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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 Icelight on 8/29/2008 11:10:29 AM , Rating: -1
Except being good at real sports requires lots of intense physical activity and perhaps even some good genetics.

Being good at gaming insofar as playing at a "professional" level (and I hate to use that term but there's no way around it) requires 12 hours a day sitting in front of a monitor with the most intense activity resulting from trying to avoid carpal tunnel.


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.


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