Do eSports lack structure? | eSports - The world of competitive gaming | DW | 29.12.2016
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Do eSports lack structure?

It's the job of organizations like FIFA to regulate their sports and ensure a fair environment for the participants. Such structures do not exist in eSports and the growing sport is in desperate need of a governing body.

Valve and RIOT, the respective developers of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and League of Legends have very different approaches when it comes to the professional environments of their games.

It seems that Valve cares relatively little and is prepared to allow practically any organizer to hold Counter-Strike tournaments. As a result of this laissez-faire approach, many new events attended by top teams wound up being scheduled at the same time. This caused some players a great deal of stress and led to some canceling their participation due to exhaustion.

"As a fan, it is extremely hard to follow all the tournaments," said Paul "ReDeYe" Chaloner, a renowned presenter in the the eSports scene. "It could be argued that the number of tournaments needs to decrease but without an organization that regulates them, there's no chance of that happening."

RIOT takes a very different approach, exerting extensive control over its game. Even if this results in uniform regulations and controlled tournament structures, the game developer lacks transparency. RIOT has repeatedly accused teams of illegal activities and has sanctioned them without presenting evidence to back up the allegations. There is no organization to hold the game developer accountable as it acts as prosecutor, judge and executioner at the same time. 

Both examples show just how important an eSport governing body would be, as the interests of the players are often neglected. Surprisingly, many forget that there is already an organization in place.

WESA: A failure?

E-Sport Paul Chaloner (ESL | Helena Kristiansson)

Paul Chaloner has been a presenter of the biggest eSports events for over a decade

The World Esports Association (WESA) was founded mid-2016 in cooperation with the Electronic Sports League (ESL), the largest tournament organizer of eSports. The goal was to create a governing body for the entire scene. The organization, which is based on only eight founding organizations, was plagued with problems from the very beginning. The association appeared too exclusive, scaring away other "big players" in eSports due to its lack of transparency. The ESL was accused of pushing other organizers out of business or trying to gain control of their competitors through WESA.

"I think that the people behind WESA are very capable and many have years of experience in eSports but what I see here is that they are looking for a way of securing their place in the market rather  than attempting to professionalize the scene," Chaloner said.

One of the teams, FaZe Clan, have already left WESA citing the organization's shady moves as a reason for leaving.

A year and a half later, not much has changed at WESA. Only seven teams are part of the organization and it is still not known whether new structures that have been put in place, such as a players' council or an arbitration court have made any significant decisions. In addition, the player's council consists only of Counter-Strike players and therefore fails to provide a broad representation of professional eSports players.

The goals that WESA has set itself are noble but the question remains as to whether the organization can rehabilitate itself despite all the conflicting interests. WESA did not respond to requests for comment on the current situation.

Why a governing body in eSports will always have a hard time

Even if eSports are becoming more professional all the time, and the structures present in eSports are quite similar to those in traditional sports, there will always be a crucial point where these two competitive environments differ. If someone decides to a organize a football tournament and have the necessary resources to do so, there's not much to stop them from doing it. Nobody can take the right away from the people to play football in front of thousands as the sport is regarded as common property.

In eSports, that is not the case. Each game is under the control of its developer. That means that in order to play Counter-Strike or League of Legends in front of a large crowd, the game developer needs to approve of it first and grant its licensing. Even with a governing body ruling over players and teams, the developers will be superior to the organization and still have the last word. Regulations and jurisdictions will depend on companies such as RIOT or Valve, which are reluctant to surrender control. Therefore, a functioning governing body will most likely not exist in the near future.