Dmitriy ‘sh1ro’ Sokolov sticker drama, ‘there is no hidden meaning’ he says
Valve announced that it will be releasing players’ autographs and team stickers participating in CS:GO PGL Major Antwerp 2022. Despite design autonomy given by Valve, former Gambit Esports now Cloud9 players Dmitriy “sh1ro” Sokolov and Timofey “interz” Yakushin sparked controversy over scribbles on their autograph that resembles a symbol Z.
Esports journalist Guillame “neL” Canelo pointed out the matter despite it appearing to have been just usual. Since then, the community questioned Valve and the design choice of a pro-military Russian symbol of war.
Both Valve and Cloud9 have yet to release statements regarding the matter. But the former Gambit players also received support from select individuals from the community, arguing that the design was made even before the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Cloud9 faces backlash over design choice
Ahead of this year’s CS:GO PGL Antwerp Major, Valve planned to release team stickers, players’ autographs, and Viewer Pass in support of the S-Tier tournament set to take place in Belgium’s port city, Antwerp from May 9 to 22.
The Valve’s Major Championship has been scheduled for an offline competition format and is set to feature a total of 24 teams and a whopping prize pool of $1,000,000. Being one of the most prestigious international gaming tournaments, the degree of influence the competition has is beyond unthinkable for the industry.
Especially, in the middle of an ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, any symbol of war, direct support, or ties to the Kremlin is a no-go for the gaming industry.
As a matter of fact, major esports tournament organizers such as ESL, BLAST, and most recently Valve stood strong against the invasion by banning gaming entities that have strong ties with the Russian government, two of which are Virtus.pro and Gambit, however, Russian-players are still allowed to play under a neutral banner.
In sh1ro and interz’s case, their autographs have a scribble that resembles the Z symbol, which means a symbol of war or a pro-Russian military movement. The invasion is one that is sensitive in the gaming industry and surely enough, the eyebrow-raising autograph sparked criticism from the community.
Spearheaded by neL, the French esports journalist noted via a tweet which now has been deleted that the Z symbol is apparent, can be interpreted as a symbol of war, and is very clumsy.
Support to sh1ro, interz’s case
The community further added that the design choice could have been avoided considering the current situation. However, the person responsible for the design, Gambit former designer Pavel Ilyashenko addressed on Twitter that the sticker was made before the invasion took place.
Others also defended both players by adding that the design accent has been used for years by other CS:GO professionals and even can be found on Valve’s stickers uploading guide.
Additionally, FaZe Clan professional Russel “Twistzz” Van Dulken thinks the controversy had reached the peak it should have not in the first place and people should not have interpreted the scribble as a support of the invasion.
Analysts Richard Lewis and Duncan Shields instead explained that neL’s approach was inappropriate and that throwing players under the bus, especially when both sh1ro and interz are Russian professionals came from a former Russian organization Gambit, that has never publicly expressed support for the invasion regardless is wrong.
“Before you make that allegation you must do the basics,” Lewis said.
Via sh1ro’s tweet, the player addressed there is no hidden meaning behind the autograph.
“Don’t look for hidden meaning where there is none,” sh1ro said translated. “My business is to play CS, not to do covert diversions.”