Welcome to my column, Games Weekly! For this first issue, I’d like to take a moment to discuss what it’s about. This column is primarily about video games ranging from casual titles like Animal Crossing or Minecraft, to serious topics such as today’s focus, cheating in professional Esports. Now, let’s discuss today’s main subject: a recent cheating scandal in professional Counter Strike.
In September 2020, it came out that many professional Counter Strike (CS) team coaches were abusing a bug during tournaments to acquire information that would otherwise be inaccessible; they faced suspensions and bans as a result of violating Electronic Sports League (ESL) rules.
The ESports Integrity Commision (ESIC) is conducting an investigation into further potential use of the bug requiring examination of 99,650 demos which turned out to reach approximately 15.2 Terabytes of data. That amount of data is enough for around 7,600 movies on Netflix.
As of September 28th, ESIC has only reviewed around 20% of the total demos with sanctions being issued against thirty seven offenders. Some of these offenses date as far back as 2015, but most happened between 2017 and 2020. ESIC estimates they won’t be finished with the investigation until late October and will publish a final statement upon its conclusion.
With the bug being present as long as it has, one might think Valve, the developer of CS, would have known in some capacity before now. As it turns out, they did. In September and November of 2018, Faruk Pita, a coach at the time for NiP, contacted Valve informing them of the bug and how it worked.
Valve’s response? Nothing.
It took two years for any action to come of it, only after it became a major problem and has damaged the integrity of the entire competitive scene.
It’s not as if Valve was incapable due to lack of funding or of staff, either. Valve is the owner and creator of Steam, the largest online video game market in the world, which was estimated to make around $4.3 billion in 2017 in steam revenue and has produced many of the most well known games on the PC market such as Half Life, Counter Strike, Portal, Team Fortress, and Dota.
While all of the guilty coaches did break ESL rules which warranted investigation from ESIC, Valve could have stopped this issue in its tracks as far back as 2018. Rather than preventing a major scandal in one of their biggest games, Valve opted to neglect Counter Strike until they couldn’t anymore. That’s not a surprise though as Valve didn’t seem to care about it at all until the release of Valorant by Riot Games earlier this year, the first major competition since the series’ inception in 2000.
Overall this should be a major wake up call to every part of the CS:GO community. The developers need to step up and make the needed changes to their game. The tournaments need to hold higher watch and accountability over the teams and coaches in the era of online tournaments. The coaches need to have a higher respect for the integrity of the game. The fans need to show that this kind of behavior is unacceptable.