20 April 2023

The Most Mysterious Esports Superstitions and Curses

The world of competitive gaming is undergoing a boom time the likes of which we’ve never seen before. This industry, which was valued in the hundreds of thousands in the 2010s, now commands a market presence in excess of $1 billion, and is projected to break $3 billion by the end of the decade.

In fact, esports is objectively considered to be the fastest growing sport in the world today. In so doing, it outstrips the likes of T20 cricket, which made headlines in 2022 for a record breaking broadcast deal that made it the most valuable licensed sport globally with the exception of only the NFL and MMA— which for over two decades has been irrevocably supplanting boxing as the world’s favorite combat sport. 

Esports’ rapid growth even carries over into wagers, with the comparison platform OddsChecker citing the sport as its fastest growing metric year-on-year for betting volume since 2020. Online bookmakers now offer more markets for esports than ever before, with free bets available to use on competitive gaming events, attracting traditional sports fans as well as a new demographic.

While most people only began to regularly hear about esports in the past few years, the community has been around for as long as there have been games to compete in. Over that multi-decade span of time, legendary teams and players have earned their stripes, globe-spanning events and tournaments have risen to prominence, and select games and genres have grown in prestige.

Image Credit Hypernia

Alongside all this myth-making comes a more enigmatic dimension to the scene—that of superstitions, and, depending on who you ask, even curses. This should come as no surprise to sporting fans. From the FIFA World Cup Champion’s Curse, to Michael Jordan wearing his NCAA shorts beneath his Bulls attire, beliefs in hidden forces underlie much of the supposedly rational sporting industry, and competitive gaming is no exception. 

Below we’re going to take a run down of the most surprising, mysterious and intriguing superstitions and curses held to be common knowledge among the esports faithful. While some of these are found in the wider sporting world, others are altogether unique to the world of competitive gaming.

Always the Bridesmaid

There is a popular superstition in the community which suggests that players or teams that habitually finish second place in tournaments may ultimately be doomed to repeat this pattern indefinitely, failing to break through to achieve definitive victory. 

Prominent examples of include Lee ‘INnoVation’ Shin Hyung’s struggle to place higher than second in top flight StarCraft II tournaments in 2013, while in League of Legends the ROX Tigers enjoyed a consistent run of form that saw them place second in both 2015 and 2016, despite being considered favorites for first place.

The Caster’s Curse

This popularly held belief maintains that when a commentator praises the performance of a player in-game, this can in effect jinx them and cause their present success to falter. 

For example, in the 2018 North American LCS Summer Split, a broadcaster praised Team Liquid player Pobelter for his skilled use of the character Malzahar. Immediately afterwards, Pobelter made a crucial mistake that resulted in him being killed and the team losing the game.

Underdog’s Advantage

Another superstition that is commonly found across the sporting world is the underdog advantage. This purports that teams or players deemed unlikely to succeed on merit or previous track record can often cause a surprise upset by defeating tournament favorites in top flight bouts. 

In the 2016 League of Legends World Championship, a minor team from Central Asia—Albus NoX Luna—broke through to the knockout stages with a series of surprise upsets that saw them best the likes of ROX Tigers and Counter Logic Gaming. 

Likewise, one of the major stories of The International 2018 was the success of Team OG. Despite an impressive squad, including Johan ‘N0tail’ Sundstein and Jesse ‘JerAx’ Vainikka, a series of setbacks and roster changes made them rank outsiders who miraculously went on to walk away with what was, at the time, the largest single prize pool in esports history.