With the insane growth of esports in recent years, and the huge sums now involved, the fight against cheating has become a major issue for the various players in the sector, determined to ensure the integrity of competitions.
At the end of September, a huge cheating scandal hit tournaments for Counter Strike, one of esports’ most popular video games. Very dynamic and spectacular, Counter Strike is an FPS, that is to say a first person shooter. Understand: the computer screen displays a landscape similar to that which a human being would see immersed in the 3D scenery of the game. (As opposed to “third person” games where you see the character from behind ). In twenty years of existence, the popularity of the game published by Valve has never faltered. Objective of a five-on-five game: detonate a bomb or kill all opponents before the end of a two-minute round. Team strategy plays a very important role, as does agility and speed of execution and the viewer is subjected to a roller coaster of emotions. Thirty-seven coaches have been sanctioned by ESIC, an independent body dedicated to ethical issues in esports. Their fault: to have taken advantage of a bug in the game to divulge strategic information to their players during matches. The coaches, at the head of professional, semi-professional or amateur teams, have been suspended from a few months to three years. These drastic announcements had immediate consequences on the Counter Strike scene, and some teams, like “Mousesports”, immediately separated from their coach. “(I offer) my most sincere apologies to opponents affected by my error. My error in judgment may have had consequences for your career and it is something that I can never take back and that I deeply regret” , reacted on Twitter Allan “Rejin” Petersen, the coach dismissed by the German team. – “Colossal stakes” –
This case, which concerns competitions dating back to 2016, is neither the first nor the last to shake up esport, a sector that has passed in a few years from a niche hobby to a major industry. Regularly, players are excluded from competitions, suspended, or even banned for life, for having given in to the temptation of easy victory. “Why is there cheating in esport? It is because the stakes have become colossal”, explains Désiré Koussawo, general manager of the French branch of ESL, one of the main organizers. esports events. “When we know that today we can earn millions of dollars by winning a competition, obviously, the teams, the players, may be more tempted to use roundabout ways of winning,” he continues. Before qualifying for the Fortnite World Cup last year, more than 1,200 player accounts were suspended for cheating. “There is little empirical data or statistics concerning cheating. On the other hand, for many years there have been testimonials from players who complain,” explains Nicolas Besombes, an esports sociologist. – “Aimbots”, “wallhacks” … –
Because cheating is not new in the world of video games and cheating software developed by hackers has been circulating for a long time under the cloak. Between the “aimbots”, these aiming aid programs which make it easier to shoot enemies, the “wallhacks” which allow opponents to be seen through walls, or the “scripts”, macros which execute orders automatically … There are many ways to cheat. “Year after year, we have been able to adapt and raise the level of security of our PCs and our configurations to avoid this kind of thing,” says Désiré Koussawo. But people are very inventive … “In 2018, For example, the Peruvian Thunder Predator team had been ejected from the qualifying stages of “The International”, a prestigious Dota 2 tournament, because one of its players had used a programmable mouse which gave them an unfair advantage in the game. Tracking cheaters has therefore become a full-time activity for event planners and game publishers. “We believe it is in the long term best interests of esports that integrity breaches be addressed head-on,” ESIC said at the time of the recent Counter Strike cheat revelations.