Archive | December 4, 2015

The Rules and Regulations of eSports Are Lagging Behind Its Exponential Growth

December 4, 2015

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By Casey Goodrich – Thompson Rivers University JD Student

Over the last few years there has been an enormous explosion in popularity for the eSports scene. The International – one of the biggest tournaments in the industry, featuring the game Defence of the Ancients 2 – is a fantastic example of the exponential growth that the industry has recently experienced. Last year, the International had over two million concurrent viewers and a prize pool of over $10 million. This year, the tournament had over 20 million people watching, with a prize pool of over $18 million. The winning team received $6.6 million, resulting in approximately $1.32 million for each player. With eSports becoming such a lucrative industry, it is truly puzzling how and why the rules and regulations are so poorly conceived.

A recent and perhaps unsurprising issue that has arisen is the use of performance enhancing drugs. In July, a professional Counter-Strike player publicly admitted in an interview that his entire team was using Adderall during tournaments. This prompted the Electronic Sports League (“ESL”) to implement drug tests for its competing players. It is disappointing that it took the ESL almost two decades to realize that drug testing was necessary for fair competition. Core skills for any professional gamer include possessing quick reflexes, swift reaction speed, and incredible concentration, all traits that are easily enhanced through over-the-counter medication, such as Ritalin and Adderall. Also factoring in that a large amount of the professional gamers are teenagers, who are vulnerable individuals that are still undergoing mental maturation, making the hands-off approach of the ESL even more alarming.

Another substantial issue that is prevalent in eSports is based on the contracts that professional players sign. A good proportion of the players are either teenagers or young adults; they are generally not advised to hire a lawyer, and there are very few agents looking out for players. The end result of this is that many players do not adequately review contracts and end up agreeing to inequitable deals, and are also not always paid what they are owed. Until eSports are run like a professional sport, there will be no resolution for this issue. The issue with eSports is that players don’t have the adequate representation and protection, so they sign their own contracts without the legal expertise necessary and frequently receive the short end of the stick.

An important distinction between eSports player contracts and other professional sports is that revenue is shared between players and teams in eSports, whereas it is a separate source of income for most other sports. The income comes from streaming, sponsor endorsements, and the developer of the game (which in turn can come from consumers who make purchases in the game that are contributed to the prize pool). So depending on the contract, a fixed salary and income is rarely guaranteed in eSports, whereas it is the norm for most other professional sports.

These issues garner the impression that the regulatory framework governing eSports lacks both competitive integrity and ethical obligations to the players involved. One would think that the professional players that are helping to generate interest, popularity, and subsequently more sales of these games would be treated more fairly. It is plausible that the root of these issues is the absence of any universal, overarching organization to regulate this emerging industry. While the ESL is a large and influential organization, it does not have full autonomy over eSports, but rather regulates specific game tournaments. For certain popular games, such as Defence of the Ancients 2, the competitions are managed by the developers of the respective games (in this instance – Valve Corporation).

Interestingly enough, there is also currently no Players’ Association to represent professional players in eSports. The lack of a true regulatory organization, and no representation for players, has led to an imbalance in power and protection for players when negotiating deals with teams. Hopefully the recent growth and popularity in eSports will prompt stronger regulation and a universal organization to rectify these painfully apparent issues.

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For Whom the Bell Tolls – Death of the NHL Enforcer

December 4, 2015

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By Dan Hutchinson – Thompson Rivers University 3L JD Student

The death bell of the NHL tough guy has been sounding for years and now that breed of player is all but extinct. Names such as Probert, Domi and Twist are long gone from the game and even more recent names such as McGrattan, Orr and Parros have been unable to find employment in the NHL either having to settle for minor league deals or retire The league simply phased these players out of the game with rule changes that make the game faster, with more emphasis on speed instead of toughness.

According to hockeyfights.com, after 227 games in the NHL this season there have been 53 fights corresponding to 20.3% of games played with a fight. The percentage of games with a fight is down nearly 7% from last season and has dropped significantly each season since 2010 when the number of games with a fight was 40.1%. This number has dropped significantly due to the NHL taking steps to limit fighting including stiffer punishment for players engaging in a fight and instructing linesmen to break up fights before they are able to start.

The drop in fighting has also resulted from a philosophical shift in the league towards speed and skill and away from toughness and grit. Teams want players that can play at least 10 minutes a game and contribute more than their fists. “You’re already seeing a lot of that,” said Carolina GM Ron Francis. “Now you get teams that have scoring on all four lines. The way the game is played and the pace it is played at, teams that have success are the ones that have 12 forwards who can give you minutes.”

While this philosophical change has played a part in the death of the enforcer it is not the only reason the tough guy is no longer part of the game. Significant changes in rules in hopes of protecting players has seen the league take matters into their own hands further pushing the enforcer out of the game.

With concussions being an issue on everyone’s mind, especially with the current lawsuit against the NHL launched by former players dealing with issues relating to head injuries sustained during their playing career, the NHL has started to give out lengthy suspensions and fines for players laying dirty hits on opponents. The most recent long term suspension was given to Raffi Torres for a shot to the head of Jakob Silfverberg. Torres was suspended for 41 games on the play.

The question now is whether these suspensions and fines are enough of a detriment for players to avoid dangerous hits and result in an actual increase in player safety. Or were players safer with their own personal policemen roaming the ice? Many believe that the threat of having to “face the music” as a result of a dirty play to be more of a detriment than a fine or suspension. With the way the NHL is going, the threat of an enforcer coming after a player due to a dirty hit or even a fight as retribution is becoming a non-factor, a path which many feel is wrong.
“I would hate to see the unintended side effects of where hockey would go without fighting, without that threat of retribution. It’s a fast, violent game where we’re wearing weapons on our feet and essentially carrying a club. So while a two- or five- minute penalty is a bad thing, it’s not going to knock somebody off their path of destruction as much as somebody grabbing them and punching them in the face,” claims ex-NHLer Kevin Westgarth.

