Professionalism/Electronic Sports Ethics: Professionalism in an Unestablished Industry

Electronic Sports (or e-sports) refers to organized competition involving video games. Despite achieving financial success, cultural impact, and public recognition, e-sports lacks the infrastructure competitive seen in tenured sports like soccer.[1] This absence leaves this young industry prone to ethical violations. Cases in this chapter illustrate failures in recognizing the responsibilities a professional has in e-sports.


Counter Strike: Global Offensive Coaching BugEdit

Counter Strike: Global Offensive is a team-based first person shooter multiplayer video game released in 2012, a continuation of the Counter Strike franchise developed by Valve. Counter Strike: Global Offensive has one of the largest esports scenes in the gaming industry, with many organizations, international tournaments,  and large prize pools.

One of the referees of a tournament in 2020, discovered that some coaches abused a camera bug that allowed them to gain information about the enemy team that they would otherwise not have, which resulted in an unfair advantage and could potentially change the outcome of the matches. After the initial discovery, the same referee looked into more footage from the perspective of the coaches and found more evidence of bug abuse. As a result of this discovery, the ESIC (Esports Integrity Commission) launched an official investigation on September 4th, 2020.[2] The ESIC concluded the investigation on September 28th, 2020, and after reviewing 20% of 99,650 demos, banned 37 coaches that were found to be abusing the bug. Punishments ranged from 4 months to 36 months, and were decided on a case by case basis. It was also discovered that cases of bug abuse have been found as early as 2016.[3]

The ESIC could not find evidence of active player involvement. However, since coaches can communicate with players during the game, other players of unaffected team questioned the complicity of these players [4]. The coaches that used the bug failed in their duty as a professional not only in damaging the integrity of the competitive scene, but also in damaging the reputation of players who may have been unaware of the bug abuse. Professionals in industry must understand the potential collateral damage their actions can cause on co-workers.

Another takeaway is the role in game developers as decision-makers in e-sports. In response to the scandal, Valve banned all coaching during games [5]. They claimed it was in response to ESIC's investigation, however a coach claimed to have reported the bug to Valve as early as 2018. [6] In this ruling, Valve punishes coaches that never cheated, professionals who never harmed the competitive integrity. Valve has always had sporadic interference in the e-sports industry, and this scandal calls into question whether oversight should be handled by organizations independent of game development.

Player ExploitationEdit

Tainted MindsEdit

Tainted Minds was an esports organization that decided to have their League of Legends team live and practice together in a gaming house. The house chosen was to be temporary, to start practice as soon as possible. Upon moving in, several issues became obvious to the players. Among them were:

  • No gaming PCs
  • Poor internet
  • No air conditioning
  • Power outages
  • No way to do laundry

Riot Games, the game developer of League of Legends held a mediation between the management of Tainted Minds and the players. The mediation was held by Daniel Ringland, who had a prior relationship with Tainted Minds investor John Mcrae. One week after the mediation, the players left the house, believing Tainted Minds had violated the contracts. Tainted Minds refused to remove the players' names from the Global Contract Database, preventing them from joining new teams [7]. Eventually, a Riot investigation fined Tainted Minds 7,000 AUD [8] , which was seen as a disproportionately low punishment [9].

Often times, organizations will not have their employees' best interests in mind. Individuals should not wait for third parties to intervene, as this can take too long and be ineffective. Individuals should know their rights and what the terms of employment are, and if these are breached, they should not hesitate to demand action or to terminate employment.

Match FixingEdit

Starcraft: Brood War Match Fixing RingEdit

Starcraft: Brood War became popular in South Korea’s culture during the 2000s. It had its own dedicated television channel, attracted chaebol (large corporations) investments, and encouraged discussions of the game’s inclusion into the sports event Asian Games. Membership into Asian Games would have provided professional players an avenue for exemption from mandatory military service.[10] However, negotiations failed in 2010 after the discovery of a match fixing ring in which betting sites and players collaborated to intentionally lose professional games.[11]

The news was shocking because one of Brood War’s greatest players, Ma “sAviOr” Jae-yoon, played a large role in the scandal. Although he claimed to have never intentionally lost matches, he acted as a ringleader in convincing other players to throw matches.[12] One of these players was Jin “Hwasin” Yung Soo. The interaction between Hwasin and sAviOr illustrates two failures of professionalism.

The first involves the dynamic between players. Professional players, especially established veterans like sAviOr, have an obligation to mentor younger or less well-off players like Hwasin on proper conduct in the competitive scene. Relative to sAviOr, Hwasin was not as successful, and stated that he was under psychological and financial stress at the time.[13] When interviewed about the match-fixing, Hwasin claimed naivete.

