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Major League Gaming, the first professional gaming league in the U.S., shown here at E For All in October '07, offers winners big money and the chance to win sponsorships. With all the money comes allegations that some players are turning to drugs to take their game to the next level.  (Source: blog.triggeria.com)
Looking for a competitive edge, some pro-gamers turn to marijuana, amphetamines, and more

Doping scandals in the world of sports are nothing new.  As far back as 1889, James Francis "Pud" Galvin, the first pro-baseball pitcher to win 300 games, was advertising an elixir of monkey testosterone which he regularly took.  Today, in sports as diverse as baseball, cycling, mixed martial arts, and track and field, athletes are regularly banned and suspended for drug use.

Now, there's a new professional sport that's drawing these timeless tough questions -- professional gaming.  While some don't consider pro gaming a "sport" per se, they cannot deny the facts -- top pro gamers are professionals who are making a good deal of money, and regularly use their prestige to create lucrative brands.

In the U.S. alone there are two major leagues: Major League Gaming, which offers up to $100,000 a tournament in prize money and the newly created Championship Gaming Series, which has offered as much as $500,000 in tournaments.  These leagues have big sponsors.  Internationally, pro gaming is even bigger than here in the U.S. with elite gamers in countries like South Korea gaining celebrity status.

And like any sport where there's money involved, some people look to illegal or unregulated, but dangerous means to enhance their performance.  GamePlayer, Australia's leading gaming site ran an interesting piece on the topic where it identified commonly abused substances.  It identified, marijuana, amphetamines (speed), Dexamphetamine and Methylphenidate (Ritalin), Caffeine, and FpsBrain, the German drug cocktail previously blogged about here on DailyTech, as common drugs used when players want to gain an underhanded edge.

All of these drugs have serious consequences, particularly speed, which is known for its high fatality rate (no pun intended).  But is this use really going on?   GamePlayer wrote a follow-up piece in which it interviews Alex Walker, the director of a major international gaming tournament, the Australian World Cyber Games Tournament.

When asked if he knows of players abusing drugs with the intention of enhancing performance, Mr. Walker acknowledged:

It's funny because it's true. I know a lot of people through games that take drugs, although that's not related to gaming. It's more a social thing. But get any large group of people together, add drugs, and someone's bound to push the limit.

I noticed that you made a mention about people claiming they were better after having a bong or two. That's true. I've seen a number of players at national tournaments who came in "baked" (that's stoned for the uninformed) purely so they could play better. In most cases they did, although obviously they couldn't just pull out another joint midway through.

In one WCG, a player I knew took amphetamines an hour before his match to boost his reflexes. His team ended up losing the match, although it certainly had an impact - his performance helped his team to win one map out of three - it kind of hits home that only the really talented will come out on top in the end.

Worldwide, there seems to be a silent consensus that this is occurring, be it players using illegal drugs or abusing legal ones, such as caffeine pills.  While its certainly questionable whether these drugs overall truly give players an unfair advantage, or if a placebo effect from thinking they have an advantage comes into play, the fact remains that this is a surprisingly serious issue for this fun-centric sport to address.

It's going to be tough to find a solution, as experts point out.  Drug testing can be very expensive, and gaming leagues already struggle under lower profit margins and less sponsorships than most major league sports.  Furthermore, casual usage of substances such as marijuana has often been associated with the gaming culture and enacting strict drug testing could create a backlash among gamers.

Directors like Mr. Walker, have seen people in the past gaming in an obviously altered state.  In these occurrences, perhaps a kind reprimand and request to leave would be sufficient.  At least then pro-gaming would not have to suffer the negative PR from reports that it is turning a blind eye to drug abuse.



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RE: Gee, whodda thunk?
By MrBlastman on 8/29/2008 9:39:45 AM , Rating: 5
Wow

Did someone pwn you with the Railgun mid-air in Rocket Arena 3 really badly when you tried to rocket jump the last time? That is what you come across as - someone smitten with anger that perhaps someone out there might have more talent than yourself (which from your tirade seems like not much).

The drugs part - I agree with, there is no place for them in professional sports or any high-level competition. If you are truely an expert in your craft, drugs will only hinder your performance, not enhance them. You need your mind as sharp and quick as possible to maintain high level cognitive abilities. If one were to resort to drug use - it would only hasten their downfall from the top of their class.