It’s hard to know whether the NHL would be a safer place without fighting and the threat of a suspension being the only thing to stop players from dirty plays but looking at two high profile instances where headshots have been delivered, no enforcer was in the lineup for the team that sustained the hit. In the 2011 Winter Classic where Sidney Crosby was taken out with a blatant headshot, Pittsburgh hadn’t dressed their enforcer Eric Godard and neither did Anaheim when Torres nearly took off Silfverberg’s head. This would never have happened to Gretzky when McSorley was in the lineup. It’s impossible to say whether or not these hits would have occurred had an enforcer been dressed but it is something worth noting.

Additionally, in the NCAA fighting is banned and is arguably more dangerous as a result. “They drop the puck and you try to kill guys in the corner. I don’t know if it’s because there’s no fighting or because of the build-up, but there’s a lot of crash-and-bang, not much finesse out there,” says ex-NCAA and current NHLer Corey Tropp. So while the NHL is doing its best to phase fighting and the enforcer out of the game in an effort to maintain player safety, they may be doing more harm than good.

It may be best for the NHL to leave fighting alone rather than push it completely out of the game. It certainly seems like the players want fighting to stay a part of the game after a recent NHL Players Association survey revealed that 98% of players support fighting in hockey. The NHL is slowly working to eliminate fighting in an effort to increase player safety and decrease the number of concussions. However, the best option may simply be to let the fights and enforcers stay a part of the game.

 

 

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Prosthetics in the Olympics: Equal Footing or a Carbon Fibre Advantage?

December 4, 2015

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By Emma Harvey – Thompson Rivers University 2L JD Student

Oscar Pistorius, otherwise known as the Blade Runner, made history by being the first amputee athlete to ever compete in the Olympic games. The International Association of Athletic Foundation’s (IAAF) ground breaking decision to allow Pistorius to run on his carbon fibre prosthetics didn’t come without its trials and tribulations, and as the German long jumper, Markus Rehm is learning, there is still a lot more ground to be broken.

Markus Rehm, a single-leg amputee and long jumper, recently broke his own long jump world record to win gold at the 2015 International Paralympic Committee Athletics World Championships. Rehm jumped 8.40m, breaking his previous record by 11cm. However, what is of particular noteworthiness is that his 2015 jump also beat the 2012 Olympic gold by 9cm. In 2012, Rehm was denied the chance to compete in the Olympics by the IAAF and had to make due with competing and winning gold at the Paralympic games instead. Rehm hopes to represent Germany and compete in the 2016 Olympics in Rio, though he has yet to be granted permission by the IAAF. This raises the question of whether his prosthetic carbon fibre blade gives him an unfair advantage.

Rehm’s prosthetic leg is the same carbon fibre Cheetah flex brand as worn by Pistorius, and the blade providing an unfair advantage was the same excuse that was initially used to prevent Pistorius from competing against able-bodied athletes, so wherein lies the difference? Firstly, they are competing in different sports; Pistorius being a sprinter and Rehm a long jumper. Secondly, they are both leg amputees, but are distinguishable by the fact that Pistorius is a double-leg amputee and Rehm a single-leg amputee. The advanced studies conducted on Pistorius to test his oxygen consumption, leg movements, force exertion on the ground, leg-repositioning time, and endurance were all conducted, factoring in that he has two prosthetic legs in comparison to able bodied sprinters.

The arguments against Rehm participating in the Olympics are that he would have an advantage in the long jump both during his sprint down the track and the take off into the jump. Consequently, studying Pistorius with regards to his sprinting is of no relevance as we can’t confer the findings onto Rehm based on the differences in their amputations. Moreover, the study of Pistorius didn’t examine jumping with carbon fibre blades, which is an important aspect to consider, for many believe the blade gives Rehm an unfair spring-like or catapult effect as he plants his prosthetic leg before his jump. This highlights the evident need for more information regarding how a prosthetic blade compares to a natural joint in the movement of jumping.

So what is being done about disabled athletes who want to compete against able-bodied athletes? Not much. The IAAF’s stance is to handle situations on a case-by-case basis. The German Athletics Association (DLV) showed an interest in doing a thorough study and analysis of Rehm’s prosthetics but found the costs to be so high that it wasn’t economically affordable. Instead the DLV has taken the approach of studying the data of the jumps recorded during Rehm’s competitions to see if his blade gives him an unfair advantage. Officials in the past have found the data to be inconclusive and have therefore opted to leave Rehm out of able-bodied competitions for they can’t be sure that Rehm’s prosthetic blade doesn’t give him an advantage. Without any new studies, I find it highly doubtful that the IAAF and DLV will change their positions.

Unlike Pistorius, Rehm has taken the position that he doesn’t want to spend time and money on drawn-out legal battles and scientific studies to appeal and argue the various athletic governing bodies decisions. Rather, he hopes to work in cooperation with the various governing bodies, and if deemed necessary make modifications to his blade in order to ensure the fairness standard required to allow him to compete in the Olympics.

I contend that officials need to reconsider the line between able-bodied sprinters and disabled athletes. If the blade allows Rehm to jump as far as he would, if he still had both legs and with no advantage, then why not allow him to compete in the Olympics? Various athletic bodies currently regulate what drugs may or may not be taken so the same could be done with prosthetics. With the advancements of science, it is my belief that the IAAF and other various governing bodies owe it to Rehm and others to do more to ensure a level playing field for competition in sport. It follows that conducting comprehensive in-depth studies of prosthetics rather than data analysis would be the starting step.

 

 

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