eSports players are increasingly resorting to the use of nootropic substances to keep their reflexes sharp during high-stakes video gaming competitions.
Doping is the act of athletes taking illegal substances to improve their performances. Similarly, e-doping is the act of players in eSports taking nootropic substances (i.e., smart drugs and cognitive enhancers) to enhance their gaming performance. For example, since 2013, amphetamines like Adderall have been increasingly used to gain better focus, improve concentration, reduce fatigue, and induce calmness. Overall, e-doping practices may provide unfair advantages to players and can cause dangerous effects in the long term.
To combat e-doping, the Electronic Sports League (ESL) collaborated with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to develop an anti-doping policy in 2015. Numerous eSports teams further partnered up to form the World E-Sports Association (WESA) to ensure that all events supported by WESA would be free from such practices. Between 2017 and 2018, the Philippian government and the FIFA eWorldcup took measures to make required drug testing, making players subject to the same anti-doping tests as regular sportspeople. However, many videogame developers have yet to address the issue in their events, and as of 2021, few regulations or stringent testing are stopping players in more minor leagues from using nootropics.
The pressure for eSports players to train harder and improve faster will likely exacerbate e-doping usage throughout the sport. The percentage of individuals taking substances can be expected to increase if measures to decrease these actions are not taken soon.
Enforcing compulsory testing during leagues may lead to unbalanced power dynamics between prominent organizations as more minor associations may not be able to afford the infrastructure to uphold testing mandates. The continuation of e-doping scandals may pressure game developers to address the matter as they benefit immensely from the success of eSports. Likewise, more countries can be expected to hold e-gamers to the same anti-doping standards as other athletes, increasing the attempts to regulate the use of dopants.
Implications of e-doping
Wider implications of e-doping may include:
- More organizations mandating supplement testing to protect and reduce e-doping.
- The rise of eSports players acquiring severe health issues due to the long-term effects of dopants.
- Many players continuing to use over-the-counter supplements to assist in productivity and alertness.
- More eSports players, are removed from playing due to e-doping scandals uncovered through mandatory testing.
- Some players retiring early as they may not be able to cope with the increased competition the unfair advantage causes.
- The development of new nootropic drugs that feature improved effectiveness and non-traceability, driven by the demand from the booming eSports sector. Such drugs will also gain significant secondary adoption by students and white-collar workers operating in high stress environments.
Questions to comment on
- How else do you think e-doping can be monitored and reduced?
- How can players be protected from e-doping pressures in gaming environments?