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Human Rights in Esports

Introduction

Human rights in esports is a new area within the esports society.[1] In 2019, the Swiss Esports Federation (SESF) has launched a project on human rights protection within the Swiss esports community.[2] To establish sustainable esports ecosystem, the esports society grows up economic interests for those who are involved in this industry.[3] At the same time, it also takes necessary measures to prevent negative consequences, such as toxic behaviours,[4] physical and mental health problems, gender inequality, discrimination, hate speech, and other related challenges caused by esports activities.

Against this background, the purpose of this issue is to consider how to strike a balance between the interests of individuals who works for the esports industry and those of esports society as a whole in accordance with internationally recognised human rights law. This topic overlaps with the topic of the safeguarding in esports, but this subject is to provide an objective justification with esports stakeholders to dedicate their time and resource for this topic.

This short piece will explain the following two examples of ‘human rights in esports’: (1) prevention of toxic behaviours in esports; and (2) gender equality in esports. There are also other topics in this field but this short piece will not cover all issues related to esports and human rights.

The Examples of the Human Rights in Esports

The Prevention of Toxic Behaviours in Esports

Firstly, toxic behaviour is “an umbrella term used to describe various types of negative behaviors” including cyberbullying (offensive language and verbal abuse), sexual abuse and harassment, and hate speech based on racism, sexism, ethnicity, homophobia, transphobic and xenophobia against vulnerable persons (e.g. woman, LGBTI persons and person with disabilities).[5] In this situation, several esports publishers and esports event/league organisers have engaged in the prevention of the toxic behaviours because such behaviours discourage esports players from playing video games.[6] Furthermore, streaming platform providers (e.g. Twitch and YouTube) and SNS companies (e.g. X and Facebook) have combatted online harassment and threats within the esports industry in accordance with their self-regulations. Therefore, it is necessary to consider how these esports stakeholders should act for the prevention of toxic behaviours in esports in accordance with internationally recognised human rights law.

Gender Equality in Esports

Secondly, the majority of esports organisations, esports publishers and even esports federations have not been sufficiently engaged in the achievement of gender equality between male and female esports players. However, it is important to note that the International Esports Federation (IESF) has taken an initiative to ensure a safe environment of female esports players in collaboration with the Women in Games (WIG).[7] The purpose of this initiative is to prevent female esports players from have suffering online sexual violence, including sexual abuse, harassment and even threat within the esports activities. As a result of this, they mostly hesitated and even lost their motivation to participate in the esports activity. To solve this problem, the esports society should consider how to achieve gender equality between male and female esports players from a human rights’ perspective.

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Conclusion

In conclusion, addressing this topic will enhance awareness of the issue within the esports society and help strike a balance between the interests of esports players and those of the broader society. This will lead to the establishment of a safer and more inclusive esports environment. Moreover, this study will offer the esports community an objective and reasonable basis for enhancing inclusivity and safety, benefiting both players and fans. Ultimately, this will contribute to the sustainable development of the esports industry.


[1] There are several academic articles that are published in law journals. See Tsubasa Shinohara, The Protection of Professional Esports Players Against Physical and Mental Health Problems under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (2022) 13(1) UNLV Gaming Law Journal, Volume, 1-19. https://law.unlv.edu/unlv-gaming-law-journal/vol13/protection-professional-esports- players-against-physical-and-mental-health-problems-under-1204; Tsubasa Shinohara, The Protection of Esports Players against the Use of Doping Substances and Methods under the European Convention on Human Rights: the Swiss Example (2021) 1(1) International Journal of Esports. https://www.ijesports.org/article/69/html; Tsubasa Shinohara, Fairness or Equality? Participation of Esports Players with Disabilities in Esports Competition (2024) 34(2) Marquette Sports Law Review (in processing); Pedoro Mercado Jaén (2023). Esports events and human rights. In William Rook et al. (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Mega-Sporting Events and Human Rights (Routledge, 1st edition, 2023) at 415-426. Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781003302551-43.

[2] See SESF, Human  Rights  Protection  for Gamers  and  Staff  members  in Swiss  Esports (SESF, 8 June 2021), https://sesf.ch/news/human-rights-protection-for-gamers-and-staff-members-in-swiss-esports/; Shinohara has recently conducted a survey for Swiss esports players to identify the problems within the Swiss esports community. See Tsubasa Shinohara, The SESF Human Rights Protection Survey for Esports Participants: Survey Result Report (SESF, 20 December 2023), https://sesf.ch/news/the-sesf-human-rights-protection-report-for-esports-participants/.

[3] See Statista, Esports – Worldwide, https://www.statista.com/outlook/amo/esports/worldwide; Unfortunately, Newzoo discontinues its esports report in 2023. Jake Nordland, Newzoo discontinues its esports industry reports (Esports Insider, 2 March 2023), https://esportsinsider.com/2023/03/newzoo-ends-esports-report; Therefore, this article refers the last year version. See Newzoo, Global Esports & Live Streaming Market Report 2022 (Free Version, 2022), https://newzoo.com/insights/trend-reports/newzoo-global-esports-live-streaming-market-report-2022-free-version/.

[4] See section 2.1.

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[5] Sonam Adinolf and Selen Türkay, Toxic Behaviors in Esports Games: Player Perceptions and Coping Strategies, (2018) CHI PLAY’ 18 Extended Abstracts at 366. https://doi.org/10.1145/3270316.3271545.

[6] WIRED), https://www.wired.com/story/toxicity-in-gaming-is-dangerous-heres-how-to-stand-up-to-it/; Yen-Shyang Tseng, The Principles of Esports Engagement: A Universal Code of Conduct (2020) 27(2) J Intell. Prop. L. at 224-36, https://digitalcommons.law.uga.edu/jipl/vol27/iss2/3/.

[7] IESF, IESF and Women in Games Partner to Empower Female Gamers Worldwide (IESF, 25 February 2022), https://iesf.org/iesf-and-women-in-games-partner-to-empower-female-gamers-worldwide/.

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