The world of eSports is no stranger to controversy. From questions of whether or not it should be considered a form of sport to the possible introduction of scholarships, the competitive scene is representative of the ever-evolving video game medium. In the latest slight against its image, a number of professional StarCraft 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive players have been banned from competitive play.
With the StarCraft 2 Fragbite Masters Season 3 tournament well underway, the first high-profile ban occurred this past Friday during one of the event's qualifying matches. Professional player Mihaylo Hayda was met with a disqualification from the tournament after Tweeting that he would "rape" his upcoming opponent, referring to competitor Madeleine Leander.
Following the recent instance of Paranautical Activity developer Mike Maulbeck stating over Twitterthat he would "kill Gabe Newell," this represents yet another case study in the necessity to carefully police oneself on social media. A single statement can undo one's success and in this case will likely follow Hayda for the remainder of his career. He has since apologized but nonetheless, this stands as another instance of misogynist statements permeating eSports culture.
It's unfortunate that this is still an issue that continues to present itself, but it's encouraging to see that the event organizers promptly dealt with the situation by removing Hayda and requiring him to apologize. In the end, this only serves to add fuel to the fire that has been damaging the industry over the past few months. The disciplinary action helps in holding perpetrators responsible, but a level of self-restraint will also need to be practiced if things are to get better.
Turning to Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, the issue in turn becomes one of hacking. Earlier this week, three players - Hovik "KQLY" Tovmassian, Simon "smn" Beck, and Gordon "Sf" Giry - found themselves on the receiving end of in-game VAC bans following their use of third-party software for the purpose of cheating. This all comes just days before the kickoff of DreamHack Winter 2014 which will see CS:GO taking the event's spotlight.
As arguably the most recognizable name among the bans, KQLY announced on his Facebook page (translated from French) that he had been using the software in question for seven days. He states that the choice was his own and that it was unfair to leave his team in this situation, but the damage has evidently been done as team Titan have been disqualified from the upcoming tournament.
In a video posted by eSports commentator Duncan "Thooorin" Shields, an explanation of the hacks in question is provided in addition to a plea to put an end to the "cheating witch-hunt." He claims that these hacks do not "have anything visible on the screen. The only way you’d know if someone did it is if you caught them at the point they installed it on that machine and activated it.” With this being the case, it bring to light the uncomfortable idea that these nigh-undetectable hacks could be commonplace within the competitive scene.
If a recent stream featuring Simon Beck speaking out about his ban is any indication, between 30 and 40 per cent of the professional scene uses hacks of some sort. This is in no way to be taken as fact, but the accusation is a bold one nonetheless. If hacking is something that is so prevalent within the competitive scene, it could seriously damage the reputation that fans, participants and promoters have been working so hard to cultivate for eSports. Did we mention that there are odds and gambling in eSports as well? That's going to make the issue even bigger.
Controversy or not, eSports clearly has a great amount of momentum behind it. With Blizzard planning to integrate its culture into World of Warcraft and cracking down on bots in Hearthstone, it's evident that despite some high-profile instances of cheating, companies like Blizzard are still highly committed to ensuring that the playing field is fair for all players.
Do you feel that these recent bans are at all indicative of a serious issue within eSports? What do you think can be done to combat future instances of these issues?
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