Cheating scandals have affected virtually every major sport.
There was the 1919 World Series, in which eight members of the Chicago White Sox infamously conspired to throw the Fall Classic to the Cincinnati Reds. Ben Johnson’s positive steroid test following his world-record win in the 100 meters at the 1988 Summer Olympic Games is another episode that stands out in the crowd.
The explosion in eSports competition has led to several cheating scandals. Photo by: SteelSeries (Flickr).
The World of eSports is no different. It’s been rocked by cheating scandals of its own. However, as the sport continues to grow, software designers are becoming more resilient in programming anti-cheating software into their games. As well, with prizes growing into the millions of dollars, organizers of major eSports tournaments are doubling down in terms of security and punishment.
In 2016, the Esports Integrity Coalition was organized to investigate and rule upon “all forms of cheating in esports, including, but not limited to, match manipulation and doping.”
Some top players have received significant disciplinary penalties as a result of being caught in cheating scandals, up to and including life suspensions from competing at that game.
“Integrity is about protecting the sport from corruption in any form,” Stephen Hanna, the Director of Global Strategy and Partnerships for the ESIC, told the Washington Post.
Methods Of Cheating
Truth be told, in the early years of video gaming, cheating was not only prevalent, but it was also encouraged. Cheat codes were distributed among players to make it easier to beat the games. And some of these cheat sheets actually originated from game manufacturers.
As eSports competition has grown by leaps and bound over the years to become a worldwide sensation, with the top gamers earning annual six-figure compensation levels, the stress and pressure to get to and stay on top have led some to opt to skew the rules in order to make success happen.
Today, aimbots are among the more common methods of cheating. This type of bot is generally deployed for use in multiplayer first-person shooter games like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS: GO) or Call of Duty (CoD). It can provide varying degrees of automated target acquisition and calibration to a player. Some players will combine an aimbot with a TriggerBot, an automatic shooter that fires whenever an opponent shows up in a player’s aiming reticule.
Nikhil “forsaken” Kumawat, considered India’s top CS: GO, player, was caught red-handed using an aimbot during the eXTREMESLAND 2018 Asia Finals while playing for OpTic India. Officials fingered him for cheating as he feverishly tried to delete the hack from his computer. The team was disqualified from the event.
Further investigation revealed that he’d also cheated at previous events. Kumawat was handed a five-year ban by the Esports Integrity Coalition.
“I did not have any financial pressure, any family pressure, or anything as a reason to cheat,” Kumawat said in a statement. “It was all me who wanted to win every game, wanted to be perfect in every aspect of the game.
“None of my teammates had any idea of me using any external program including my coach and manager.”
Caught In A Fortnite
Operators of eSports competitions are cracking down on cheaters and issuing harsh punishments.
During qualifiers for the inaugural $30 million Fortnite World Cup in 2019, two players were ejected for cheating. Oddly enough, XXIF and Ronaldo were both banned for a fortnight – 14 days – after it was discovered each had conspired with other players. These players were allowing XXIF and Ronaldo to gain deliberate kills to artificially inflate their point totals and improve the chances of qualifying.
However, there were several other qualifiers still to be held following the end of their two-week ban. Playing as a team, XXIF and Ronaldo earned a qualification spot in the duos portion of the competition, guaranteeing them a minimum of $50,000 in prize money.
That these two cheaters were able to come back and prosper from the same tournament in which they’d already cheated did not sit well with many of the world’s top Fortnite players. Among those who took to social media to speak out about this perceived injustice was DrLupo, considered the Michael Jordan of Fortnite talent.
“A cheater qualifying for a $30,000,000 tournament is a kick in the junk to the integrity of the Fortnite competitive community,” DrLupo tweeted. “Love or hate the game, this should be unanimously agreed upon.”
Betting Could Actually Halt Cheating
The COVID-19 pandemic that brought a halt to most major sports competition resulted in a boom in terms of wagering on eSports competition around the world. Those in the world of eSports believe that this could prove to be the best medicine for the eSports community in terms of eradicating the cheaters in their games. If games aren’t on the up and up, oddsmakers will be reluctant to offer betting markets on eSports.
Marco Blume, director of trading for online gaming company Pinnacle, which has taken bets on eSports since 2010, believes it’s vital for bookmakers, eSports organizers and game developers to all be on the same page when it comes to methods to combat cheating. Currently, game developers and publishers aren’t part of the ESIC.
“The industry is in need of the trifecta,” Blume told the Washington Post. “Game developers, state regulators, and bookies must work together, educate the players/coaches, and provide a means for all to have access to the data being collected by all stakeholders involved.”