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------------------------------------------------28 November 2014


Issues in Esports
Video games are starting to become quite the trending topic. The increasing number of
players and fans of esports combined with people who simply tag along to watch for the
excitement, have given exponential growth to the amount of publicity that esports is getting. An
online newspaper, The Arbiter notes that in 2011, the World Championships for League of
Legends had 1.6 million concurrent viewers, but later in 2013, that number had increased
twentyfold when the World Championships had peaked at having about 32 million viewers
(Kirkham).
Competitive gaming is becoming more and more common. Electronic sports, or esports
for short, is a field that has grown immensely over the past few years. These growths in esports
have given birth to both good things, and to some unfairness which can be seen by gamers and
non-gamers alike. Helped by the internet and video streaming technologies, games can be played
or watched from nearly anywhere in the world. Even to someone without the time to play games
themselves, advancements like the video streaming service Twitch.tv can allow someone to be
engaged in competitive gaming without needing as much free time or to learn the game itself.
The New York Times reports that Twitchs peak viewership now rivals the average prime-time
viewers of some cable networks. (Aisch). Even people who typically would not play these
games themselves can find themselves watching one of the many tournament streams for
different games available. Alongside all of these good factors in esports that come with this

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growth, comes some issues regarding fairness. There are three main issues that will be addressed
here which involve fairness in the community in and around esports
A seemingly silly issue that can happen is there being too many tournaments, with too
little teams or players. Esports, like any competition, is about being the best, but not even the
best players in the world can be at two places at once, or have more than 24 hours in one day. An
overabundance of tournaments for the same game can cause some players to be exhausted, or to
just not be able to make it to the tournament schedule-wise.
A large amount of issues in the esports scene come from poor interactions between the
players/teams and their sponsor or a tournament organizer. Miscommunications, or in some
extreme cases, fraud can be very damaging to the esports scene and especially so to the players
or organizations involved. A complication in any part of that chain, can cause unfairness for
almost all of the involved parties, but will most likely trickle down the line and hurt the players
involved.
A final aspect to look at is ensuring fairness across all of the different aspects of gaming.
Esports is becoming a global phenomenon, meaning that esports is starting to deal with people
and teams from all over the world, and making sure that chances are fair for everyone competing.
Fairness has many aspects in competition, such as a tournaments rules, the format or way things
are executed, and in some cases even dealing with cheating.
Sometimes having too many tournaments can be an issue. Many competitions focus on
being the best team/players in a certain region, or even the world, due to the internet making
connecting with people easier, and because esports growing all around the world. The issue with
that is that if two separate organizations are having a tournament at the same time, it may be
tough for all of the involved teams to make it to each match they are required to play. Scheduling

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conflicts, or even just playing too long, can cause a team to lose due to a lack of concentration, or
simply need to forfeit. When those circumstances occur, it may seem rather unfair to the
involved people. Existing remedies to the situation is flexibility and good communication
between tournament organizers, along with the internet allowing some things to be done almost
instantly no matter where a person is. These work to an extent to keep things fair, but many
tournaments have their playoffs and finals as an in-person or LAN event. It would be nearly
impossible for a team to play at their best on opposite sides of the world, after just travelling
there. A recent example of too many tournaments were when two Chinese Dota 2 teams decided
to drop out of a large tournament they were invited to. In an interview with Red Bull, the
commentator David GoDz Parker said, Having played 100 professional matches in the 90
days post-International, [team Vici Gaming] in particular were feeling the burn. Not wanting to
compromise their performance, both teams cancelled their spots to appear in Kiev at the
[Starladder Season 10 finals].(Higgins).
With so many people playing these games both recreationally and with competition in
mind, it might seem odd that there is a lack of players at all. The main issue is not simply a lack
of people to play the game, but a lack of highly-skilled teams who are prepared to play the best
in the world. There are many players for each game played as an esport, but there is a large gap
in skill between even the top 10% of players and top 1% or 0.1%. Even if a player is at the top
0.1% in skill, there are still many other aspects that would put them lower than already
established teams and players, such as coordination within the team, or knowing strategies and
current meta-game (meta-game meaning things that are already proven to be successful
competitively, and therefore seen more often in competition).

