safeguard the community from behind-the-scenes. It is the few of many done by few people. The same couldn’t be said about the eSports community because even when they do, they have equal or greater opposition.

Some do run gaming websites in India that do some good. I even congratulated one of them when he got an award for it. Once, I wished he was in a position to do more. But seeing how these things unfold here, it is best if he keeps doing what he usually does. It is unfortunate, but alas the Indian eSports scene is a gutter because of some people.

Honourary mention- NT Balanarayan who ran his gaming website long before such garbage even started. Speaking of garbage…

That’s a lot of garbage!

Some of its fans and users even feel disappointed because a premium gaming product cannot fulfil half of its primary purpose. An example would be an underpowered gaming headset’s microphone or a gaming motherboard with dummy VRMs. The problem comes when efforts are made to push back user’s issues with promos in the same groups the end-user expressed his problem. This is where Facebook group owners and moderators need to look out for!

One streamer (that I noticed so far!) shilled so hard for such headset but was using a USB microphone for the livestream. A classic case of bait-and-switch! Most PC gamers take recommendations from their peers who have the experience, and some from people who regurgitate words of such sponsored parrots. That hurts them back because once they have a bad experience, they avoid anything coming out of that brand and even discourage others from buying it. Bad after sales experience is a bigger problem. Some companies prefer to learn the hard way for some reason.

There are times some organizers have put some brands (who doesn’t have a history of sponsoring their events) in a situation for a made-up sham of an ‘award ceremony’ for its sponsors. If you want to have a botched award ceremony like how the channel media does it,  just be happy with handing out paperweights. In such situations, managers of the brands are known to call out such organizers to remove their products from their ‘nomination list’. Ouch! 

Until today, this was the only reason why I looked into Indian eSports. Nothing more!

Manufacturers in the Indian gaming scene

Naturally, companies like Cooler Master, HP/Omen, Dell/Alienware, Lenovo/Legion, Kingston/HyperX, Gigabyte/Aorus, Zowie, NVIDIA and AMD work with organizations who can deliver a promotional tournament. Some of these brands have done many other types of promotions. Some work for a limited time. Some are too big to work and others are designed to invite crowds that don’t care except for the freebies.

As a side effect, some companies inadvertently encourage the sense of entitlement by over-incentivizing people just to come. Most of the crowd who would rather pay a small sum of money to a gaming cafe than spend a good fortune for a PC. Most of the buyers don’t care for such promotional events unless it is an end-user feedback meet. End-user feedback started to do good once upon a time, but it had a silent death. The problem happens when you do meet-ups with the usual crowd and you call it end-user meets. That’s where you get disconnected and distance yourself from your consumers. You don’t earn from the content. You earn by selling a good product you made which helps to build a reputation to sell more. Your good after-sales reputation cements that customer loyalty.

The lack of better judgment

To be fair, considering we had shit shows like IGC, one can appreciate such a polished product even if there are problems behind the scenes. Unfortunately, a collection of those stories and the recent chain of events involving Forsaken, Optic India, the consortium of organizers, promoters and partners of the tournament/Optic gaming and several individuals have done something they shouldn’t have- let him slide through. For simplicity’s sake, let us refer this conglomerate as the ‘main event mafia’.

If you revisit the old discussions in some Facebook communities with any of these people- you have to ask the question- ‘what were you even thinking?’ The problem is- ‘who should we be asking the question’. Failure or done intentionally (if one wants to go down that road), its a collective failure, only because they refused to listen and investigate. Would you blame the organizers who, if they did catch him in India qualifiers, would still become worldwide news? Or Optic Gaming who did not trust its coach-later-turned-in-game-captain when he said:

“Either you kick him or I will not play with the team anymore.”

The stage is set- choose your side!

The main event mafia has a problem of painting a pretty picture when the situation is grim because it has the tools and means to do so- from the backing of an international gaming brand to the content provider enough to question its claim in their website’s description. Who would have thought to see a small group of keyboard warriors endorsing and backing f0rsaken while dissing its community? The irony is that people warned these organizations whenever it posted its social media promotions, the best example would be this one. And they were always dismissed or ignored.

The main event mafias Vs. The usual suspects!

I refer the rest of us as ‘the usual suspects’. It consists of people who put up the reality of the situation and those who put up facts with a hint of humour. We’re not organized or have an army. We don’t need that because a common cause brings us together. Some have good intentions. Some are equally as vindicative and manipulative as the people on the other team. Funny as it sounds, it is going to be tiresome to name everybody frequently. Most actions make an impression that was a collaborated and coordinated effort.

