Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Overwatch League Needs Conduct Rules-Now

Activision/Blizzard is going to get themselves into big trouble if they don't work out the "conduct" issues with their players. To date the company still has not published a thorough set of rules for the Overwatch League on how players should act, both on and off the field. The content you will find on their website is brief. Given the importance of the Overwatch League and the number of people watching, it's imperative that Blizzard gets on this. Now.

Particularly since the Dallas Fuel has released Felix "xQc" Lengyel, who was again suspended for using homophobic and racial slurs. He sat out on a portion of stage 1 for the same reason. In all, 4 players have been fined or suspended for breaking the vague "rules" on conduct. Given that the first match of the League began on January 10th, and we are barely 2 months in, to have so many players penalized is borderline appalling. And one could easily argue that it's because Blizzard's rules are not firm. It's all fluff.

For those who want to argue about codes of conduct in eSports, you may not be aware that for other sports, such as football, basketball, hockey, etc. they too have a code to follow. When they sign those contracts, players must agree to the league's rules or face penalties (from fines to expulsion depending on the severity of the misdeed). This is for on the field and off. Because what a player does off the field can directly reflect the attitudes of the sport. This is why you will see hockey players dressed in suits when they travel. They are also one of the nicer sports groups you'll meet - super strict rules. But in the end, they know it's worth it. They have millions of people looking to them as the "examples" of what athletes should be. Anything they do could have a negative impact on the sport.

eSports are no different. If you wonder why there are so few women or people of color in these games, it's because of the behavior of the other players, the staff, and the judges. There is nothing enticing about joining a sport when you're constantly harassed by your "supposed peers." With this field growing so rapidly, it's up to the League to set an example. They need to tell players and teams that there is a hard line on what is acceptable behavior. And until they outline it in detail, they're going to continue running into these problems. Players will keep getting hit with meaningless penalties and suspensions; more people will tune out. Eventually eSports will lose the credibility they have been trying to build. ESPN won't broadcast a sport that is overrun with homophobic and racial slurs. That's a Disney company. Airing the Overwatch League in it's current format could affect 'The Mouse's' brand.

And yes, it is important that eSports have a code of conduct. These gamers are already influencing an entire generation of adults and children. You have to look no further then 2017's BlizzCon where the world Overwatch finals were held. Sitting in on a few matches we saw the audience filled with kids. Some were barely 10 and they were chanting with the adults, cheering on their favorite players. They are already being affected by the Overwatch League.

If eSports is to have a future, than stricter, more robust rules of conduct need to be introduced now. Not next month. Not next year. Now. We are too deep into this first season for the rules to be undecided.

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