In the ever-evolving landscape of esports, the pursuit of victory can sometimes blur the lines between fair play and manipulation. From the emergence of digital doping to the exploitation of game bugs and the unsettling realm of unsportsmanlike behavior, the integrity of competitive gaming is constantly put to the test. In this article, we delve into the distinctions between these contentious issues, highlighting their impact on the esports community and the measures taken to maintain a level playing field.
Digital Doping: Algorithms vs. Integrity
Digital doping, also known as “Robo-doping,” is a term that raises eyebrows within the esports realm. This practice involves the use of algorithms, software, and technological tools to gain an unfair advantage over opponents in virtual sports. This practice involves exploiting algorithms, software, and technological tools to gain an unfair advantage over opponents in virtual sports. While the concept of doping traditionally pertains to the use of prohibited substances or methods to enhance sporting performance, its extension into the digital realm has prompted a reevaluation of the regulatory framework.
One of the most notorious instances of digital doping involved Nikhil “Forsaken” Kumawat during the 2018 eXTREMESLAND Asia Finals in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO). Using an “aimbot” cheat program, Kumawat could see through walls and automatically target adversaries, giving him an undue edge. His attempt to delete the cheat program and conceal his actions only led to more severe consequences. A five-year suspension from competitive play and a tournament ban followed, underscoring the gravity of digital doping’s impact on the credibility of esports competitions.
In accordance with the WADA Code, doping is defined as the presence of a prohibited substance or its metabolites or markers in an athlete’s sample, as well as the use or attempted use by an athlete of a prohibited substance or a prohibited method. Within the specific context of Indonesia’s esports scene, the Esports Federation of Indonesia (“PBESI”) Regulations defines doping as the use of prohibited substances or methods to improve sports performance. This definition aligns with the core principles of the WADA Code while catering to the nuances of esports competition. As demonstrated by the Forsaken case, the application of a prohibited program can result in severe consequences, similar to the use of prohibited substances in traditional sports. The convergence of traditional sports law principles and esports regulations underscores the necessity of a comprehensive approach to combating digital doping as is currently being done by the PBESI.
Bug Exploitation: Unintended Consequences
Bug exploitation is another ethical quagmire that has cast a shadow over the esports landscape. These exploits stem from glitches, vulnerabilities, or unintended features in a game’s code, granting players an unearned competitive advantage. The Valorant community witnessed an example of bug exploitation involving Cypher, a character with an ability called ‘Spycam.’ By manipulating the game’s mechanics, players could transform the remote camera into a makeshift turret, allowing them to eliminate opponents from a safe distance.
Drawing from our law firm’s extensive experience in esports events, it’s evident that esports competitions often employ meticulous technical handbooks. These guides, as demonstrated by events like the SEA Games, serve as comprehensive references for players, outlining the intricate rules, regulations, and protocols governing the event. Such meticulous documentation underscores the seriousness with which esports organizers approach fair play, ensuring that the events transpire on a level playing field.
In this light, the vital matter of preventing bug exploitation warrants significant attention. Organizers should proactively address potential vulnerabilities and unintended features in the game’s code, instituting measures to minimize the likelihood of exploitation. This entails a collaborative effort between game developers, tournament organizers, and players, all of whom share the collective responsibility of upholding the competitive integrity of the sport.
It’s crucial to note that in cases where bug exploitation does occur, the responsibility does not solely rest upon the players. Event organizers should assume a proactive role in preparing for such contingencies, thereby safeguarding the competition’s credibility. A comprehensive strategy that encompasses technical safeguards, player education, and immediate response mechanisms can mitigate the adverse impact of bug exploitation and maintain the event’s integrity. The game developers of competitive games that are considered esports should also ensure as much as possible that there are no bugs to be exploited. To this end, it is essential that there is a collaborative effort to handle this issue.
Unsportsmanlike Behavior: A Dark Stain on Esports
Beyond the confines of code and algorithms lies the realm of unsportsmanlike behavior. This umbrella term encompasses a wide array of actions, ranging from in-game taunting and verbal abuse to out-of-game violations such as intentional disruption of opponents’ gameplay. The esports community has witnessed instances where players exploit pauses or connection issues to gain tactical advantages, throwing sportsmanship to the wind in their pursuit of victory.
These two distinctions of violations are accounted for in Indonesia’s esports law. For in-game violations, the sanctions may depend on the referees overseeing the match, taking into account the specific context and severity of the offense. However, when addressing out-of-game violations of unsportsmanlike behavior, the following sanctions may come into play:
- Light Reprimand: A formal warning issued to the offending player, reminding them of their responsibilities and urging them to adhere to ethical standards.
- Severe Reprimand: A stronger form of reprimand indicating a more serious breach of conduct, often accompanied by an official acknowledgment of the offense.
- Temporary Suspension/Dismissal Membership: A player found guilty of significant unsportsmanlike behavior may face a temporary suspension or, in extreme cases, be dismissed from participating in certain tournaments or the esports organization altogether.
- Revocation of Professional Esports Athlete Status: A severe measure that may be taken in response to repeated or particularly egregious instances of unsportsmanlike conduct, leading to the loss of the individual’s professional athlete status.
- Dismissal from PBESI Membership: PBESI membership may be revoked if a player consistently violates ethics codes, demonstrating a lack of commitment to the values upheld by the organization.
- Fine: In addition to other sanctions, a monetary fine may be imposed on the offender as a form of penalty, aiming to deter future unsportsmanlike behavior.
This understanding of esports law is supported by K-CASE Partner Yudistira Adipratama S.H., LL.M., who is also the Head of Law and Legality at the PBESI and drafted the PBESI Regulations. This underscores the multifaceted approach needed to tackle unsportsmanlike behavior comprehensively. By implementing a range of sanctions tailored to the severity of the offense, esports organizations can promote a culture of accountability, integrity, and respect. Ultimately, this approach not only upholds the reputation of esports but also ensures a fair and enjoyable experience for players and spectators alike.
Upholding the Integrity of Esports
As esports continue to surge in popularity, maintaining a level playing field is paramount. Digital doping, bug exploitation, and unsportsmanlike behavior are challenges that the esports community must collectively address. Stricter regulations, transparent reporting mechanisms, and a commitment to education are essential tools to deter such actions and ensure fair competition. In Indonesia, efforts by the governing body for esports, the Esports Federation of Indonesia, are continually being made to regulate such behavior.
Esports thrive on the dedication and passion of players, teams, and fans. By actively confronting these issues head-on and fostering an environment of integrity and respect, the esports community can safeguard the future of this developing industry.