Some of us have been following up on the events, with me casually observing from a distance. It all starts with these:

It is well known that in war, the first casualty is the truth – that during any war truth is forsaken for propaganda.

-Harry Browne

Truth comes out eventually and it did!

A short recap of events

To make a long story short- the heavily hyped and promoted OpTic India ‘won’ ESL India Premiership 2018 sponsored by HP Omen, HyperX and Intel. Therefore they qualified for the ZOWIE eXTREMESLAND CSGO 2018 ASIA hosted in Shanghai. OpTic India lost their match against’s Malaysia’s Frostfire. During their match against Vietnam’s Team Revolution, the B5 anti-cheat program was triggered and therefore the match was paused to check Forsaken’s system. During the time they were inspecting they did find some suspicious files with one of them named WORD.EXE. But he still did not give up and quickly deleted the files in front of the admins and his teammate. After six admins getting involved and after twenty minutes, they recovered the files. Officially, Forsaken got caught for cheating and the entire team was disqualified. Initially, Optic Gaming said he was removed from the team, but later disbanded the entire group. Both the dismiss and dismantling of the team happened within a few hours.

In the days that followed, ESL India confirmed that he did use the same cheats during Indian finals. They were able to inspect Forsaken’s system which wasn’t wiped clean. Then many findings started to come out. Discussion in the CSGO India community never ended until today. Everybody has a “WHOOP! I TOLD YOU BUT YOU WOULDN’T LISTEN!” story:

It wasn’t limited to Indian gamers- veterans and otherwise. Nobody wanted to anything do with the team because Forsaken is a cheater. Instead of doing about it, they used that resentment as a promo in its official roster video.

So much crap, you can fertilize the entire Sahara with it!


When you look at the video promo of its Optic India roster announcement now, it has a dark, twisted sense of humour. Jesal Parekh, the international development manager for Optic Gaming said at the start of the video that being there for the selection itself was history in the making. OH……. BOY! 

The video goes on but mentioned they have brought down to 8 from a list of 1,400 applicants. As much as I would doubt the selection process for Forsaken, we will never get the truth. You can skip to 5.07 to see Forsaken’s montage. You can see the compilation of the remastered versions over here.

A mini-spinoffs

In a cesspool called Facebook and Twitter, all the usual suspects and the members of the main event mafia made several posts. There were two spin-off TV movies of this internet series. There are many spin-offs involving other individuals but would make it more confusing than the Marvel universe. These are the only two spin-offs I will mention because it involved and names one or two main event mafias. You can skip this or read later, depending on your mood. This is to display the unintended and undesired side-effects.

The situation should have just ended here with people all over the world commenting, posting news, making justified rants on a livestream and podcasts. It was bad, unnerving and even provoked anger every time you looked at it because you have to be a complete moron not to understand the responsibility and gravity of that position when you are on such a stage. It is even more unbelievable that a group of people conspired to promote him as a ‘prodigy’ while calling those who provided proofs and arguments of him being a cheat as ‘sour grapes’ and ‘jealous competitor’.

If people stuck to their guns without compromising, this whole charade would have ended on the August 18th, 2017. But it ended when OpTic India was banned and the follow-ups news that came out through various sources.

It still did not end over there. The whole situation re-ignited when Forsaken gave a PR-spun interview to of the ‘Main Event Mafias’. They’re also the partner for Optic India, according to the end of the roster’s promotional video.


“The Unforsaken”

Many smaller developments happened which piqued the interest of those who don’t cover eSports in India. The best narration of events would be from the  Reddit post for the whole debacle as “Unforsaken“. The whole write-up filters the irrelevant bits, confusion, sideshows and narrates the series of events from a perspective that raises several questions of how the chain of events was handled. All of this was based on the information that was available on the public domain. It just needed someone to connect the dots and encourage you to think and scrutinize.

When you read with that narration, you just can’t help but think if it was a systematic failure or intentional actions not only to include Forsaken in Optic India but also to portray him in a different light. Whatever it is, it encourages you to start asking questions to such competent authorities. Since truth isn’t going to come out easy, having arguments from both sides is important. It is only one side of the coin that doesn’t need to rely on spin-doctors. But you still need to verify facts coming for ‘to’ and ‘against’ anything. You cannot verify facts until someone speaks out. They will when the situation is not in their favour.

The only side of the story we will never hear is from gamers who felt discouraged and defeated enough to re-consider quitting CSGO at least in the professional front. Maybe we will never know what the rest of the players in Optic India think. It is only some of the well-known teams that spoke out. And yet, articles were written with an intention and conviction to throw team Iyati under the bus. That never should have happened.

