To understand why I’m writing about corruption in eSports and why I’m so passionate about this topic you need to put yourself in my shoes…
It was 10 years ago when I was playing Halo 2 competitively. During these years I was considered a top player in the Australia/New Zealand community. My biggest achievement was representing New Zealand in the 2005 WCG Grand Finals in Singapore.
Despite being a top player within my region in one of the most popular games in the world at the time, I wasn’t exactly swimming in cash. I was working a part time job scooping ice cream. I used money from my part time job to enter tournaments and the cash and prizes I won didn’t even come close to covering entry fees and travel costs. My setup at home consisted of a 30cm CRT TV and a cheap pair of headphones. I didn’t live in a “gaming house” with my “gaming chair”, the best monitor money could buy and the best internet in the country.
I played in tournaments because I loved competing and I wanted to be the best. It was never about money. If it was I would have quit gaming and worked full time.
Back then streaming wasn’t a thing. Hell, it was hard enough to find a video site that wouldn’t shut down due to the enormous costs in hosting videos. Unfortunately I was never able to make a living playing video games. I couldn’t host a Twitch stream and get thousands in donations every month and sponsors didn’t give a shit about eSports except for a handful of top players in huge tournaments like MLG.
Basically, making a living off games was impossible unless you were the best of the best in America or Europe.
What a difference 10 years makes. Now we have multi-million dollar prizes at tournaments. Games like League of Legends have left Halo in the dust in terms of viewing numbers. Now companies like Intel, Nvidia and Razer sponsor dozens of pro gaming teams.
Of course, not everything is perfect though. Where there is money there is corruption and it makes me so sad to see popular gamers lying, deceiving and making shady deals as if the money they make doing their dream job just isn’t enough. They want more and more and they certainly won’t let their honour and integrity get in the way.
Lets start off with gambling promotion.
Counter Strike: Global Offensive skin gambling
Numerous popular CS:GO players have been caught promoting skin gambling sites of which they’re either sponsored by, involved in or even outright OWN THE DAMN COMPANY.
There is so much going wrong with this that it’s hard to know where to begin. Plenty has been said already so I’m going to start with the ethics of promoting gambling to a young audience which has received less attention.
The main demographic for these streamers is young males aged around 15-25.
Gambling is addictive. Gambling is also illegal in most places around the world for anyone under 18. Any streamer that advertises gambling, knowing that their target audience consists of under 18 viewers is scum. It’s like advertising cigarettes during kids cartoons on television. There is a reason it’s illegal pretty much anywhere in Western society.
Even ignoring the more disturbing aspects of these allegations, why the hell were pro gamers ever advertising gambling sites to begin with? Why were sponsors sitting back and watching their sponsored players advertise gambling sites to minors?
Why are Twitch and other streaming services banning girls for showing too much cleavage, yet when their most popular streamers jump online and start encouraging their young audience to place bets for thousands of dollars worth of virtual goods they look the other way? Why are tournament organisations allowing top competitors to manipulate their audience?
I have no issue with gambling itself and I’m OK with gambling being advertised. For example, during football games there’s plenty of betting ads. However these ads must follow strict regulations and include disclaimers. You won’t see gambling ads during shows aimed at a young audience and you certainly won’t see owners of the company betting while pretending they’re not affiliated with the website.
Next up is the fact that many of these gamers were closely tied to these betting sites, some of them were even involved in owning the websites!
Of course, they never mentioned this. In fact, many of them outright lied to their viewers and pretended they just stumbled across the site. In the past couple of years there’s been a lot of talk about the importance of ethics in gaming, especially when it comes to disclosing sponsors and relationships with promotion partners. There’s no way these “pro gamers” aren’t aware of the ethics and legalities regarding sponsorships and advertising.
If you review a game after the company flies you out to their headquarters, buys you dinner, showers you in alcohol and pays for your lap dances I sure as shit expect you to disclose this information in your review. If you fail to disclose this information you’re no longer producing a review, you’re producing an ad. There are laws that regulate ads and they exist for very good reasons.
On top of this, betting on your own websites is unethical at best and completely illegal at worst. These gamers will be very lucky if they don’t end up in prison and if they don’t it’s only because the current laws surrounding gambling with virtual goods/currency haven’t caught up yet. It’s only a matter of time.
Taking advantage of loopholes in the law doesn’t make you a genius and it doesn’t make it OK. You’re still scum.
Being owners of the website it’s very possible and very probable that the owners have been manipulating the outcome of their bets in order to favour them, which means other players have been screwed. I really hope the class action lawsuits that follows leaves these ass holes bankrupt.
Grey market trading and sponsorships
Another thing that makes me really pissed off is the amount of popular streamers that take sponsorship deals from shady companies. I’m not sure if they’re just ignorant or they just don’t care. Advertising sites like Kinguin and G2A during your Starcraft 2 stream while G2A is selling stolen copies of Starcraft 2 is seriously fucked up.
You’re essentially making money thanks to a Publisher/Developer and then turning around and stabbing them in the back by encouraging your audience to buy the same game through a third party service where a good percentage of keys have been bought with stolen credit card information. You’re better off encouraging piracy.
Ignorance isn’t an excuse. If gamers care about their audience then they should care enough to research their sponsors. A simple search on G2A will bring up plenty of shady stories, therefore I find it hard to believe that gamers “didn’t know” that G2A was operating on the edge of the law.
It seems that some of these guys forget they are role models for thousands of their fans. I was a role model in my tiny community. I had young players on my teams and within the community look up to me.
In the gaming community you often have a lot of shy, introverted and awkward young gamers. Most of these kids probably aren’t the most popular kids at school.
Ungrateful greedy pricks
If this rant comes across as me being jealous that’s probably because I am. I’m not jealous it’s not me driving around in an Audi R8 which I can park in my 5 car garage in my mansion. I’m jealous that these are the pricks showing off their money while they accept donations from teenagers in their Twitch chat and then turn around and encourage them to bet on a site they own.
These gamers are making so much money it’s ridiculous. They get thousands in donations from Twitch, they get thousands from their ad revenue on YouTube, they don’t pay a cent for any of their hardware that is gifted to them from sponsors and yet it’s not enough. Owning a car that is worth more than the house of their Twitch subscribers isn’t enough.
They need more. So they make deals with shady companies. They fail to disclose their sponsors when talking about their products and worst of all they encourage a young and impressionable audience to place bets through gambling websites they own.
It’s absolutely fucking disgusting.
Making a living from streaming is a recent phenomenon. Even 5 years ago the idea that you could make a living from streaming yourself playing video games would have been laughed at. 10 years ago the idea that you could make a living from gaming was impossible except for a tiny fraction of players that competed in tournaments.
Now it’s possible for most gamers to setup their own stream very quickly with little technical knowledge. With a bit of luck, a decent internet connection and a good personality anyone can build up a large fan base on Twitch.
I have a feeling that these popular gamers have absolutely zero idea just how much effort people like me and other gamers around the world went through to pave the way for these pricks to make 6 figures a year while they can’t even be bothered to place a single sentence in their video descriptions disclosing their sponsorships.
We spent hundreds, possibly thousands on flights and accommodation in order to attend tournaments. We swapped around our work shifts to make room for LAN events. We competed in tournaments where no equipment was provided and we had to somehow transport giant CRT TV’s to a venue. We attended tournaments even when the prizes were barely enough to cover the entrance fee.
There are so many people that would kill to have this dream job. Being able to do something you love in the comfort of your own home while being showered with money would be a dream come true for most of the worlds population. If these losers left the industry they wouldn’t be missed. There are thousands standing in line ready to take their place.