Analysis: Are eSports Regulated?

There has been a long debate raging since the very idea of eSports became real: are eSports equivalent to “traditional” sports like football.

Now I am not here to debate that exact issue. What has caught my eye now is one core idea from the “traditional” sports circuits.

That idea is a regulated and central structure that can give a sense of official status to the concept of eSports.

So today we look into the details of eSports Regulating Bodies and Institutions.

The eSports World

There is a lot of structure to eSports in the overall sense. Live streams are happening all the time. Tournaments fill up stadiums several times a year.

Across the world, eSports has become a bustling industry, filled with sponsored, professional players and hundreds of millions of viewers.

So, for the majority of people, eSports has the structure to match or even rival the tried and true sports like Football and Baseball.

How eSports is structured is very different, and their disjointed nature is a vital part of what sets it apart from what many view as “regular sports.”

Teams, Associations, and Tournaments

There is no one absolute controlling league for eSports. For the most part, each game (or group of games for the more prominent companies) in the eSports brackets has its own events and organization.

The closest to an overall organization is Major League Gaming, which hosted massive circuits for many of eSports most popular games.

It was not a catch-all, and the existence of many smaller eSports games, tournaments, and circuits speaks to how disjointed the eSports community remains.

The general way eSports structure works are as an interconnected system. There are many teams filled with players. Each team often covers multiple games. Those teams then participate in tournaments around the world.

Their respected funders and organizations host the tournaments. Some even have interconnected tournaments to form a circuit.

There are financial backers for both the tournaments and the teams, as well as advertisers and coverage teams for eSports related activity (that’s us!).

In the end, the system functions and keeps the eSports coverage and events flowing, but there is no blanketing system that can truly organize and shape eSports as a whole.

Should there be?

The (Non)Existence of eSports Regulations

You could perhaps argue that the disconnect in eSports organization is more akin to the different organizations for different sports.

After all, League of Legends is different from Call of Duty and comparing them would be like comparing Football to Hockey.

That said, League of Legends and DOTA 2, two much more similar games, are also on separate organizations for the majority of their content. You could compare this to the difference between College Football and the NFL.

The significant factor for eSports is that even when organizations are well solidified and connected, they do so more out of a monopoly than a set organization.

The NFL was made to ensure that all professional football was connected. To indeed have an equivalent for eSports, you would have to have, say, a First Person Shooter organization and all FPS eSports titles went through that organization.

There are plenty of arguments back and forth as to what these organizations would be and who would run them. None of it is clear cut, and this only emphasizes eSports “Do what works in the moment” organization, which is at least unique, for better or for worse.

The Ramifications of Loose Organization

The better or worse of eSports organization is hard to track fully, but it boils down to 3 major issues. All of these have an ongoing debate and some on an extreme level of intensity.

1. The Legal

There have been some serious legal issues regarding eSports. Not with bannings or eSports being illegal themselves, but in regards to gambling and even drug use.

Because there is no full, overarching governing body for eSports, and many country’s governing bodies have little to no experience and understanding of eSports, there has been no real move to address gambling and performance-enhancing drugs.

With nobody regulating gambling restrictions, there is a concern about the rise of gambling and even the potential of rigged games. Until a sweeping organization can be put in charge of this, it will be hard to control.

2. The Players

Perhaps the most significant upcoming issue is the player’s rights and security.

Most eSports players are far from unionized. There have even been a few cases regarding player exploitation. As well, as more and more players rise to professional status, many wonder just what it means to be a professional, especially in a world with such a small window for professional performance.

With eSports split amongst company owned organizations, there is no central body to give them the rights they need. There is no official wages, no job regulations on hours, and no security when eSports scenes shift.

This leaves players sometimes overworked, underpaid, and completely tied to specific companies without the benefits of being an actual employee.

3. The Perception

With wildly different aspects changing between each circuit and league, there is never a clear perception of what eSports is as a whole. The basic concept is there, but the structure does not feel like how other sports act.

There are seasons for some games, but seasons work differently for each organization and game, and some don’t even have such an organizing body at all.

It gives a sense of unprofessional air.

“No one has been able to organize all of eSports so it must just be a bunch of random gamers doing whatever. This isn’t a sport.” This is a typical commentary on eSports.

The mainstream perception of organizations like Sports hinges on presentation, and no one can point to a single presentation of eSports as a whole.

This isn’t a deal breaker. What those outside the community think of eSports doesn’t affect the inside of the community, but it can change its growth and its recognition as an actual structured system.

The Future of eSports

So, what is the regulation of eSports? It’s complicated. Activision Blizzard is an excellent example of how the lack of overall structure provides uncertain ground to stand on.

At peak success, Activision Blizzard buys Major League Gaming and is dominating the FPS and RTS markets while having significant influence over the digital card game and other markets.

With a company slump, they have gimped support for Heroes of the Storm and potentially others, putting many players in a nasty position to either shift games or find a new career.

This concept leaves eSports somewhat volatile.

That said, unlike football, Heroes of the Storm is an Activision Blizzard concept. They made it and own it, why shouldn’t they be in absolute control over their properties competitive market?

In the end, the questions don’t have easy answers. Many compare eSports to traditional sports, and many more argue that they should be on the same level.

The problem is, so much of the overall concepts are so different that the same system that works for sports like Football or Baseball may not work for eSports. What the right solution is, then, can be anyone’s guess.

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