Created in 2016, ESIC (Esports Integrity Commission) is focused on protecting the integrity of esports and helping the esports industry be a safe, competitive, and rewarding environment. Ian Smith, the Commissioner of ESIC, shared what motivates him and his team in their mission to serve the members of the esports community. Ian also talks about why ESIC has chosen to work with Kronoverse and how he expects the use of blockchain technology to impact competitive gaming.
How did ESIC come to be?
In 2015 I was asked to do an integrity threat assessment of the esports industry and, in normal circumstances in traditional sport, the conclusions reached by this sort of review would be handed to a governing body for implementation, but in esports there was no governing body or central authority to go to and the only alternative was to create, from scratch, a body to deal with these integrity threats and that is why ESIC was formed in 2016.
What motivates ESIC to pursue its mission to be the recognized guardian of the integrity of esports and take responsibility for all forms cheating such as match manipulation and doping?
At a personal level, I have been motivated throughout my career in traditional sport (20 years in cricket and other professional sports) to ensure that what happens on the field of play is a genuine contest between two people or teams doing their best to win. I hate cheating in any form, whether that is to win or, as with match manipulation for betting fraud purposes, to deliberately underperform or lose. Ultimately, the biggest losers in any corruption scandal in sport are the players and so ESIC’s motivation is first and foremost the protection of the players, the game and the business that has evolved around the sport to promote it and enhance it. Anything that undermines that effort, that renders the years of training and sacrifice meaningless, should be resisted and eliminated and that is why we exist for esports.
What are the most common forms of cheating ESIC is currently dealing with in the esports industry?
The most common form of cheating are cheating to win by using hacks, bots, cheats or ISP attacks and, to a far lesser extent, by doping. After that, cheating to lose or deliberately underperform in order to commit betting fraud (match-fixing).
Are there any solutions available to put an end to these forms of cheating?
I think putting an end to it may be too optimistic, but we can certainly curb it and make esports less of a target for corruptors. Firstly, on the issue of cheating to win with software or dDos attacks is pretty well dealt with through anti-cheat technology at most levels, although we know from experience that anti-cheat is often behind the most sophisticated cheats being developed at high level, but it has to be the case that those cheat developers are increasingly being painted into a corner in the more popular and long running games like CS:GO, DOTA2 and LOL. The cheating players using very sophisticated cheats have usually been caught by their opponents calling them out because good players know when they’re being cheated. There are some promising signs with pattern based anti-cheats such as those used to detect poker bots, but we shall have to wait and see how those work in practice. Match-fixing will, similarly, become more difficult as the monitoring of suspicious and unusual betting becomes better and more official data is used to create betting markets. Additionally, greater analysis of player data will allow us to identify when a player is playing in an unusual or sub-par manner and that will mean they are easier to convict of offences because the data will show they were underperforming deliberately.
Where do you see the esports industry in 10 years with how it handles cheating?
Following on from the above answer, I think it will get harder and harder to cheat to win as long as new games learn best practice in anti-cheat from old games because it seems unlikely that esports will be played in 10 years with the same games being played today. On the match-fixing front, a number of factors ought to have improved to mean it is far harder to get away with. First better regulation globally of sports betting, with a more joined up approach between jurisdictions worldwide. The fact is that good regulation and enforcement in China and the CIS region would cut match-fixing by 80% overnight and I hope that that takes less than a decade, but I’m not optimistic. I do think suspicious and unusual bet monitoring would have improved and will be more coordinated so that real time detection of attempted fixes occurs and can be stopped. These things apply to all sports betting – because esports is digital and data driven, it should adapt more easily to dealing with cheating because the evidence is objective, rather than subjective as it often is in traditional sports. Where esports currently suffers is the lack of a governing body or central authority to create and enforce high standards, so I hope ESIC can fill that void as far as competitive integrity is concerned over the next decade. I try to have us think like a good ancestor!
Why did ESIC choose to work with Kronoverse?
Having the opportunity to work with a new platform from day one to embed good regulations into the terms and conditions of participation is always exciting and gratifying. It was also such a compelling proposition and being involved from the start and contributing to its growth makes Kronoverse a perfect prospect for ESIC membership. I’m also a fan of the adoption of blockchain tech because it makes dispute resolution and transaction tracking so simple and definitive and creates a safe environment for everyone from day one.
How do you see the use of blockchain technology affecting the esports industry?
I think its adoption across the industry is inevitable for the reasons I’ve outlined above and the transparency it offers creates a trust that is hard to duplicate any other way. It will certainly help ESIC in our role ensuring integrity as the digital record is impossible to argue with.
For more information about ESIC and its work to end cheating and protect the integrity of competitive gaming, visit: https://esic.gg/