The Underworld of Esports
Gamers, in the past 5 years, esports has grown significantly. Small-scale competitions have now evolved to huge, televised events that are celebrated across the world. Most of us watch esport tournaments to cheer on our favourite teams who battle it out for the championship, with cash and in-kind prizes value in the millions. It’s no wonder that viewership has hit more than 205 million worldwide.
However, esports is not as glamorous as it seems. Before we delve deeper into what’d I call, the underworld of esports and gaming, we invited Andi from Esports Asia TV to tell us more about the esports community and why we should pay attention to esports.
Below are just three characteristics that are clear indicators that esports and gaming have turned into something forbidden, disquieting and ominous.
1. An Uneven Playing Field
Games are for everyone. However, some women and minority groups may disagree. In one instance, The International Esports Federation once prohibited women from taking part in a strategy-based tournament, Hearthstone. This includes high-profile and popular games like Overwatch. “Geguri”, a female Korean Overwatch player, was falsely accused for hacking because no one believed that she had the ability to be good at the game.
Games allow players to hide behind their screens and thus, to spew all sorts of slurs just to annoy, frustrate and discriminate against other players. Such is the case of Hearthstone player, “TerrenceM”, who had received many racial insults for the colour of his skin as the tournament he participated in was streamed on Twitch. Unfortunately, the risk of online bullying is real and even darker in the gaming world.
2. Playing Cheating to Win
Hackers are annoying. All gamers know it. They disrupt the game and yet, they get the best rewards. In Overwatch, "Sado" was arrested for boosting (a scenario where a pro gaming player is paid to level up another person's character). Shockingly, it is estimated that boosters can earn up to USD$3,000 a month just from boosting. The good news is that countries are beginning to take notice of this disruption and are enacting change. In South Korea, game boosting has now become a crime and those who are caught could go to jail. With esports offering lucrative opportunities, millions of player aspire to reach the top ranks, which can tempt players to inflate their accounts so that they can qualify and gain rewards.
Not only do players cheat online, but offline as well. Traditional athletes are not the only ones using performance-enhancing drugs. In an interview with a professional Counter-Strike player, "SEMPHIS" admitted that his team used Adderall, a stimulant that allowed them to play for longer periods of time. In that interview, "SEMPHIS" admitted to his fans that "that's how you get good".
3. You Just Got Bamboozled
Money is without a doubt, a great motivator to commit dishonourable acts within esports. In 2012, top StarCraft players were bribed by a gambling website to throw (a gaming term that means to lose deliberately) official matches to manipulate bets. A similar case happened in 2015 in which a former world gaming champion, Life, allegedly threw a match for a payment of 70 million South Korean won. With a huge sum like that, anyone could be tempted to throw a measly match. With the popularity of esports and gaming rising at an alarming rate, we could be seeing more of such cases in the future.
However, hope is not lost. Research has shown that esports and gaming brings forth many benefits. Like most sports and sporting events, gaming and esports transcends age and culture. It seeks to encourage cohesion and integration between players to overcome the difficulty that the game presents. Many have found their community through gaming and that helps them through personal challenges as well.
Personally, I’ve met some of my closest friends through gaming. I met Team Winter 3 years ago and since then, we have hosted get-togethers to not only game, but also to catch up on each other's lives. The group picture here was taken during our Christmas gathering last year.
Is It Game Over?
The spirit of esports and gaming should not be forgotten. Gamers, we compete against one another to hone our skills and we strive to win out of pure enjoyment of the game. As esports becomes more and more commercialised, it can become more corrupted without regulation. The good news is that organisations such as the Esports Integrity Coalition (ESIC) and World Esports Association (WESA) have started to implement measures to regulate and improve esports and its community. It remains to be seen if these measure will be truly effective. What’s more important is that gamers take up more responsibility in deciding which path esports takes. Keep the competitive spirit, inclusive sportsmanship and ethical gameplay - together, we can build a great esports community.