Investigation carried out by Michał Słowiński, a longtime ESL admin, revealed numerous instances of in game bug being abused by coaches of professional Counter Strike teams. The bug resulted in coaches being able to inform their team about opponent’s movements, due to locking coach camera angle in set position.
As a result of his findings, 3 coaches were banned from the competition – Ricardo „dead” Sinigaglia from MIBR for 6 months, Nicolai „HUNDEN” Petersen from Heroic for 12 months and Aleksandr „MechanoGun” Bogatryev from Hard Legion for 24 months. The period of exclusion is set depending on the frequency of use of the error described above by a given coach. In addition, the penalty extended to their teams, which were removed from the tournaments and had no previous wins.
The above-mentioned penalties were imposed by the Esports Integrity Commission, an entity unrelated to developers, whose flagship task is to define the rules of esports competition and to prevent fraud and abuse in this area. ESIC also announced a further two-month investigation to reveal more people who used the bug in the past.
Meanwhile, the Counter Strike Professional Players Association (CSPPA) issued a statement in which professional players called for a clear and fair procedure of penalizing professional players and coaches for violating the competition rules. In CSPPA’s opinion, such regulations should include the right to be heard, as well as to appeal to an independent body. However, the details of such a solution were not specified.
Why is this procedure crucial to the health of esports ecosystem
Even though interest in esports is on a steady rise, both in viewership and in quantity of entities related to traditional sports and mainstream media looking to invest in it, the control over compliance with the rules of esports games rests with game developers, with the support of the aforementioned ESIC. As a result, people who are outstanding game developers, having no knowledge of law nor experience in applying it, decide on penalties that directly affect the professional life of participants in professional games.
This leads to a situation where the rules of punishing players depend on the personal preferences or animosity of individual people. Anti-toxicity crusade of Jeffrey „Lyte” Linn, a Riot Games employee, can serve as a perfect example of this problem. His bizzare ideas to affect the behavior of League of Legends resulted in severe penalties imposed on Alfonso „Mithy” Rodriguez (NiP), Erlend „Nukeduck” Holm (NiP), and popular streamer Tyler „Tyler1” Steinkamp.
Unclear rules of punishment also apply to decisions made by other developers. Examples of such a situation are the penalties imposed on the players of the American organization iBUYPOWER – Sam „DaZeD” Marine, Braxton „swag” Pierce, Keven „AZK” Lariviere and Joshua „steel” Nissan. Valve banned them for life from participating in developer-sponsored tournaments (Major tournaments with the largest prize pools). It was a penalty for fixing one, insignificant match and getting benefits in the form of game skins. At the same time, their teammate Tyler „Skadoodle” Latham, as pointed out by Duncan Shields, avoided such a draconian penalty as he didn’t have time to collect his „pay” for a fixed match. As a result, just over 3 years later, he won the ELEAGUE Boston Major trophy, while his teammates could not participate even as analysts or observers.
Finnish player Elias „Jamppi” Olkkonen also suffered from the lack of a clear disciplinary procedure. He cannot participate in official Valve tournaments, because the steam account created by him at the age of 13 (as the player himself indicates, he set up this account for a friend for the so-called LAN-Party in 2015) was VAC banned in the game Counter Strike . The developer did not accept the player’s explanations, pointing out that the account was created by him and that was all the proof they needed to ban him. The case was brought to court at the beginning of this year and is awaiting decision.
It’s not just about disciplinary action
There is no doubt that any cheating in prestigious competitions with significant prize pools is a shameful act and should be stigmatized. It is not without reason that the teams whose coaches were found guilty were disqualified from the competition and stripped of the prize pool.
However, not every situation is obvious and transparent, and many a verdict raises a lot of controversy. The world of esports, as well as traditional sport, is full of economic conflicts.
Conflicts of interest
In traditional sports, having many different teams by a sports club is not a big problem, because these teams cannot compete in the same competition. Moreover, there is a clear distinction between the organizers of the games and their participants. It is different, however, where the practice of concentrating ownership of both esports organizations and tournament organizers in which these organizations competed are still a reality.
An example of capital and personal ties between entities formerly belonging to the WESA
Poaching of players was particularly high-profile in the League of Legends world. With the entry of entities with significant capital and Rick Fox’s investment in the Echo Fox team, concerns arose about „poaching” against players from competing teams. At that time, at the persuasion of existing esports organizations, afraid of competing with multi-millionaires like Fox, Riot Games introduced very stringent regulations in this matter. Ultimately, the developer did not find Echo Fox guilty of poaching, but reputational losses were made.
Disputes between players and organizations
Both on the level of unfair contracts, ownership of tournament slots or rights to the player’s image, there are always instances of tension between the organization and the player. Often, these disputes end up in courts (as in Tfue v Faze case), where the results are decided by judges who have no idea about the rules in force in the world of esports or even traditional sports.
The problem with existing entities empowered to assist in these disputes
The above-mentioned problems will certainly not be solved in a situation where there is no legal entity with sufficient competency and authorization to resolve disputes in those areas.
Currently, developers have absolute power over esports based on the games they create. As a result, the disciplinary penalties they impose are usually late, selective or grossly unfair. They also do not have the power to settle disputes of an economic nature (to which they are either party to or are not directly related to them).
Counter Strike Professional Players Association (CSPPA), which in theory is supposed to represent the interests of professional players, focuses rather on conducting commercial activities and has not managed to gain the status of an entity that could be delegated the competence to resolve significant conflicts in the world of esports (both economic and disciplinary).
The Esports Integrity Commission (ESIC) is by far the most competent entity to resolve disputes and disciplinary violations. However, the activities of the commission to date suggest that the entity is moving towards a disciplinary spokesperson rather than an entity tasked with adversarial dispute resolution as part of an arbitration court procedure.
There is no doubt, therefore, that the esports community needs an entity in the shape of the Tribunal Arbitral du Sport / Court of Arbitration for Sport, based in Lausanne. An entity where arbitrators with legal competence and knowledge of the industry could adjudicate in this type of dispute.
It is necessary both in the context of fast, transparent and competent resolution of conflicts between all participants of the esports market, as well as creating the image of esports as a space in which capital can be invested in an organized and safe way. These goals are certainly not fulfilled by the current procedure of resolving these matters.
Therefore, it is crucial that the established arbitration court obtains a mandate from game developers, as it is the only guarantee that its verdicts will be respected by all entities in the industry. However, considering the reluctance of developers to take a position on this subject, most likely it will not be on their initiative, and will require a firm demand from the esports community and the professional players themselves.
Featured image : ESL/HLTV/Dexerto