Tobold's Blog
Thursday, April 09, 2015
 
eSports on steroids

Last year there were some big discussions about the role of video game journalism, with some people demanding that video game journalists should behave more like regular investigative journalists and less like mouthpieces of the industry. Well, sometimes investigative video game journalism happens, but I doubt that gamers will be happy with the result: Eurogamer has an excellent investigative article, well researched and with sources and all, about the use of performance enhancing drugs in eSports.

Of course the steroids in the title are just a figure of speech. Steroids stimulate muscle growth, and that tends to be not much of a help for a video game. But there are other drugs, for example medication for attention deficit disorder, that makes you more concentrated and increases your reaction time. Obviously that is a big help in certain competitive video games. And now that between Twitch and the first eSports events being shown on ESPN the video game tournament is becoming more prominent and people can earn thousands of dollars by performing well, it isn't surprising that some people use those performance enhancing drugs. Organizers turn a blind eye because they don't want eSports to be connected with doping, and there are no drug tests done at these events.

Allegations of drug use aren't new. But sooner or later we will come to the point where either eSports stops growing, or it will have to deal with these issues in order to be taken seriously. At some point some player will become seriously ill or die from side effects of some drug he took in order to improve his performance, or some winner will be proven to have been doped, and there will be a huge scandal. It often takes a Lance Armstrong scandal to really clean up a sport.

As an average gamer with no competitive ambitions I am frequently puzzled by the obsession some people have with performance in video games. I can understand the problematic of raiding, where your success depends on the performance of others, and if you are in a group with underperformers you waste your time and don't get any shiny epics. But the culture of performance goes much further than that, and even extends to single-player games. I don't understand why I should care at what difficulty level you play some single-player game. I'd recommend choosing the level that is most fun to you, and not trying to prove something by playing at a level that is more frustrating than entertaining.

What I understand even less is why some people cheat or "game the system" in multiplayer games. That goes from using aim bot software to manipulating your rating in a ladder-style match-making in order to be able to crush newbies, all of which are common and well-document practices. And now we can add drug use to that list. I am not convinced that it is *only* people playing for big prizes in tournaments that would consider taking an ADD drugs to play better. What satisfaction can you get out of a win if you know that you cheated to get there?

Comments:
Cheaters are external focused people. They know they are frauds but they don't care, since other people consider them winners.
 
"But sooner or later we will come to the point where either eSports stops growing, or it will have to deal with these issues in order to be taken seriously. At some point some player will become seriously ill or die from side effects of some drug he took in order to improve his performance, or some winner will be proven to have been doped, and there will be a huge scandal. It often takes a Lance Armstrong scandal to really clean up a sport."

First, is cycling still a sport? Since Lance Armstrong I haven't heard a single thing about it in the US. So that 'clean up' is something I bet they wish they could take back. At least golf got that right with Tiger.

During the 'steroid era' of baseball, rating where at their highest. HGH is rampant and borderline accepted in lots of sports, especially the NFL (the clear #1 sport in the US that generates silly profits). Everyone dopes in the Olympics. Etc etc.

The honest truth is people watch sports to be entertained, and you are more entertained when you see exceptional performances than not. People love seeing records broken, right? PEDs make that more possible, or allow an athlete to recover faster. Again, rating don't go up when the star is out due to injury, and everyone knows this.

Athletes are modern day gladiators. With the fame and money comes accepted risk, including possibly dying early if you don't dope correctly or the dice aren't in your favor. Believing that any anti-doping program is anything more than PR is silly, but if it helps someone accept watching then its working just fine.

The only surprising thing here from the article is that anyone is surprised that eSport stars use performance enhancers, and if anything, it further confirms that eSports is growing up and becoming a real thing.
 
Maybe their philosophy is that they are not cheating, just using chemistry to be the best they can! And if there's no rule against it, they might reasonably say "But YOU take coffee!"
 
I can imagine some people also draw a certain satisfaction from the thought "I cheated clever enough that nobody even noticed it".
 
The interesting side-effect of this discussion is what about folks who legitimately take those drugs to address psychological issues? Anxiety disorders, ADHD, so on and so forth. Will they be banned from competing?
 
Are there currently actually any rules against such "doping" in these eSports tournaments? If there aren't, then they're not technically cheating at all.
 
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