ESIC's position paper on cheating demands that the esports industry set aside its biases
Esports Betting Report

Not So Fast: Esports Integrity Coalition Rejects Blanket Ban Approach To Cheating

Blanket ban esports
The Esports Integrity Coalition has issued a position paper on esports cheating. The paper rejects a “one-size-fits-all” approach, arguing that each case must be judged on its merits.

ESIC’s paper is available here.

The paper came as a response to ESL’s recent change of policy regarding VAC bans in CS:GO. VAC is Valve’s proprietary anti-cheating technology.

ESL’s policy has been to impose a two-year competition ban on all players caught cheating.

ESL, which is a member of ESIC, announced that it was standardizing the two-year ban for cheating. But it made no mention of its approach to match fixing:

“This policy of a two year ban was also recently adopted by ESEA, which had previously used only 1 year ban. All of these changes are meant to create consistency for all future bans across all platforms throughout CSGO. So that VAC bans can also be included in this consistent overall framework, we therefore recently updated our competitive rulebook to bring our treatment of them in line with these policies.”

Not surprisingly, a Twitter storm ensued. Players strongly opposed people who had been caught cheating as recently as two years ago being allowed to play in ESL competitions.

From the FaZe Clan, player Karrigan made his displeasure clear:

His team mate kioShiMa put his tongue firmly in his cheek in replying:

ESIC more soberly said that ESL’s position “gives rise to a number of serious issues.”

The industry needs a common position on integrity

ESIC says that focusing on any one policy is missing the more important point that “the esports industry is inconsistent and uncoordinated across the board on the issue of cheating.”

In setting out its position as the starting point for a wider dialogue, ESIC wants to begin the process of standardizing the industry’s response to breaches of integrity.

ESIC identifies six broad areas where a common approach is required:

  • Cheating
  • Match-fixing
  • Consistency
  • Procedure
  • Reasonable sanctions
  • Appeals

Cheating

In its approach to cheating, ESIC wants a just response that reflects the seriousness of each case:

“We would hope that it is accepted that a 15 year old cheating with a free download aimbot is not guilty of as serious an offence as a seasoned pro winning prize money matches using cheat software and they do not deserve the same punishment.”

ESIC argues that each case must therefore be judged on its own merits. The response should be proportional.

Match-fixing

ESIC agrees with the approach used in traditional sports. There, match-fixing is considered to be a more heinous offense than cheating.

Although unstated in the paper, match-fixing is often allied to some form of money-making opportunity, typically involving esports betting.

Match-fixing has the potential to affect many more people than a simple case of cheating. And it would involve much larger sums of money.

On this issue, ESIC defends ESL’s approach:

“Match-fixing, on the other hand, usually results in longer bans – 5 years and upwards even for first offences and, in a number of cases, jail time and criminal records. Consequently, the criticism levelled at ESL in particular in this regard was not fair when viewed against what happens in traditional sports.”

Consistency

On the issue of consistency, ESIC displays unexpected vehemence. It says that the VAC ban may be consistent but it is not fair. ESIC describes the resulting situation in extremely negative terms:

“It is confusing, inefficient, inherently unfair and will lead to bad outcomes and controversy (as has already happened).”

Even though Valve is an individual company, ESIC argues that a coordinated response is necessary regardless of the differences of opinion within the industry:

“Valve is the obvious vehicle for facilitating this, but the industry stakeholders need to get past their personal biases, entrenched positions and preconceptions.”

There is a strong element of “it’s time to bang heads together to get a solution” in ESIC’s tone and approach. Whether it will work or not is debatable. But it is surely time for the industry to follow ESIC’s advice.

Failure to agree leaves esports companies open to reputational risk, which at this stage of the industry’s development is not just a financial risk, it is an existential risk.

Procedure

ESIC says that current procedures have serious problems and can appear “arbitrary and inconsistent.”

Although recognizing that the power to resolve problems lies with game developers, ESIC puts itself forward as an independent potential provider of process:

“Realistically, only Valve can force this agenda in CS:GO (and DOTA2), but ESIC is best placed to provide it through the ESIC Programme where we already have clear rules, a clear and fair procedure and an independent disciplinary panel to make fair, unbiased decisions and provide an appeal mechanism.”

Reasonable sanctions

The ESIC recognizes the anger expressed by the Twitterati as being an important consideration that wiser heads must not ignore.

ESIC explains that life bans in traditional sports are reserved for the most serious or repeat offenses being seen as “the absolute limit of acceptable and then only for the very worst offences.”

However, ESIC adds:

“Having said that, if the CS:GO community believes that a person who cheats should never play CS:GO again, then that needs to be taken into account.”

Such an approach may sound good to the player community. But in practice, there will inevitably be cases where a life-time ban is clearly an egregious punishment.

The same community which currently demands the harshest punishments will soon be arguing that the rules are despotic.

Appeals

ESIC advocates for players to have the right to present their defense. They should also be able to appeal a disciplinary decision at least once.

“Anything less undermines the integrity and appeal of esports and makes us, as an industry and community, look unprofessional and immature and undermines any effort to be considered anything other than a fringe activity despite the amazing support, passion, revenue and loyalty we engender.

Moving in the right direction slowly

ESIC is now preparing a questionnaire, with input from Valve. It will provide that to a wide group of stakeholders.

The consultative process is arduous, slow and subject to the caprice of Valve, at least in regards to CS:GO.

Nonetheless this is an essential process if the world of esports is to achieve the same levels of integrity and discipline that have brought traditional sports such respect.

ESIC is a relatively new organization. It is sticking its nose into business which many tournament organizers and game developers consider to be their own proprietary domain.

In other words, it is doing exactly what its founders intended it to do.

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Joss Wood
- Former editor of Poker Industry Pro, gambling industry expert focused on legal online gambling and sports betting issues. For ESBR, Joss spotlights the intersection of the burgeoning esports industry with that of gambling.