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Looking at the issue logically, the issue of too many tournaments and not enough players,
can be solved in one of two ways: more players, or less tournaments. Less tournaments as a
whole does seem to be the easier solution, but that would require every tournament organizer to
compromise on when and in what order tournaments would be held. As previously established,
the issue is not simply a lack of players, but a lack of people playing together with potential to
play against the best in the world. One way to fix this, which should be the most beneficial
overall, would be for sponsors and team organizations to put more time and effort into the semiprofessional scene, or just look for highly-skilled players who are without a team. Sponsors and
team organizations being involved with these players would allow them to grow more, to learn to
communicate with teammates, and to be able to become better and at the same caliber as these
top tier teams. One team label that has been paying attention to players who are not quite
professionals is Team eHug. Although they have not had an extreme amount of success, Team
eHug has made their way into the North American Dota 2 scene as a pretty common name. They
have sponsored teams who are not always top tier, but saw potential and gave their support to
those players.
The second issue addressed here is fairness in the way players and sponsors interact and
sometimes miscommunicate. One large part of the miscommunication issue involves money
problems, or failure to pay the involved parties. Typically, tournament organizers or a team
sponsor pay the teams organization, and the team organization pays their players. This is an
immediate issue to anyone who was expecting payment, and an even larger issue to the party that
did not pay up. If a team was refusing to pay its players, people would not be supportive of the
team, and the players might leave. If a sponsor or tournament organizer did the same, it would
make other organizations not want to be involved with them. An instance of a sponsor not paying

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a team happened recently when the Starcraft 2 label Prime had stopped receiving payments
from their sponsor, Thermaltake. The peripheral company, Thermaltake was in a contract with
Prime for around two years before the Thermaltake decided to stop paying the esports clan.
According to an article on the esports website, onGamers, [Thermaltake] privately agrees that
Prime has done no wrong, they will still not pay due to the company believing that the exposure
generated by Prime was inadequate for the payment. (Kulasingham). Despite that Thermaltake
felt like the amount of advertising that Prime provided was not proportional to the payment, they
were still in a contract and should have continued their obligation. Many people agreed that
Thermaltake was out of line by refusing to pay Prime, and that it was completely unfair for them
to violate their contract. Situations like those are harmful to the entire esports community, in
addition to being particularly bad to the players and other parties involved.
If the management of the organizations did not make these issues or miscommunications,
there would be no issues here. But everyone is human, and these problems can still happen. Even
if the intentional harm and maliciousness could be avoided, there would still be problems that
would happen by accident. Even when an accident happens, it can cause problems and make one
of the groups feel like they were treated unfairly. There needs to be more done to resolve these
issues.
A suggestion that is likely better would be to form a union-like group of people in the
esports community who have the power to deal with these kinds of issues. There are many
different personalities involved in the esports community: players or teams, sponsors or affiliate
companies, game casters or analysts, and many more people involved in esports. A group of
various people with different jobs and perspectives with esports would be able to help resolve

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issues between the various parties, and to guide people through any miscommunications that may
happen.
Keeping things fair in competitive gaming is also an issue. There are a ton of variables in
esports, and many more on specific situations. Again, the internet does solve a few of the issues,
but it can also complicate some things. In playing games online, things like determining what
time to play based off of time zones, or making decisions on which server to use to make
gameplay as even for both parties can be complex. The choice of server that the players use for
the game can change quite a bit of it, especially if the teams are located far away from each
other. The further one is from the server their inputs are being sent to, the longer it takes for
those to be recognized. Usually, the time amounts to one-tenth of a second or less, but in many
real-time strategy or first-person shooter games, that tenth of a second can be the difference
between winning and losing. If one side has more time to react to a situation than the other team,
they are clearly at an advantage, which does not make for fair and even competition. For the
most part, the organizers of tournaments or the players in them are pretty good about keeping
these things fair. On occasion though, there are sometimes complications or controversy, and
there needs to be a way to deal with those.
In addition to keeping the conditions of play fair, there are other issues in the terms of
fairness that can arise in esports. Despite that there are many precautions taken when the games
are produced, on a rare occasion, cheating still happens. The Daily Dot noted in one of their
esports columns that in October, right in the middle of a tournament match for the popular firstperson shooter game Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, a player was disconnected from the
match by the games internal anti-cheat system. After that happened, the match was stopped and
the team with the suspected cheating player was suspended until they were dealt with (Lingle).

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Another form of cheating known as match fixing has also happened in various esports. Match
fixing in this context usually is when a team or group of people have a match or game end with a
pre-planned team winning, the motive behind this is often winning money from gambling. In
mid-2013, a well-known, Russian Dota 2 player, Alexei "Solo" Berezin was accused of, and
found guilty to placing a bet that his own team would lose a game. He had placed a $100 bet on
the opposing team, and after winning the bet, he received $322. As mentioned on his Liquipedia
biography, this was one of the most widely-recognized incidents of match fixing and throwing a
game (intentionally tried to lose), and even now if a questionable play happens during a match,
casters and fans alike will jokingly call it a 322 in reference to Solos bet winnings. After it
had been found out that he had thrown the game, he was kicked off of the team, and banned for
life from competing in that tournament. The other players on his team were banned from the
tournament for three years, simply for involvement (Liquipedia).
Fairness, in regards to cheating can be a big controversy when it happens. An issue
regarding cheating, is that there are no official rules on what the outcome or consequence is.
Each tournament or organization can have its own opinion on what is allowed and what is not.
An article written by Dan Burk mentions this in saying, Formal rules for play are necessarily
incomplete, and always require filling in by means of custom, agreement, or norms such as
sportsmanship and fairness. (Burk). So is a lifetime ban a just punishment for intentionally
losing a single match? What should happen if the game says a player is cheating, and there is no
more evidence yet? These things need to be determined, and they should be standardized as
much as possible. The more standard or uniform the punishments for something are, the more
likely it is they will be taken seriously. The lifetime ban for Dota 2 player Solo was later
reduced to one year, and the bans for his teammates were removed entirely after an apology