At the time, I never even heard of the term “match fixing” or had a conceptual understanding of it, but since a player of sAviOr’s calibre was telling me that “oh don’t worry, it's not even an important match, much better to make some cash off it” sounded very convincing to me. - Hwasin[14]

While Hwasin reaffirms his own independent complicity, the quote implies that Hwasin trusted sAviOr because of this star status. Instead of promoting fair play, sAviOr took advantage of Hwasin to damage the integrity of competitive Brood War.

Preserving the game’s competitive scene is important because the second duty of players is to serve as ambassadors to the general public. A Korean commentator claimed that outside investment came primarily due to the scene’s “purity and passion,” and compares the scandal to “pouring ink on a piece of white paper.”[15] Behavior like match-fixing does irreparable damage to e-sports’ image. One player, Lee “Flash” Young-ho, observes that “before the incident, during ProLeague, the crowd was already packed at full capacity. But after that, [crowd] was cut by half.”[16] Actions like match-fixing reverberate across the entire industry. However, players should not be alone. Teams and other e-sports organizations must consider policy reforms or new infrastructure that discourages players from these violations.

E-sports is a unique work environment. There is more to being a professional player than winning more games. In any field, professionals must also positively contribute to an ecosystem by refraining from ethical violations. Preservation of integrity and fair use aids long-term growth, paving a smoother road for future generations.

Promise and ahq KoreaEdit

AHQ is a Taiwanese professional esports organization. In 2013, a Korean branch was established to compete in an OGN (South Korean television channel) tournament. Before the tournament, manager No Dae Chul instructed the team to lose to certain organizations in the tournament, to maintain brand value. One member, Hoon, had been a professional player with Najin before, and refused. The younger players, Promise and ActSense were scared of losing their new status as professional players. After increased pressure, including physical threats from the manager, they went along with the manager's demands. Eventually the team discovered that AHQ was not actually sponsoring them [17]. The team was created and funded by the manager's own money, so he could bet against his own team. Unable to live with what he had done, Promise attempted suicide [18].

In a professional setting, newer employees may put up with more abuse, as they have no prior experience to calibrate their expectations as to how the industry works. Newer employees can also be eager to impress, and work extra hard, in fear of losing their new position. This can be seen by first-year investment banking working heavy hours in poor conditions, often leading to severe health problems [19].

The situation also shows the importance of veteran's mentorship. If Hoon had given more guidance to the new players, the situation may have been greatly changed. Veterans in all professional settings should do their part in mentoring new members.

Blind deference to authority also played a key role. No matter how much an individual may be outranked in a professional setting, they should still question the orders of their higher-ups, especially when they go directly against personal ethics.


One of the main questions that arises is how can interests of the players be represented in the esports industry when compared to physical sports. There are many resources for athletes in physical sports, as the process of becoming a professional athlete is supported through beginner, intermediate, and advanced clubs that help athletes transition from one stage to the next, that allows them to learn important skills in discipline and judgement. To become a professional esports player, the players, in most cases, have to develop skills on their own, which are mostly limited to skills within the game, and they are missing out on interpersonal skills that can lead to exploitation and bad decisions by the players.

Another important aspect to consider is whether allowing the company that developed a specific game to control that game’s esports scene is potentially harmful and whether there should be separate organizations for regulating the rules within that esports scene.


  1. Electronic Sports (eSports)
  2. How One Man Uncovered CS:GO's Biggest Cheating Scandal
  3. Valve Just BANNED All Coaches From CS:GO... Sort Of
  4. Players reaction to coaching bug scandal
  5. 2021 RMR Update
  6. Major-winning CS:GO head coach pita admits to using spectating bug in 2018
  7. Austen Goslin(2017). Rift Herald. Tainted Minds scandal: what we know and what’s disputed.
  10. How Matchfixing Destroyed StarCraft's Asian Games Dream (subbed)]
  11. Match Fixing Scandal
  12. (Interview) Savior Years Later
  13. Translated Interview with Hwasin
  14. Translated Interview with Hwasin
  15. (Subs) After Talk: Betting Scandal
  16. How Matchfixing Destroyed StarCraft's Asian Games Dream (subbed)
  17. ahq e-Sports Club (2014). Major statement.
  18. Inven (2013). ahq Korea I confess to the matchmaking. .
  19. Business Insider (2020). Goldman Sachs junior bankers describe 'inhumane' working conditions where they don't have time to eat or shower in a brutal internal survey.