However, your comments about pro-gamers not being the sharpest knife in the drawer, I think that is:

1. Drawing quite an assumption
2. Echoes of lack of experience (and achievement)
3. Reeks of jealousy

In fact, with your twisted logic, I could then construe that any pro-athlete isn't the sharpest knife in the drawer either. I mean, to swing at balls all day and run in circles around bases surely is not intellectually stimulating and they must be bumbling idiots to be shafted like that. How about running across a court all day tossing a ball in a hoop, mindless and pure repetitive foolishness. What about those dimwits that hit a little yellow ball back and forth on a court with silly rackets strung with cat-gut? FOOLS YOU SAY!

Oh, and don't dare think Gary Kasparov or any other top chess player has an IQ over 90. They're all fools who move silly ivory pieces around a grid all day! Darned tool shovers!

To be at the top of your game in anything competitive - be it baseball, basketball, football, race car driving, tennis, golf, chess or ... gaming ... requires intense mental acuity and focus. Without it, the top players would be like everyone else - no clear direction or cause and inability to push through the last boundary that prevents them from greatness - the mental boundary.

Furthermore, how does "play(ing) games for a living" make "you ain't exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer?" Because they are doing something that they enjoy and take great pleasure in, while making money (some of them very successful) such as:

Thresh (firingsquad)
Fatal1ty
Gamespy Networks founders
Gary Kasparov!

All of the above are very successful and have all made quite a bit of money. Are they idiots for pursuing a source of income through something they are skilled in? No. In fact, I would argue someone that does not pursue a career in something they are skilled or gifted in as a fool themselves.

Why not use your gifts, talents etc. to get ahead in the world? To ignore them is to perform a crime on your own existence.


RE: Gee, whodda thunk?
By Icelight on 8/29/08, Rating: -1
RE: Gee, whodda thunk?
By MrBlastman on 8/29/2008 11:27:33 AM , Rating: 2
If that were so than any joe schmoe could play all day and become very talented at gaming. From what I have witnessed, this is not so.

There are plenty of people that came constantly and have never been able to achieve a high level of skill or ability. To be good, real good, you have to be smart, think quickly on your feet and have very refined dexterity, be able to make decisions quickly and those decisions have to be good ones the majority of the time.

Coincidentally those above abilities are the same ones that pro-athletes share.

You can take any dumb lug and pump them up physically and turn them into a genetically gifted monster in the muscular arena - but none of that will make up for a weak mind. Your best Navy SEALs, Army Rangers, Snipers and Fighter Pilots are all genetic wonders. They possess tremendous physical potential - but it is that grey matter and their IQ that allows them to be the best of the best.


RE: Gee, whodda thunk?
By Icelight on 8/29/08, Rating: -1
RE: Gee, whodda thunk?
By MrBlastman on 8/29/2008 12:01:14 PM , Rating: 2
I think you are the one that is dreaming. :)

I disproved your point btw


RE: Gee, whodda thunk?
By DigitalFreak on 8/29/08, Rating: 0
RE: Gee, whodda thunk?
By Fnoob on 8/29/2008 9:58:55 PM , Rating: 2
"the majority of the readers of this site are slacker retards"

Uh...dude, I am a slacker retard.... so I can speak with authority on the subject. The majority of the readers and the staff here are far smarter than I am, and would be offended at being categorized along with me.


RE: Gee, whodda thunk?
By Reclaimer77 on 8/30/2008 9:39:05 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
To be good, real good, you have to be smart, think quickly on your feet and have very refined dexterity, be able to make decisions quickly and those decisions have to be good ones the majority of the time.


All gamers have those traits. What makes gamers " pro " is the knowledge of exploiting game mechanics and internet/network latency to their advantage and you know it.

Good grief stop trying to glorify things so much.


RE: Gee, whodda thunk?
By KernD on 8/29/2008 11:35:25 AM , Rating: 3
Being a pro player at anything requires the same thing, whatever the sport or activity, training every day.
Do you think a pro tennis player doesn't play every day?
It's like pro musician, they practice every day, you must always stay sharp.

