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Safeguarding in Esports

Introduction

Safeguarding in esports is an unclear terminology. The word ‘safeguarding’ is often used in the context of sports, but it is not still a clear terminology for the sports society. However, it is necessary to define the term ‘safeguarding’ in order for the esports society to seriously consider this matter. This short piece hypothetically defines the term ‘safeguarding in esports’ as an umbrella term, encompassing initiatives aimed at preventing negative consequences in esports activities for vulnerable individuals, including children, women, and persons with disabilities. Among other things, this short piece will describe the following two examples for the safeguarding in esports: (1) cyberbullying and (2) physical and mental health problems.

The Examples of the Safeguarding in Esports

Cyberbullying in Esports?

Firstly, esports players, particularly young participants, have encountered cyberbullying in esports. Cyberbullying manifests through the dissemination of negative rumours, exclusion, threats, stalking, and harassment under anonymous identities in the digital space.[1] This form of behaviour undeniably leads to mental health issues for victims, especially the well-being of young gamers.[2] The prevalence of cyberbullying in esports, particularly in multiplayer games, has discouraged esports players from participating in competitive video games. Interestingly, esports players, or online gamers, often do not perceive these behaviours as cyberbullying. Instead, they see them as integral aspects of the broader ‘gaming culture’.[3] This perspective suggests that cyberbullying in esports poses a serious social problem to the development of a safe and inclusive environment for esports activities. Addressing and raising awareness about these issues is crucial for developing a healthier gaming culture and ensuring the well-being of esports players.

Physical and Mental Health Problems

Secondly, esports players contend with physical and mental health problems[4] arising from cyberbullying, online sexual abuse and harassment, excessive training hours[5] and the use of performance-enhancing drugs.[6] To mitigate these health concerns, esports organisations should regulate appropriate playing hours and ensure a safe esports environment. Moreover, esports players have been known to use performance-enhancing drugs to improve their cognitive skills such as concentration and reaction speed for tournament success.[7] To prevent excessive substance use and maintain the integrity of esports, esports event/league organisers and esports federations have implemented doping controls in collaboration with entities like the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)[8] and the Esports Integrity Commission (ESIC).[9] It is evident that esports activities can potentially lead to physical and health problems and thus the esports society should take appropriate and necessary actions to safeguard them against such negative consequences.

Conclusion

In conclusion, it can be considered that the safeguarding in esports mainly focuses on esports players’ interests only and requires esports stakeholders to prevent negative consequences caused by esports activities. This topic overlaps with the scope of “human rights in esports”, but it does not mainly consider how to strike a balance between the interests of esports players and those of esports society as a whole. In other words, the safeguarding in esports is to prevent harmful conducts against esports players within the esports society through the implementation of self-regulations and national legislation  Therefore, it can be said that the way for tackling the negative consequences in esports taken in the field of safeguarding in esports is different from the topic of human rights in esports. In this context, both topics should be taken into consideration in different manner.


[1] Lyle S. Kaye et al., ‘There’s a fine line between trash-talking and cyberbullying’: a qualitative exploration of youth perspectives of online gaming culture (2022) 32(3) International Review of Sociology at 427. https://doi.org/10.1080/03906701.2022.2133407.

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[2] Mikayla Kim et al., Anonymity and its role in digital aggression: A systematic review (2023) Aggression and Violent Behavior at 2. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.avb.2023.101856.

[3] Kaye et al. (n 1) at 429 and 431-432.

[4] See Dave Gershgorn, Esports teams are starting to train more like traditional athletes (Quartz, 7 February 2019), https://qz.com/1487081/esports-players-are-starting-to-train-more-like-traditional-athletes.

[5] Rich Stanton, The secret to eSports athletes’ success? Lots — and lots — of practice (ESPN, 29 May 2015), https://www.espn.com.sg/espn/story/_/id/13053116/esports-athletes-put-hours-training-reach-pinnacle.

[6] 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.

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[7] Mathias Schubert et al., Perceptions of professional esports players on performance-enhancing substances, (2022) 10(4) Performance Enhancement & Health, 100236. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.peh.2022.100236.

[8] See IESF, Anti-Doping Regulations, https://iesf.org/anti-doping/.

[9] See ESIC, Anti-Doping Code, https://esic.gg/codes/anti-doping-code/.

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