One week ago, 613 days of “#Reformation” culminated in the return of the now former “most toxic League of Legends player in North America,” Tyler1. Returning to Twitch after a monthslong absence, he streamed the game he built his brand playing for the first time since the game’s developer, Riot Games, lifted an ID ban on him. Not his account, but him. The person.
The ban was done with good reason though. Tyler1 is now a hugely successful Twitch streamer, setting viewer records on the site and hosting an indie League tournament (bearing his name) that rivaled top tournaments sponsored by Riot in terms of viewership. Some would argue his tournament, the Tyler1 Championship Series, effectively worked as a low-rent parody of those grandiose Riot events. In April 2016, however, he corralled viewers by displaying his short fuse and propensity for telling other players to kill themselves.
He built a fanbase over a number of years of playing League while raging in chat, screaming on stream and intentionally and repeatedly allowing himself to be killed by the opposing team during games. The behavior that earned him the self-bestowed “most toxic” moniker began with other players banning the only character he played, Draven, and morphed into a list of players that, if one were to appear in his game, would lead Tyler1 to “feed 50 kills” to the opposing team just to piss off everyone. This increasingly toxic behavior drew thousands of eyeballs.
People love a troll.
All in all, pre and post ban, Tyler1 had 22 accounts suspended or banned by Riot for the general practice of being a shitlord in a game known for housing numerous shitlords. Before being banned, he constantly rose into the top 100 League players in North America. The guy can’t seem to do anything unless he’s at the apex, no matter how high or low the point.
And now he’s back.
Purporting the mantra “#Reformed” for most of his time spent on the ban list, tacking the word onto everything from merchandise to periodic tweets showing his advancement in League’s Honor system, Tyler1 built a movement.
His “#Reformed” campaign seemed to have paid off. He quelled and deflected anger towards Riot in public appearances. He went so far as to tell his fans to lay off of Riot employee David “Phreak” Turley when he noticed the chat on Phreak’s own League streams being spammed. Just the mention of him typing “gj” toward a teammate in chat came across as a revelation. All of these actions over the course of his ban fueled the redemption narrative that ultimately climaxed with his return, but it is hard to write Tyler1’s journey back as a pure coming-of-age in the face of the events over the last few months.
For the first year and a half, Riot seemed content to let Tyler1 rant about his reformation as he defied his ban and flamed other players for miniscule in-game actions. Riot employees rarely commented on Tyler1’s antics, usually only responding when encountering Tyler1 within the game. On Aug. 25, 2017, Phreak reiterated Riot may reevaluate banned players but that he hadn’t seen a change in Tyler1’s behavior warranting a lifting of the ban. On Sept. 17, 2017, Tyler1’s latest League account was discovered and banned by Riot. Eleven days later, during an appearance on the Beyond the Rift podcast, he said that he hadn’t played the game since his last account was banned. Three days later, Riot changed everything.
On Oct. 1, Riot employee Aaron “Sanjuro” Rutledge signed onto a League Discord channel and unloaded his own toxic comments about Tyler1, saying that he “looks like a damn homunculus” and “he’ll die from a coke overdose or testicular cancer from all the steroids. Then we’ll be gucci.” Sanjuro’s comments led to a formal apology from Riot to Tyler1, Sanjuro’s firing two days later and a level-headed yet smug response from the banned player on Twitter.
With that being said I have no hard feelings towards the guy. Shit happens.— loltyler1 (@lol_tyler1) October 1, 2017
Within a few weeks, Tyler1 was informed that Riot would be looking into his behavior as a first step toward reinstatement. The machinations of Riot’s investigatory abilities were all whirring in an effort to get away from Sanjuro’s comments—comments that exposed the fact that the company that constantly battles criticism of its game’s community isn’t exempt from such toxicity. The cherry topper came on Jan. 4 when Riot’s communications lead, Ryan “Cactopus” Rigney, attached a picture of his desk with a “#Reformed” branded mouse pad sold by Tyler1 to a coy message reiterating Riot’s policy of not commenting on the status of ID banned players.
Suddenly, the entire narrative around Tyler1’s redemption and Riot’s determination is thrown into question. Tyler1’s fans that declare vindication don’t understand their revelry in Sanjuro’s comments as the death nail in Riot’s opposition devalued any progress Tyler1 himself made. Tyler1’s decision to transform his process of self-reflection and maturation into a merchandising slogan devalued every attempt he made to prove himself to be a team player. The timing of Sanjuro’s comments and Riot’s initial reevaluation of Tyler1 devalued Riot’s credibility and status as the moral pillar of League.
Tyler1 is holding up his end of the bargain so far. Riot can only hope that continues. Each party has muddied the water around what could have resulted in one of the more redeeming stories in gaming. Instead, we’re left wondering if one poor decision on a Discord channel forced Riot to revive a half-baked reformation project.
Brian Bell is an intern at Paste.