Nature Calls: Are ‘Bathroom Breaks’ Threatening Competitive Integrity In eSports?

The League of Legends eSports community has developed an unhealthy affixation with the issue of competitive integrity, so much so that players pausing the game to use the bathroom is now deemed a heinous crime.

The issue of ‘mid-game bathroom breaks’ was described as a “major problem” by members of the eSports community following a series of pauses during the playoff rounds of the LCK, NA and EU LCS.

The trend started with Samsung Galaxy’s top laner, Lee “CuVee” Seong-jin, who exited his team’s booth during a disastrous series against Sk Telecom T1 to use the restroom.

The pause before the start of what proved to be a decisive game in the series was hilariously translated from Korean to “toilet issue” for English viewers; little did the casters know that they were witnessing the start of a ‘major problem’ in League of Legends eSports:

“Toilet issue… are you serious!?”

This did not mark the first instance of a pause in professional play to allow a player to use the bathroom, yet due to the high profile of the fixture, it was perhaps the first example to be committed to memory.

The first round of the NA LCS playoffs between Team Dignitas and Cloud9 saw another instance of a game pause to allow a player to exit the stage for the bathroom.

Cloud9 mid laner, Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen’s, hurried exit from the stage was granted on account of the Dane feeling unwell during the series. Sources close to the player later described the episode as a panic attack.

The stress of a pivotal playoff series is bound to take its toll on any young player. It seems foolish to force a player to struggle through a moment of anxiety, rather than taking a brief pause to allow for them to regain their composure.

Neither CuVee nor Jensen’s exits from the stage to use the bathroom were deemed to be in breach of any Riot Games rules or regulations, given that neither player discussed the game with their teammates or coach during the pause.

Perhaps the issue that was the biggest cause of contention was the mid-game bathroom break taken by G2 eSports jungler, Kim “Trick” Gang-Yu, during his side’s EU LCS playoff match against Splyce.

Trick was considered to have called for a bathroom break at an inopportune moment for Splyce, seeking to disrupt the momentum of his opponents after a significant moment in the match.

Though no communication could take place during G2 eSports brief respite, the case against Trick implied that the pause had provided the defending champions with the opportunity to regroup at a moment when they had been in disarray.

As the series concluded with a dramatic G2 eSports victory, Riot’s official match referee for the EU LCS playoffs stepped in to provide clarity on the situation:

“The rules actually don’t allow players to pause for a bathroom break however it is one of those rules where we often apply the “spirit” of the rule.

“The rule is there so players do not pause for minor issues and a competitive advantage. In reality, however, we do not want something coming out of a player.

“So for today, G2 vs SPY. As we were starting Champion Select, Trick mentioned he needed the bathroom. As it was too close to game start, it was denied as players are reminded at the start of each game transition to go to the bathroom.

“For the pause, G2 Trick and G2 Perkz insisted they needed to go, at this point, they were allowed to use the bathroom and all players on stage were offered the opportunity to use the bathroom.

“Bathroom breaks are a tricky situation for integrity however at the end of the day, we don’t want to force a player into a messy situation.”

Scott “aBhorsen” Parkin

Source: Riot Games Flickr

Riot’s transparency on the issue served to immediately dampen the voices of any irate fans, complaining of damage to the series’ competitive integrity.

Indeed, it is important for fans to remember that their endeared pros are not robots. When nature calls, even professional eSports players have to answer.