Twisting the legal nipple!

Let’s start with the discussion about the post questioning Forsaken’s ban. The following is what they said in that article:

If we were to make a list of people who had bought or sold an account and then banned them all, many Indian players would have to come under scrutiny. While it is not our intention to get anyone else banned, it also is unfair on f0rsaken that a particular rule gets enforced on him alone.

Making one’s mind about ban reduction is not easy but it gave the benefit of the doubt only if you ignore all the videos showing strong indication he used background scripts to cheat. Forsaken did not own those VAC banned accounts he traded (unless he is the owner), out of which one of them had a VAC ban. Steam’s definition of ownership doesn’t exist for traded accounts because trading accounts are against Valve’s T&C. The decision is made by Integrity Commissioner, Ian Smith, who studied law and worked in sports organizations. That’s the likely reversal a person who studied law and been in several cricket and sports ethics committee would make after the arguments were presented.

Similarly, lawyers can make and justify the opposite decision. Violating T & C and laws are not the same as breaking the law. ESIC is not the law. But Ian did say it is unethical. Let’s go with that!

In the real world, you are the owner of the stuff between the time of purchasing it from its owner/seller and disposed of/sold away. You may have violated the terms and conditions of that product which may invalidate pre-included after-sales support but it doesn’t change the fact- you own it because you made the purchase. In some, the transfer of ownership is available. For many, it is not and therefore the possession and proof of resale and second-hand purchase/handshake for an approved deal is valid documentation. If companies who made those products said buying/selling is unethical, people would laugh at it.

The steam account is not an IRL material. It is an online account. It is not only an annoying technicality it is also conflicting. At some point, someone will raise this and the argument might be no different than the right to repair which challenges Apple’s anti-self-and-third-party repair practices to bring it down to reasonable levels. If buying and selling something is unethical, it raises the question- do we own Steam accounts? Because by definition of ownership, we can sell/buy/ dispose of it.

So you see: anyone can keep twisting this legal nipple all night long and still not conclude! It is going to be a painful experience, to say the least. Whatever its worth, it was a reasonable decision under the circumstance since ESL India dismissed the video clippings as evidence. We can all say that the ESIC should have looked into this very closely before issuing a two-year ban. But correcting it was the next best thing. ESIC needs to have some provision to allow in-game recordings as proof enough to justify an investigation rather than dismissing it entirely. Provisions to check the player’s storage drives is needed. ESL India looked at the systems where the gamers played but found Forsaken’s system to have these hack scripts.

That’s the problem when first-generation of such gamers are participating in events run by a well-established international organization. Such rules were not implemented in local and nationwide events. Strict enforcement is another problem because many organizers and admins have that ignorant approach. Gamers often display unsportsmanlike conduct-such as not coming to the event on time and expect to be accommodated every time. Regardless, a point had to be made so that future players do not get into such activity. Indian gamers cannot be an exception just because they’re late to the party! This should apply for other organizers, no matter how hard it is. Those professionals who never traded accounts- good for you!

Towards the end of that article, trying to dismiss that trading account rule as ‘Come on, who didn’t do that??’ is a wrong attitude in a professional tournament with this money, reputation and international pride at stake. That is immature and should not be encouraged.

Throwing the community under the bus!

What is said by AFKGaming is not the problem. At least not at first. Its how it is been said and the effort to make team Iyati look bad and push its own eSports community to the ground with such vindictiveness is what should force these people to look at their actions. Such write-ups make them look like they are pushing a PR spun article (judging by the starting of the analysis). The blame goes to others who kept defending his entry. The defence came from those who are associated, affiliated and employed by one of the companies in the main event mafia! Quoting the relevant bit:

“Now in most cases, a competent authority gets to ascertain whether the player in question has violated the rules or not and then the community gets to pass their judgement. In F0rsaken’s case, the complete opposite seems to have happened. First and foremost, members of Team IYATI are in no position to decide “fishy” plays and they have no authority to do so. And finally, this image that they create of trying to “keep the community clean” is pretty superficial. Sharing personal screenshots of chats without taking prior permission is a very immature and cannot be encouraged. “

Wait a minute, did you just imply competent authorities of the ESIC were incompetent in his case? Your co-owner is a member of it, no? Or is it implied on the commissioner? Geez, you need to go easy with your words!

