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Clear rules, strong leadership and education needed to combat racism

Racism has no place in esports. In any part of esports. I think we can all agree on that. So when it does, from time to time, rear its ugly head in whatever community, we are usually quick to knock it down, chastise those involved and encourage a reasonable punishment.

Such a set of cases existed recently in Dota 2 with two young individuals using racist language in game. There was universal outcry from the community, both from East and West.

It is pertinent to mention that both players used racial slurs towards Chinese people, so perhaps it is understandable that the more vociferous complaints came from the Chinese Dota fans, but I saw plenty of disgust from Western players and fans, too, and rightly so. It doesn't matter who the racism is aimed at, we should all be united in trying to stamp it out and educating those who misuse language.

That last point is worth exploring further, too, and please don't misunderstand me, I do not condone racism in any form, but I do believe we have an incredibly young and diverse set of professional players in esports.

Young people who come from different backgrounds, with different levels of education and are exposed to massive communities of fans very quickly when they start playing at the top. As such, while I would not condone their behaviour, it does seem to me that it is completely understandable that some would make mistakes like this (who didn't when they were younger?).

Discipline and educate

That doesn't mean the punishment should be any less or that we should forgive and move on quickly, far from it. They need to be punished, but they also need to be educated.

Punishing players is part of the education process but it needs to be done at the point of failure or soon after, not months later. In this case, both teams fined their player, issued apologies and were held accountable.

Making the same mistake twice in this situation doesn't come with a free pass

You can certainly argue if the punishments went far enough and you can make a good case that the apologies weren't strong enough or that the education part was missing, though in TNC's position, adding additional fines that would go to charity seem to me to go too far the other way.

The key part missing was education, though both players seem genuinely sorry for screwing up and, hopefully, won't be doing anything similar in the future. And on that point, if they do, feel free to throw the damn book at them and kick them out. Making the same mistake twice in this situation doesn't come with a free pass.

Unprecedented intervention

But then we had further punishment handed down. Not from the teams or the de facto governing body, Valve, but by way of an independent, local government of a city where the next Dota major will be held.

In my lifetime, I cannot recall such a measure being deployed on this scale in esports. The two players were effectively banned from travelling to the city to compete. From information I have seen with my own eyes, the teams were also encouraged to remove the players from their roster all together by the local government.

While I really do understand the outrage the language used has caused and the offence Chinese fans have felt, I do not believe a local government (who after all, isn’t even the organiser of the event) should be interfering on a level like this.

Some have said that perhaps the real culprit is Valve. They didn’t step in at the first instance and waited for days to issue anything publicly, eventually issuing a "racism is bad" blog post without any further action on the players, teams or mentioning any other repercussions.

I don't think we were surprised by this. It's a line Valve has taken on other matters that the community have cried out for clarification on. I personally don't blame Valve for treading the thin line between game-maker and governing body.

They have never wanted to be the governing body and the fruits of that are the vibrant community and third-party events we currently enjoy around the world. But I do think they could take a more active role in governing the scene, even if just a little.

For example, have a fully agreed set of rules for teams and players attending majors and TI. This isn’t that difficult to form and it gets buy in from the players and teams. They know where they stand in the event of mistakes or flagrant abuses of the rules or just refusing to have fair play, all of which are going to be very few and far between.

Laying down the law

Having a rule book which clearly says "no racism will be tolerated by professional players in any format of a Dota 2 game" is helpful to everyone. Having a section which clearly lays out the penalties for such offences is also helpful (even if it’s a little vague like some real-life laws).

I’d even go further and run elections to appoint a Dota 2 Commissioner. Someone with real-world experience who loves the game and the esports scene and can act as a go between from the players/teams and Valve. Help improve conditions for players and teams attending official Valve sanctioned events and be the person people go to when problems come along. A strong voice in the midst of emotion-fuelled decisions made by third parties with nothing to lose.

With clearer rules and a strong leader, our esports scene would be a better environment for everyone

Would it be hard to write all the rules and appoint a commissioner? Absolutely, it won’t be easy to find the right person or get the rules right straight away, but the upside, in my opinion, outweighs the difficulty.

With clearer rules and a strong leader, our esports scene would be a better environment for everyone, fans included. It would also mean when players screw up (intentionally or otherwise) they can be dealt with in a professional manner and not left to the whim of a city government with no understanding of the scene, the game, the players or esports, deciding the fate of a young players career over one mistake.

I'll end by reiterating: I think the players screwed up, I think they were offensive, I don't condone their actions and in fact I am disgusted by their use of language, I think they should be punished and I think they have been punished in a reasonable and professional way without a local government getting involved months after the fact. I do not see how their involvement helps anyone and certainly doesn't help our scene come together, as it has in the past, but instead helps fuel the divide which has grown.

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