Take FPS for example, to play them pro you need good/trained reflex, hand eye coordination, strategy and tactic. It takes plenty of brain power to do all these well. With this sport the most used muscle is your brain, that's all.

And by the way genetics are involved in everything that requires your body and mind, not just physical activity.


RE: Gee, whodda thunk?
By Hare on 8/29/2008 12:40:02 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
The drugs part - I agree with, there is no place for them in professional sports or any high-level competition. If you are truely an expert in your craft, drugs will only hinder your performance, not enhance them. [...] If one were to resort to drug use - it would only hasten their downfall from the top of their class.

Let's not be naive. As long as there are professional sports, there will be drugs. Do you think people would take drugs and risk getting caught if they didn't benefit from them?

I'm all for clean sports but it's not going to happen for a while. There are so much designer drugs that do not show on tests that it's ridiculous to think that e.g. majority of olympic athletes are clean. There are also tons of masking agents that help athletes pass drug tests even if they have taken illegal substances. Sad but true.

As for the rest of your post, I completely agree. We are not that far from computer games becoming a "real popular sport" with people watching games from their own couch. This may not happen in a year or two but it will definately happen. I don't see how playing a computer game is any less of a sport than e.g. motor sports. It takes skill and talent just like so many other sports.


RE: Gee, whodda thunk?
By MrBlastman on 8/29/2008 12:51:24 PM , Rating: 2
Oh, I agree that there will always be athletes that try and use drugs to get ahead. What I was getting at was that those who do use them will shorten their careers dramatically. It has been proven time and time again that performance enhancing drugs are full of devastating side effects which adversely affect your health. There have been quite a few athletes that have died at an early age due to steroid abuse. While performance enhancing drugs do heighten your abilities, they also rapidly age your body. They come with a price and a very expensive one at that.


RE: Gee, whodda thunk?
By Hare on 8/29/2008 4:49:17 PM , Rating: 2
You said the keyword "abuse". There are plenty of athletes who know what they are doing and the adverse health effects are pretty much none existent. Of course there are bad examples, bodybuilder with growth hormone gut or damaged liver but there are also huge amounts of people that have a different mentality. The media spreads insane amounts of FUD and people tend to believe it since they don't know better.

The funny thing is that majority illegal steroids are used outside sports all the time. Deca-Durabolin (nandrolon), a strong steroide is used to speed up tissue healing like winstrol e.g. if a person has been in a severe accident. Testosterone is the same, it's one of the most potent steroids and your body produces it all the time. As you get older your doctor may actually prescribe testosterone if your natural production is down as it enhances your quality of life.

Performance enhancing drugs don't necessarily age your body any faster, in fact it may actually be the opposite. It depends on if you abuse the drug irresponsibly or use it smartly.

I'll add one more time that I'm definately all for clean sports and have never done steroids etc but I think one needs to know quite a lot about them before making judgements. Basing opinions purely on what can be seen on the media is not a good way to approach the problem.


RE: Gee, whodda thunk?
By DigitalFreak on 8/29/08, Rating: 0
RE: Gee, whodda thunk?
By Reclaimer77 on 8/30/2008 9:33:32 AM , Rating: 2
I love games as much as the next guy, but I think your stretching reality Blastman by claiming gaming is a solid career path or even a noble one.

For every " pro gamer " there are probably thousands of college dropouts who are throwing their lives away. I should know, I was one of them.

You cannot be a productive member of society when you spend 12+ hours a day immersing yourself in a fantasy world. Its also very unhealthy mentally and physically. Nobody likes hearing the truth, but there it is.

quote:
In fact, with your twisted logic, I could then construe that any pro-athlete isn't the sharpest knife in the drawer either.


Except the fact that a HUGE majority of pro athletes have college degrees and went to college on ACADEMIC scholarships. Now does that make them smarter IQ wise than a 'gamer ? Of course not. But its nice to have a degree to fall back on if the whole athlete thing doesn't work out. Glorifying those who throw their "rl" away to try and become a " pro gamer " isn't even close to being the same.

Now the tone of the OP was pretty harsh and certainly his possition isn't going to be a popular one on a tech website. But c'mon, we all know what hes saying and it does have some truth to it. Its really no shock that drug use is a problem for people who have lost touch with reality.


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