Even Team Iyati knows they have no authority. They never claimed to have any. They only asked for an investigation, based on what they said, ESL India referred the case to the ESIC. Just because ESL (and ESL India) does not consider recorded clips as evidence of cheating, does not necessarily mean Team Iyati are wrong by referring it. Why? Because it does not absolve Forsaken of any accusations of cheating. This applied even if he was not caught in Shanghai.

Instead, the organizers should have watched those videos and give a benefit of a doubt to keep a close eye on his gameplay during LAN events so that they can pause the match and quickly catch him even if it does not trigger any anti-cheat programs. The commissioner did say he hoped Forsaken he learned the lesson from this. Unfortunately little did we know he has forsaken the knowledge he got out of an experience he was lucky to get a second chance due to a technicality. If there’s anyone who lived by the meaning of his/her nickname- it is him!

Social-media free-for-all

Based on the recent chain of events with people sharing old screenshots, it was a free-for-all. The gloves were off as soon as Forsaken was caught cheating!

This backlash happened because of the collaborated and coordinated effort by some people in the main event mafia. Just because you did not agree with what they said, how does namecalling solve the problem? Your people called the community members as ‘haters’, ‘conspiracy theorists’ and ‘sour grapes’ and yet its what those haters said turned out to be true- unfortunately. The wise should accept this. It is unfortunate, but the civil tone needs to be kept by all staff of the organizers, content creators, managers, promoters, etc. Asking your supporters to calm down out is preferable. That never happened before and therefore we have seen intense community backlash.

The timings of every chain of events that followed did not help your cause. Calling him a ‘prodigy’ and releasing such montage about Forsaken in a promo is a terrible idea. Once again- just because those video clips were not accepted as evidence by ESL, doesn’t necessarily absolve him of cheating.

Even gamers in the international scene are confident he cheated on SoStronk servers and felt vindicated at the expense of our national pride you guys used in Optic India’s promos. At the very least, this should have encouraged event organizers to have its admins keep an eye on his gameplay to notice anything suspicious even if the anti-cheat didn’t notice anything suspicious, even catch him in the act. Did any of that happen?

What about the admins?

The question is: do these admins know what to look at when they spectate? Therefore one will have to question how do they evaluate when or if they spectate the player’s matches. The argument for lack of professionalism applies to both sides, depending on the situation and the individuals. ‘First-generation problems’. Admins need formal training. ESL Global should have provided that for the management in India to train its new admin recruits. A gap in professionalism is on all sides and can only be identified if mud-slinging stops. The content creator for ESL who is also a partner for Optic India, the participant of its event managed and operated by its co-owner, does encourage to be strongly suspicious. If the tables were turned, these same people facing the suspicion will say the same.

Comparison with Krishna Saleha

Comparing it with Krishna Salecha’s ban does not make sense or help your cause because in his case, it was a VAC ban from steam and security camera footage of that cafe gave him a benefit of the doubt. He is only guilty of playing in a cafe his team never been in and left his system unattended based on that security footage that’s taken down. Alas, Valve did not investigate in this matter while it was new. Krishna Saleha is not accused of being a cheat by the community. Forsaken is the one who was accused, irrespective of the team he played at the time.

After an investigation, the ESIC banned him from ESL events for five years, which is considered to be a lot of time for a gamer. He is not VAC banned so he can play in another team and non-ESL matches. Hopefully, nobody will make a promo video saying he’s coming to esports for retribution. I hope he and others learn from this.

How ESL could have prevented this- and they know!

Finally, ESIC, the same organization that issued a ban of two years for having a VAC ban and reducing it to six months later since he didn’t technically own any of it but dismissed video clippings as evidence, gave him a five-year ban. I can understand why they dismissed the video clippings as evidence. But that should have been a reason enough to scrutinize Forsaken’s gameplay in their tournaments by spectating his POV of the match in the LAN. Because when that happens while he’s playing, they got behind him and get him to show the screen.

But that’s what the Shanghai team did.

How Optic Gaming and others could have prevented this- and they know!

The other problem is why Optic Gaming gave a green signal to pick someone with such history. Its a pilot team and therefore should have chosen a safer option since everybody is looking at Optic Gaming’s project. It is not hard to say ‘no, not you!’ based on what happened in his past. I find it hard to believe that out of 1,400 applicants they couldn’t find someone to take his place as support. There are news reports which named Lukas “yb” Gröning, the coach and later in-game leader, who didn’t ignore Forsaken’s gameplay and ultimatum to Optic management. We’ll never know his side of the story until he speaks out.

Partners usually have the best interest of each other. And yet…

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