The Champions eSports League is facing multiple charges of kidnapping and involuntary conscription following the release of first-person video footage from the night of the EvoWar III Title Deathmatch.
It should have been the greatest night of Laura Richardson’s life.
She exited the stage to the thunderous applause of a raucous, sold-out arena crowd as strobe lights feverishly pulsed and a deafening EDM soundtrack poured into the atmosphere and shook the floor beneath her feet.
Richardson (gamertag: Lynx) had just stolen the most coveted honor in the eSports world from the grasp of the odds-on favorite – and done so in dramatic fashion.
In the final moments of the Free-for-all Deathmatch, No. 1 seeded Cronus had pinned Lynx behind a rapidly deteriorating wooden crate, and with each suffocating barrage of gunfire, he advanced on his opponent’s weakening position. The audience readied itself for Cronus’ inevitable victory, but a sudden last-ditch maneuver allowed Lynx to land a one-in-a-million shot. With only one round of ammunition left in the chamber of her .50 caliber sniper rifle, Lynx flung herself out from cover and simultaneously fired her weapon without aiming. The result: A no-scope headshot kill, the EvoWar III trophy and instant canonization.
Following "The Shot" – as it is now universally referred – Richardson whipped off her VR headset and triumphantly thrust her hands in the air, arms shaking from the adrenaline. She basked in her victory for a handful of moments, and was then escorted behind massive curtains surrounding the tournament platform by event security.
That’s when things took a turn for the worse.
Virtual reality becomes reality
"I thought we were going back to the green room. I thought I was about to hug my parents," Richardson told Mashable in a recent exclusive. "But it didn’t take long for me to figure out that something was wrong. So I started screaming for help."
Richardson’s screaming went unheard.
She was quickly sedated and placed in an armored truck by event security and shipped to Fort Braddock, about 25 minutes outside of the New Los Angeles. Once the truck arrived, she was put through a battery of medical examinations, stripped of her gaming attire, and placed in a holding cell where she would regain consciousness hours later.
According to Richardson’s testimony, the facility was a military training center where eSports champions were taught how to translate their virtual skills into real life warfare.
"It was like a factory made for gamers," Richardson explained. "I saw legendary eSports champions – people I thought had gone off-the-grid after winning their title matches – like Dave Henries and Orson Scott, turned into ruthless and heartless killing machines."
While it may sound fantastical, Richardson’s claims appear to hold some water. Since the Champions eSports League was founded eight years ago, no one has seen or heard from tournament victors. Of course, instant stardom mixed with a nine-figure payday is enough to send any title-winner into hiding, so these "disappearances" didn’t raise any eyebrows the gaming community.
But now with Richardson’s story in the limelight, it’s becoming difficult for CeSL to claim that half-a-dozen champions like Dave Henries and Orson Scott simply rode off into the sunset.
The smoking gun
To make matters worse for CeSL, there’s one piece of evidence that’s particularly damning: Video footage of Richardson’s kidnapping.
Unbeknownst to the League, Richardson had entered into an illegal sponsorship with streaming entertainment company, Twitch, and was broadcasting the title match from a hidden camera on her uniform. So as she was taken offstage, sedated, and sent to Fort Braddock, an online audience of 37 million watched in horror.
It only took hours for authorities to learn of the kidnapping and locate Richardson at Fort Braddock. Although, by the time police arrived on site, the facility had been evacuated – with no trace of the breeding ground that Richardson described.