Written by Richard WeeChew Zhen Tao and Kimberly Chan

Introduction

It’s 2021, and statistics show that the global esports market yearly revenue is valued at approximately 1.08 billion U.S. dollars and forecasted to exceed 1.6 billion U.S. dollars in 2024. With so much at stake, there are individuals who have turned to external/third party softwares and methods to obtain an unfair advantage against their opponents. This process of modifying or manipulating a software or hardware is known as e-doping.

In this article, we will take a look at types of e-doping, methods to circumvent it and the relevant case studies.

Types of e-doping

An aimbot or autoaim is a common external programme that handles aiming and runs concurrently with First Person Shooter (“FPS”) games. This application will automatically adjust the reticle of a player with his opponent’s to a fixed position. 

Some aimbots also come with a radar hack which allows players to track their opponents’ movements and positions, even behind terrains or obstructions, preventing them from being ambushed. These programs can be configured to automatically fire the players’ weapon the moment their targets are in their view.

Scripting is related to coding, whereby players program by way of a command to automate certain actions or behaviours. This allows players to trigger a sequence of tasks that allow them to dodge or even aim their abilities at the perfect timing.

Similarly, it is possible to use a macro command in game or on a player’s hardware (ie. keyboard and mouse). A macro command is a series of commands and instructions grouped together as a single command to execute a task instantly.

Esports tournaments and events are usually broadcasted on streaming platforms for the audience to watch. Stream sniping is when players use the broadcasts to obtain information in relation to their opponent which they would not normally have access to, and use it to their advantage while being in the same game.

A Distributed Denial-of-Service (“DDoS”) attack is when a server, service or network is overwhelmed by traffic and system overloading, causing it to be unavailable or disrupted. In many instances, the DDoS attack renders the system unavailable for use by the opponent which gives players the upper hand.

Efforts to combat e-doping

One of the biggest game publishers and developers, known as Valve Corporation, implemented their own software, Valve Anti-Cheat (“VAC”) which is an automated system that detects cheats installed in a user’s platform. The software may remove a player from the game if it detects any anomalies in their system’s memory or hardware.

Other game publishers have also implemented the use of anti-cheat systems such as EasyAntiCheat for the game “Apex Legends” and BattleEye for the games “PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS (PUBG)” and “Rainbow Six Siege”.

With the recent launch of their new FPS game, “Valorant”, game developer, Riot Games has released their own anti-cheat software, Vanguard to tackle the issue of wallhacking and aimbotting. Vanguard detects softwares with vulnerabilities which could be exploited by players, and attempts to block it. Vanguard is a more advanced and thorough anti-cheat system as it uses the kernel drive that has complete control over the player’s computer system.

Well-known antivirus company, Kaspersky launched their very own cloud-based anti-cheat program in 2019 that offers real-time cheat detection. Once the player installs the anti-cheat application, the game process information is collected and sent to the Kaspersky Anti-Cheat cloud, analysed for suspicious activity, and then an automated report is generated and shared with the tournament referee via a web interface. The announcement and demonstration of the anti-cheat program took place at The StarLadder Berlin Major 2019.

Game publishers such as Activision of “Call of Duty: Warzone” and Tencent of “PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS (PUBG) Mobile” constantly review the gameplay of players and issue account bans.

Many esports tournaments are also held offline, whereby teams and players compete for a fixed number of spots in the Grand Finals of an event, which is held in a single location. These qualified teams and players will be flown in from their respective countries and compete in a  Local Area Network (“LAN”) event, i.e. an in-person event. This way, organisers and publishers can ensure that the players are on a level playing field, having access to the same computers or consoles.

Esports is largely controlled by game publishers and this creates an issue in governance. However, over the years, regulations and investigations have increased in order to combat the issue of cheating and corruption.

An example would be the establishment of the Esports Integrity Commission (“ESIC”) with the mission to preserve the integrity of esports and to prevent, investigate and prosecute all forms of cheating. ESIC’s members include over 30 esports stakeholders across the globe. 

In July 2021, ESIC investigated an incident involving a player Lim Vi Ron, “Hiroshi”. Hiroshi was previously banned for offences committed while playing under a different alias “NAMIERURO_YT”, but tried to evade his active ban by attempting to participate in an ESIC member’s event under a different alias. 

More recently, in August 2021, ESIC issued a 2-year ban to player Nicolai “Hunden” Petersen for a breach of the ESIC Code of Conduct. Hunden was reported to have sent strategic team information to an employee of the opposing team in the tournament IEM Cologne. ESIC found Hunden guilty as the statement made on his Twitter Account was considered to amount to an admission of his conduct in perpetrating the incident.

Conclusion

As the esports industry continues to grow at a rapid pace, issues of e-doping will remain prevalent and as such, stricter regulations and measures must be taken to circumvent these issues. A global governing/regulatory body ought to be formed to establish and ensure the execution of uniform rules and regulations for all parties involved. The cooperation and participation of all stakeholders is vital for this cause as the growth and sustenance of the esports industry is at stake.

 

Published on 20 October 2021

Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash

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