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statement from their organization was released according to a writer for Gosugamers (Khor). The
lack of consistency is a problem, and if a similar event happens again, the people involved may
expect their penalty to be lowered soon after as well. A way to standardize penalties for conflicts
such as cheating would be to have a group of people to set rules on this. Again, the best solution
here is to have a board or union of people in the community decide what should happen, and then
for organizations to follow those predetermined rules. An esports management board would be
able to see things from all of the perspectives needed, such as: the tournament organizer, the
player accused, the players possibly involved, and the teams organization. Having a mixture of
opinions and being able to agree on decisions would be extremely beneficial for resolving issues
in the esports community.
Despite many things going well for the esports scene and its growth, these are a few of
the issues that need to be addressed. Many issues, including the two larger ones presented here
can be solved by allowing some kind of a management board to analyze the situation and decide
what the best outcome is. Boards such as these already exist for other things in the world such as
governments and corporations, and there would there be no issue for having one for professional
gamers. South Korea already has an association working together to ensure fairness in their
esports scene, titled KeSPA. As long as balance between in authority is made fair, the board and
any party it interacts with should have a fair outcome, which will benefit the entire esports
community. With a scope as large as the esports scene has, there will always be inconsistencies
that need to be solved fairly. Supporting things being done in a uniform and fair way would be a
great start to solving a majority of issues that occur in the competitive gaming world.
The first issue, of having too many tournaments and not high-level players can partially
be remedied with involvement of a board of esports enthusiasts, but there are other things that

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should be done. The players in semi-professional scenes for most esports games often do have
what it takes to play with the best. The issue getting to that point is the lack of stability that those
people have. For now, only some of the best players in the world get big sponsors that pay them
full time salaries, which means people that need a small push more to be at that level are required
to balance all of their life with trying to improve their potential gaming career. If sponsors were
to do more for the semi-professional players, they would be able to make that transition into
being good enough for these top-level tournaments, and put less worry over balancing their job
or education with trying to get better at their passion.
Most people, are not able to make either of these two decisions, and many more people
pay minimal attention to esports. Anyone who does not pay attention to esports, should certainly
give it some thought, the world is advancing in every way, and professional gaming is just one of
those ways. Being educated on at least some of the basics might prove useful in the future, or
maybe it will just be for some fun. People who are fans or involved in esports, and would like to
see these issues being solved, should try their best to support fairness and equality in the esports
scene when they can. A simple way to do that would be to support the players, and to pay
attention to the players who are not quite yet at the professional level, because with a little help
they soon could be.

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Works Cited
Kirkham, Justin. "LoL Season 4 Championships Entice Casual, Hardcore Viewers." The Arbiter
Online. N.p., 23 Oct. 2014. Web. 15 Nov. 2014.
Aisch, Gregor, and Tom Giratikanon. "Charting the Rise of Twitch." The New York Times. The
New York Times, 25 Aug. 2014. Web. 28 Nov. 2014.
Higgins, Chris. "Professional Dota 2 Is Growing up." Professional Dota 2 Is Growing up. Red
Bull, 3 Nov. 2014. Web. 15 Nov. 2014.
"Team EHug." Team EHug. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2014.
Kulasingham, Nilu. "Prime Alleges That Tt-esports Has Not Paid Them for 4 Months."
OnGamers. N.p., 29 July 2014. Web. 10 Nov. 2014.
Lingle, Samuel. "Pro Player VAC Banned in Middle of Counter-Strike Match." The Daily Dot.
N.p., 9 Oct. 2014. Web. 15 Nov. 2014.
"Player: Solo." Liquipedia Dota 2. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2014.
Khor, Eric. "Solo's Starladder Ban Reduced To One Year." GosuGamers. N.p., June 2013. Web.
15 Nov. 2014.
Burk, Dan. 2013. Owning e-Sports: Proprietary Rights in Professional Computer Gaming.
University of Pennsylvania Law Review, Vol 161, pp-1535-1578.