Volume: 16 Issue: 1
Major US video game developer and distributor, Valve Corporation, announced on 4 January 2018 its decision to rescind its support of the Galaxy Battles 2018 eSports tournament to be held in the Philippines this month due to “unreasonable infringements on the privacy of players,” brought about by the legal requirement that players must acquire an ‘E-Gamer License’ to participate in eSports competitions in the country. It is suspected that Valve’s decision was prompted by an objection to the Government Games and Amusements Board’s (‘GAB’) requirements regarding the drug testing of players.
eSports players are recognised in the Philippines as professional athletes, and the GAB has set specific legal requirements regarding applications for a licence to play eSports, which include medical requirements and proof of drug tests. “We have to remember that the drug test requirement comes with the territory of being recognised as a professional athlete - a status that some eSports players had asked the GAB to bestow on them in order to provide them with an athlete visa for tournaments held abroad,” said Mickey Ingles, Associate at Ingles Laurel Calderon and Professor of Sports Law at Ateneo de Manila University. “Professional athletes from other sports like basketball and football go through the same drug tests in order to protect the integrity of sports. Treating eSports players as professional athletes will ultimately benefit eSports, even if the GAB imposes certain regulations. Looking at the bigger picture, similar treatment will only legitimise eSports’ status as a sport and its players as athletes.”
The Government of the Philippines issued a statement shortly after Valve’s announcement, which did not refer to Valve’s decision directly but provided clarification as to why there is a drug testing requirement for professional eSports players in the Philippines, which stated: “This drug testing requirement is in place for safety and health reasons as well as for the protection of the integrity of the games […] For Galaxy Battles in January 2018, the GAB has allowed the organizers to merely submit the original drug results taken in their country and a copy of the facilities license/permit/accreditation from their government.”
The move by Valve, which it describes as its decision to “rescind the tournament’s Major designation” (which reportedly included sponsorship of the tournament, contribution to the prize money and the issuance of qualification points for future Pro Circuit Major Galaxy Battles tournaments), has prompted concern over the possible stifling of the eSports industry. The GAB’s statement addresses this concern, “For our part, our local athletes have embraced this rule as part of their commitment as professional athletes. So as to the local scene, we are confident that the number and scale of events will continue to grow. We can only hope that all stakeholders will appreciate drug testing as an undeniable part of professional sports in the Philippines and the world.” Ingles, however, considers it likely that Valve’s actions will impact the development of eSports in jurisdictions outside of the Philippines. “It is likely, especially if we see an exodus of sponsors and events. Market forces always play a part in regulation. If more sponsors follow suit, that’ll impose pressure on other jurisdictions to adjust their own regulations,” comments Ingles.