Bunnay and MVG scandal continues with leaked nude photos, raises questions about changing ethics in eSports
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Previously, Major Value Gaming (MVG) let go of their social media manager Cynthia Bunnay over privacy and behavioral concerns. In a spiraling fallout, Bunnay was ostracized by her ex-boyfriend, MVG affiliates, and a large part of the Smash Bros. community. Bunnay has since made statements in her defense, but after an overwhelming backlash, she deactivated her Facebook account. The entire debacle will surely be lost in the depths of internet space by next week, but it still brings forth questions about ethics in eSports and how times have changed with gaming as a business.
The backlash against Cynthia Bunnay has gotten explicit
Most of the hate Bunnay has received has come from supporters of MVG's Jason "Mew2King" Zimmerman, who was the first to go public with Bunnay's behavior. Before her Facebook deactivation, she still denied most of the allegations, claiming that Zimmerman never wanted a real relationship in the first place and that he had lewd pictures of other women:
While rumors that Zimmerman would leak nude photos of Bunnay were circulating, another unnamed player entered the game. While irrelevant to the MVG predicament, someone confirmed to be Bunnay's ex-lover leaked pornographic images and videos of her across social media.
In spite of their personal issues with Bunnay, Zimmerman and Ryan Kidd, who is also closely involved in the scandal, stood by their claims that they would never engage in revenge porn and do not support it.
I just wanted to say that posting those photos of Cynthia is definitely not okay, and should be removed. Report images pls. @MVG_Mew2King— Ryan Kidd (@_Rages) September 4, 2015
Revenge pornography is a serious offense that has increasingly become outlawed across the United States. In Bunnay’s home state Florida, their “Revenge Porn Bill” will not become state law until this October, so it's unclear how this will be handled legally as the issue moves forward.
Bunnay retracted any inkling of blame towards Zimmerman and Kidd herself when she took to Instagram to write an open letter to the hacker. While previously reacting to accusations with defensive statements, she opted to take a route of forgiveness, despite the severity of the person’s actions, whom she decided not to name.
Dear _____, I never took you seriously when you told me no one should ever cross you. That you knew hackers and that you could ruin someone's life if you wanted to. That your fans would do anything for you. But no matter how things ended between us, I didn't deserve this witch hunt. I'll admit that I wasn't always the best person in general as the Internet is "finding out now" with very old hand picked conversations and emails from a time when I was stupid, heartbroken and in need of attention. I have awful obnoxious humor when I think I'm among friends and I've done reckless things after getting dumped. Sometimes I'm shitty, egotistical, childish and insecure as a person (and definitely still can be) but that doesn't make it okay for you to hack into my boyfriends Dropbox and have people harass me. Or to have a big name company and various news outlets blatantly lie about me. I hate that I broke your heart... But I have every right to take the time to get to know people and decide later that I don't want to be with them. Please respect that. I hope everything else goes well for you and that you find some peace. I've found mine. I'm happy.
MVG’s reputation remains (somewhat) clean
There are still many unresolved discrepancies between Bunnay and MVG’s accounts of her hiring situation. But, management has already addressed that they will have a more stringent hiring process in the future. Previously, there was speculation over whether or not Bunnay could possibly be welcomed back into the Smash community and “forgiven.” But that question has turned around to ask whether Bunnay would ever want to come back into a FGC that supported revenge porn. Unfortunately for both of them, the whole debacle will be attached to their names for quite some time.
But don’t worry, eSports are very professional.
The true aftermath and the role of "virtual" drama
Electronic Sports have come a long way in the past few years. It's a national pasttime in The Republic of Korea and worthy enough that professional gamers are considered international atheletes. eSports events have curated big-name sponsorships, held dedicated conventions, and appeared on national television. There are even plans to have dedicated news sections on big-name sports websites like ESPN.
As eSports and competitive gaming become more and more mainstream, articles pop up dealing with "less fun" but necessary topics like contracts, money management, lawyers, translators, and sponorship affiliation. In a way, eSports have left the "safe space" of just having fun and many players are experiencing the difficulty of having a "job" in games.
The success of international, multimillion dollar franchises means they have entered the real world of business, and so they must maintain their image and accrue a loyal following.
With this in mind, times are still rapidly changing, and eSports remain in an awkward growth phase. In Bunnay's case, she was offered a temporary job position because she was a gamer who had a relationship with someone within the organization. On one hand it's networking, on the other it's a red flag that "established" businesses attempt to stay far away from. For many in the workforce, it is common knowledge that romantic relationships with coworkers are strictly forbidden (and rarely end well).
As more scandals, rumors, and drama break out, the more stringent eSports organizations become, and the more rules they have to enforce. Five years from now, we could see the idea of "being yourself" as a gamer on social media come second to the necessity of conducting yourself professionally. In 2014 alone, there were several large-scale scandals across game organizations that required legal actions or policy changes.
For sports, scandal and drama are just a part of the game. Like all celebrities, athletes have to maintain their image and their personal affairs are rarely personal. When athletes do something that the public does not approve of, the sports networks that sponsor them are forced to publicly denounce or punish them to appear "good" in the public's eye. Of course, this is nearly impossible, as any big business will tell you. When drama breaks out in eSports, it's not much different.
In a way, virtual "drama" in eSports is just a sign that its big enough to be cared about or noticed.
Earlier this year, Jermaine Cunningham, a NFL free agent and former Jets linebacker, pleaded guilty for engaging in revenge porn. Like Bunnay's ex, he posted sexually explicit photos of his ex-girlfriend across social media. He currently faces probation, which is a light sentence in comparison to the possibility of five years in prison.
Whether Bunnay presses charges is up to her discretion, but one takeway of it all is the need for professionalism and accountability in eSports.
MVG has done a decent job protecting its name, but only after it was attacked in the first place. If eSports are big enough to warrant household names, sponsorships, scholarships, and even degrees and certificates, it's about time that gamers everywhere realize they are not longer in a kids' club — welcome to the real world.