DEBATE "We need to speak out against the minority that use racist language in order to make the communities more welcoming and bring the ethics in line with what is acceptable in our modern society" writes Xavier Dhorne, e-sports commentator.
E-sports as an industry is expanding at an astonishing rate, both in its audience and its monetary value. However, the social responsibility of those involved has not progressed at the same rate.
An example of this in recent history has been the controversy surrounding comments made by players in a European League of Legends team. League of Legends is a team-based game that is currently the most popular online with over 25 million people playing it daily. The team, Ninjas in Pyjamas (NiP), is one of the top teams in Europe and are sponsored by Swedish telecoms giant Telia. Screen-shots that have been made public, show two of the NiP members using vulgar racist language as well as graphic anti-Semitic remarks during a private game. A public statement from NiP management team claimed that the players have been "reprimanded accordingly" though have not yet been ejected from the team. The publication of these remarks have called into question player attitudes and the wider issue of racism in e-sports.
The industry at the moment is very much self-governed. There is no association that sets standards for professionals connected to e-sports in Europe. Despite this lack of infrastructure, e-sports has grown in to this generation's cultural phenomenon. Twitch, the leading online gaming broadcasting network now has more viewers at prime time than MTV. As well as being a young industry, e-sports is also primarily consumed by the young, with the average Twitch viewer age of 21 years old.
There have been public examples of racism by professionals across the spectrum of competitive games. This is perhaps symptomatic of how online insults, including those that are racist in nature, go unchallenged in the community. How this has been dealt with can be seen with this example from Quake Live, a first-person shooter. A player in a publicly broadcasted tournament typed "Sieg heil" to his opponent before and after the game. This resulted in a two week suspension from the tournament, however public reaction to his suspension has defended his statements as "a joke". This is a common defence to any inflammatory remark.
This "joke" defence has to stop if the e-sports industry wants to be taken seriously. It cannot have it both ways. If e-sports competitors are to receive sponsorship money, salaries and have large followings, they must adhere to similar rules and regulations that other competitors in traditional sports are bound by. Luis Suarez, a striker for the football team Liverpool was suspended for eight matches and fined £40,000 for using racist language against an opposing player. It is only with serious sanctions such as these that the e-sports industry can move a step closer to being considered a serious professional endeavour. We need to speak out against the minority that use racist language in order to make the communities more welcoming and bring the ethics in line with what is acceptable in our modern society.
Xavier Dhorne, e-sports commentator and broadcaster specialising in Quake Live and Dota 2