The culture at Ohio Northern is, ostensibly, one of camaraderie, kindness, and mutual responsibility. As students, we are expected to hold each other accountable to standards established by the student code of conduct. Ohio Norhtern’s ESports and gaming factions, however, often see deviation from this principle. Amid recent upset over one player’s indefinite suspension from the Overwatch team, the distinct social environment seems more apparent. ESports director and coach Troy Chiefari provided the Northern Review an explanation of his personal philosophy regarding student conduct.
One player was recently suspended from Ohio Northern ESports for repeatedly making inappropriate comments during personal Twitch streams and over general conduct in his capacity as an ESports player. Among these comments include demeaning comments towards female peers and harassment of one transgender player.
In the months leading up to the suspension, Chiefari was made aware of the conduct via Twitter, and he has since publicly acknowledged his awareness of the problem.
Chiefari says he has been aware of misconduct from this player within the ESports environment since he came to Ohio Northern three years ago: “Even from his Freshman year he’s been the one who causes the most trouble.”
Trust me I know and we know what he's doing. I'll try my best to make him better but throwing him out to keep doing this the rest of his life 😕 I don't feel like that's a win— Troy Chiefari (@A_Real_Hero) January 13, 2023
In defense of his decision to hold off suspending the player, Chiefari says he believes all people deserve multiple chances in life. He believes there isn’t “that much use in abandoning someone.” Instead, Chiefari chooses to strive for personal growth in his players. Part of this rationale is that stakes are lower in the collegiate setting than in the professional setting. If a player of his begins acting inappropriately, Chiefari would rather they “learn from it now before it becomes more serious.” In professional spheres, inappropriate comments can cost jobs or livelihoods.
Many students feel Chiefari has been too lenient on the player’s conduct as the head disciplinarian of the ESports program. The coach “for sure” agrees with this assessment, expressing regret that he hadn’t taken more serious action sooner. He feels it is important to consider that he is relatively new to coaching, and is still learning how to lead groups of students. He has become more accustomed to standards of conduct during his time at Ohio Northern: “Year by year, I’m able to get more serious about it.” Still, the coach says “I feel guilty” about suspending them.
Yet in the gaming world at large, Chiefari says obscenity is generally accepted. Insults are commonplace among Overwatch or Call of Duty players, and have become ingrained into the culture of the game. Referencing his players’ use of foul language and personal insult, sometimes including slurs, Chiefari says, “In the gaming world, the way they’re acting was normal.” The coach also expresses concern over how much ESports should conform to the standards of conduct present in most other sects of the university. He is concerned that “if I push them too far towards the institutional line, they aren’t going to have the fun they wished to have.” Functioning similarly to the student handbook, a player contract exists which all ESports players must sign, outlining standards of acceptable conduct.
Michael Kirchner is a sophomore Philosophy, Politics, and Economics major. He is a current captain of club gaming, and has previously played for ONU ESports. He confirms much of Chiefari’s account of the ESports environment; he lauds the existence of a common environment for people enthusiastic about gaming: “There’s something great about being able to play games with friends in proximity.” At the same time, he recognizes the harm done when a hostile or uninviting environment is created, and believes Chiefari may be “a little bit soft on some disciplinary issues.”