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Harassment and Abuse

Harassment – Holden et al. argue that harassment, both online and offline, has been an ongoing problem for years in video gaming. [1] Kumar analyses a 2021 survey by Reach3 Insights, which found that “77% of female gamers in the US, China and Germany experienced gender-specific harassment during online gaming, such as name-calling, sexual messages, patronizing comments, and their skills.” [2]  

Harassment and abuse seem to exist also at a professional level. For example, as described by Finch et al., in 2018 Overwatch League announced disciplinary actions against four players.[3]



As described by Finch et al., in 2015 Intel and ESL launched the AnyKey initiative in an effort to address gaming toxicity. [4] Its mission statement pledges to “help create fair and inclusive spaces in esports for marginalized members of the gaming community”.

AnyKey has also partnered with Twitter to create the “GLHF pledge” which stands for “Good Luck Have Fun”. Interestingly, the pledge requires those who take it to also “Speak up against hate speech, harassment, abuse, and assault of any kind”. 

Regulatory consequences – Example Riot Games

Esports organizers have put regulations in place which sanction certain behaviors of participants.


For example, according to Riot Games’ Global Code of Conductput in place for the 2024 season, defines “Harassment” as “unwelcome and unwanted behaviors that diminish, demean, or otherwise intimidate. [5]  This rule also prohibits “sexual harassment,” which is defined as any form of unwelcome sexual advances. An advance is “unwelcome” if the person being harassed would regard the conduct as undesirable or offensive. Stalking, conduct that involves threats of violence (whether physically or online) and sharing personal information of another individual without permission are considered forms of harassment as is any conduct by an individual that incites or encourages abuse by others. All forms of harassment are prohibited, even if the behavior is not sufficiently severe or pervasive to constitute unlawful activity under applicable law.”

Next to Harassment, the Global Code of Conduct also prohibits bullying and abuse, which terms are defined as follows:

““Bullying” is defined as malicious conduct which a reasonable person would consider hostile, offensive, and unrelated to legitimate competition, especially in circumstances where the person is perceived as vulnerable.

“Abuse” is defined as treating a person with cruelty or violence, especially if done repeatedly. Acting with reckless disregard for the potential negative impact of one’s actions is also considered a form of bullying and is prohibited.”

Next to disciplinary measures, anti-harassment training is foreseen as corrective action under the Global Code of Conduct.



Harassment and abuse, both online and offline, seem to be an issue in gaming in general, but also in professional esports. Several measures have been put in place to combat this problem, starting from pledges for the gaming community in general, all the way to the possibility to sanction professional esports players for such behaviours.

[1] J Holden, T Baker and M Edelman, ‘The #E-Too Movement: fighting Back Against Sexual Harassment in Electronic Sports’ (2020) 52(1) Arizona State Law Journal 33.

[2] Anuj Kumar, ‘Gender discrimination in online gaming, a review literature’ (2023) 2(9) Idealistic Journal of Advanced Research in Progressive Spectrums (IJARPS) 80.

[3] J David, Finch Norm O’Reilly, Gashaw Abeza, Brad Clark, and David Legg, Implications and Impacts of eSports on Business and Society – Emerging Research and Opportunities, (IGI Global book series Advances in E-Business Research (AEBR), IGI Global 2020) 120.

[4] ibid 121.


[5] Riot Games, Global Code of Conduct <> .


  • Erika Riedl

    Erika is a multi-lingual sports lawyer with over 15 years of experience. She specialises in governance, regulatory and integrity matters. She sits as an Arbitrator for Sports Resolutions UK as well as for other disciplinary panels, and she is a CEDR accredited Mediator. Erika is also a member of the Integrity Board of the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF). In addition, she is currently completing her PhD studies in esports integrity. View all posts

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