By Richard Wee, Lesley Lim, Bryan Boo and Vincent Lim
In the previous article, we introduced edoping and looked at a few examples of it. For ease of reference, edoping can essentially be summed up as the manipulation of programs or softwares to give a player an advantage over the opponent. It is without doubt that this bane is a real threat to esports as this affects fair play and the true competitive spirit of the sport, which in turn will slowly but surely erode its very nature.
In this article, we explore the current efforts in combatting edoping, give our opinions, and proffer suggestions to tackle this menace of a problem.
Most game developers, in recognising the importance of fair play, have in place some form of mechanism to detect cheating. For example, Valve, the company behind Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Dota 2, has in place “Valve Anti Cheat” (abbreviated ‘VAC’) that detects any modification done to the game’s files. Riot, the developers of the popular game League of Legends, reportedly employs an anti-cheat team who constantly research, analyse, and monitor the game for cheating and take appropriate actions. Blizzard, the company behind popular titles like Starcraft 2, Overwatch, and Hearthstone, seems to also have an anti-cheating utility that analyses the user’s computer for any modification or hacks.
However, these mechanisms are not foolproof. There are ways that cheating can be undetected. For example, scripting (standing instructions to the computer to automatically execute an action or a series of actions upon the occurrence of a certain incident), which does not require any modification to the program itself, will not be detected by these anti-cheats. To make things even more difficult, some players are so skilled that their reaction rival that of the use of scripts.
There might also be some cheating programs that fly under the radar undetected by these mechanisms. Earlier this year, the Esports Integrity Coalition (ESIC) banned Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (abbreviated ‘CS:GO’) player Conner ‘zonC’ Huglin from all esports for 2 years for using a cheat undetectable by VAC. While the developers are doing their very best to detect and nip the problem in the bud, there will be some that go undetected like that used by zonC.
Efforts at tournaments
Tournaments try to create a level playing field by inviting players from different countries that qualify for their main event to a single location where they provide computers or consoles for the matches. This way, they are in control of what goes into the gaming system. However, computers require peripherals such as a keyboard and mouse. It must be noted that no two peripherals are the same. The next time you take a walk and pass by a computer shop, walk in and try touching 2 different gaming keyboards. They will feel very different. Players are usually so used to their gears that it will be unfair to force them to use the provided peripherals and not being able to play at their best.
For this reason, the use of personal peripherals are usually allowed. However, some of these peripherals can be programmed to give an advantage. To prevent this, some organisers require players to surrender their peripherals before the event for checks to be done to ensure on the peripherals. Sadly, not all tournaments have this requirement.
Independent Associations and Organisations
Recently, there have been some stakeholders coming together to establish associations and coalitions for the sole purpose of ethics and integrity in esports. One such organisation is the ESIC, whose members include major esports organisations like ESL and Dreamhack. ESIC has been relentless in their efforts to preserve the integrity of the sport through research, surveys, and discussions with the various stakeholders in the industry.
The ESIC also investigates allegations of cheating and mete out punishments where appropriate. About 2 months ago, Joao Paulo de Araujo, who also goes by his gaming moniker, “ecstasy”, was banned for 2 years after he admitted to cheating using a DDoS attack.
Unfortunately, this can only really be enforced among member organisations. For example, Valve, at one point in time, gave 6 professional CS:GO players a lifetime ban. However, following a rule change by the ESIC, the Coalition lifted their ban on the players. Despite that, Valve’s ban is still valid, resulting in two different stands on the matter – some organisers like ESL allow the players to compete whereas others continue to uphold Valve’s lifetime bans.
Admittedly, the sanctions thus employed, like bans and fines, are appropriate and should be able to curb the problem of edoping. However, as athletes in esports play in anonymity behind the screen and under a gaming moniker, they can easily create a new account under a different alias and compete in online tournaments where it will be difficult to identify the true identity behind the name.
There is also the issue of the inconsistent implementation of the punishments. We proffer that the only way to solve this is to have a single global regulatory body, just like FIFA for football. The closest to a global regulating body in esports is the International Esports Federation, which to date is still not recognised as a regulatory body. It does not set rules nor sanctions against players or organisations. It is more of a summit where nations and stakeholders come together to discuss about issues and push for esports to be recognised as a proper sport globally.
This regulatory body that we are proffering needs to be able to establish general rules and regulations as well as the code of conduct for not only the athletes but also for teams, organisations, and tournament organisers. This will not only ensure consistency in rules and code of conducts across different games, but also in the enforcement of sanctions being meted out. Through this also, there will be a better quality of tournaments and competitive play.
Although it is understandable that this is difficult to achieve as the individual stakeholders all protect their own interests, it is absolutely vital for the sustenance and growth of this industry that such a global regulatory body be formed. Bodies like the ESIC have given us that glimmer of hope that this is possible. We reckon that without such a governing body, esports will eventually come to a point where it peaks and then falls off, with issues like edoping slowly corroding its identity and integrity.
* Look out for our next article where, following recent developments in esports, we unravel the intricacies and importance of esports contracts.