Controversy, Champions and Change: The Story of the First Call of Duty League Championships


Photo courtesy of Activision

By Tyler Eddins, Technology Editor

Originally published on September 4, 2020.


Over the last few months the video game publishing giant Activision has taken their flagship game Call of Duty (COD) to new heights with the advent of the COD League. The league was the first ever foray into team franchising for the series.

The league was widely seen as a massive step forward for competitive COD and competitive gaming as a whole. Originally, events were held in the cities that the twelve teams represented. However, due to COVID-19 the league was forced to move their events online for the remainder of the season.

The switch to online along with the departure from the competitive standard of eight player four versus four matchups into the ten player five versus five style, is only the tip of the iceberg as far as the COD League’s controversy goes.

It was revealed on an episode of gaming podcast The Eavesdrop that one of the league’s top players Seth ‘Scump’ Abner was fined for speaking negatively about the newest game Call of Duty Modern Warfare (2019). While the Chicago Huntsmen player’s fine was allegedly only in the ballpark of $500, the fact that the COD League is censoring their players at all does not sit well with fans or competitors alike.

Despite the issues, the COD League pushed on into their double elimination playoffs held from August 19th through August 23rd. At the end of the five days, four teams were left with the chance to play for $1.5 million the following weekend.

Cinderella story London Royal Ravens and fan favorites Chicago Huntsmen were in the loser’s bracket, while league dominators Atlanta Faze and Dallas Empire lead the pack in the winner’s bracket.

One last bit of controversy would come up before the championship weekend could commence. 4 days before the start of the event on August 29th, COD Modern Warfare (2019) developers Infinity Ward would release one of their characteristically large patches to the game.

Said patch would introduce new content for season five of the multiplayer game and its battle royale mode Warzone. The patch would also include a change to the MP5, a weapon used by most of the competitors in the COD League.

A change was made to the view whenever a player aimed down sights using the MP5. While the change only added a few millimeters extra of the weapon into the players field of vision, it brought on the ire of many professional players. Most notable of all, ‘Scump’ uploaded a video of the change to his YouTube channel and was clearly upset by the change.

Even though the change would throw off player’s rhythm and muscle memory right before the $1.5 million finals, Infinity Ward refused to revert the change.

At the end of it all, championship weekend rumbled on. Dallas Empire became the first ever COD League champions with a dominant performance that included beating Atlanta Faze twice. However, more changes were just around the corner.

The very next day after the confetti had finished falling, the Call of Duty League posted a short ten second clip to their Twitter account. The clip announced the return of the standard eight player four versus four format starting next season with the release of Call of Duty Cold War.

This now means that all twelve teams in the league will have to drop a member from their staring roster. Twelve elite players will be out of a starting job.

For league bottom feeders Seattle Surge and Los Angeles Guerrillas, the decision of who to drop should be relatively easy. For top teams like second place Atlanta Faze and champions Dallas Empire however, the decision is much harder.

The latter of which has already made the decision to make three-time world champion James ‘Clayster’ Eubanks a restricted free agent.