Whatever your opinions of Halo Infinite, you can rest assured knowing you won’t take a financial hit for airing them. The same can’t be said for one of the best Halo players on the planet, who was recently fined after he shared some pointed criticism of the game’s ballyhooed season two update.
Last week, developer 343 Industries rolled out the second season for its free-to-play multiplayer shooter, Halo Infinite. Players praised the headline-making additions (A sweet new map! A bunch of cool cosmetics! A battle royale…ish!), but the patch itself caught a lot of flak. For one thing, it obliterated a slew of high-level movement techniques. For another, it introduced a bug that causes weapons to jam.
Feedback came swiftly, with some of the world’s top players blasting the changes. Some were upset over the removal of traversal shortcuts on multiplayer maps—tricks pro players have folded into their tactics since launch. Others were vexed by the removal of speedrunning exploits that are, by now, accepted strategies. These came in addition to wider concerns about the game’s inability to track player progress in the battle pass. By Friday, 343 acknowledged the patch’s missteps, said it was looking into a fix for the gun-jamming bug, and noted that the studio was internally considering “options” regarding the changes that weren’t exactly well-received.
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Some of the most, um, colorful feedback came courtesy of Tyler “Spartan” Ganza, a pro Halo player for the Halo Championship Series (HCS) league who’s signed to the eUnited team. Ganza isn’t just known for playing under what is arguably the most coveted call sign for a pro Halo player. He’s also got a solid track record. At last month’s HCS Kansas City Major event, eUnited finished in fourth place. Ganza himself was further selected as a contender for the tournament’s all-star game, on the team captained by Tommy “Lucid” Wilson. (They won.)
“My gun keeps fucking jamming, the movement is wonky, I can’t turn speed lines off. Who the fuck approved this update lmao,” he tweeted on Wednesday, a day after the season two update rolled out. “My lord. I love the game but this has to be the worst update yet. Removing things nobody asked to be removed, adding things nobody asked to be in. This is just perplexing at this point. I truly cannot defend 343 on this one this is just a fat fucking L.”
Many of Ganza’s other statements—and interactions with other, non-pro players on social media—from Wednesday struck a similar tone.
“Being fined Kekw [sic]. I’d like to take this moment to apologize,” Ganza tweeted on Thursday. “To absolutely nobody. I stand by everything I’ve said.”
It’s not clear which specific statement triggered the fine or why he’s the only pro Halo player to receive an official penalty in the wake of season two’s rocky rollout, given that he’s far from the only pro to speak out against the changes. Representatives for 343 Industries declined to comment for this story.
“He believes it’s because of the criticism of the game, but it’s not clear to him exactly the tweet or the comment or the specific incident,” Nate Drexler, an attorney with Gallo Vitucci Klar, LLP, and a representative for Ganza, told Kotaku in a phone interview.
Drexler didn’t say exactly how much the fine was, though he noted that it’s a “comparable” number to what Ganza personally paid out of pocket on HCS Kansas City. (Ganza spent $1,600 to help amateur players attend the event.) Under the code of conduct for HCS, fines for “egregious profanity” range from $1,000 to $2,000.
Over the past few days, the Halo community has been split on whether or not a fine is a fair punishment. The folks at HaloHub, a community-run site that focuses on Halo news and player statistics, acknowledged that Ganza used some “choice words” but said that 343 handing out the fine was a “bad look.”
Those remarks set off a social media debate in the comments. On the one hand, you have people who say Ganza is part of a professional organization and is therefore beholden to the rules of said organization. Plus, they say, he signed a contract. Rules are rules. If IRL pro athletes have to follow them, pro esports athletes do, too. On the other hand, though, you’ll find people saying the paperwork can go to hell. If a studio needs to hide behind a contract to protect itself against criticism from its most public-facing figures, maybe there are other things (aka, the design decisions) that merit wider scrutiny.
The pro community has largely stood behind Ganza.
“On a real note, nothing but respect for helping so many get to the event. No idea what the fine was for but hope it wasn’t too heavy,” Paul “Snakebite” Duarte, a member of Halo esports team Sentinels, tweeted. Emil Ekman, a pro player with European team Frostbite, called his actions “heroic.” Here’s another tweet, from eUnited’s Jen “Echidna” Hal, that made me laugh: a meme with Ganza photoshopped into Skyrim alongside a dialogue tree with three options, one of which reads, “Fine (pickpocket level 20).”
“Tyler is a passionate and emotional person [who’s] been playing this game for his entire life. He wants to be the best at it,” Drexler said. “Tyler made clear that he wasn’t going to apologize for his statements, and he still stands by that. His statements, whether in jest or total seriousness, reflect his desire to have a game that is not broken and ready for professionals to play…When he plays a game that’s not where it should be, he feels strongly [that] he should voice his opinion on that.”