(NBC News) – Millions of people are watching e-sports, competitive video gaming. Top players vie for sponsorship’s, social media fame, and sometimes seven digit cash prize pots.
Those big prizes have given rise to another problem: Cheating. “The more that gets put online, the more you know people are looking for an edge,” said ESL Gaming Network’s Craig Levine.
It’s usually in the form of software that hacks the game code, giving players an advantage like seeing through walls or automatically aiming.
It can take hours to get good at a game, even at the amateur level, and if there’s no competition, there’s no fun. “It’s almost at the point to where you’ve put in all the work, you don’t even want to play anymore,” said gamer Chris Rykrsmith.
If players quit, that hurts sales and discourages honest players, just as e-sports are beginning to go mainstream. The industry is fighting back. ESL is beefing up efforts to catch cheaters, constantly monitoring online players for suspicious activity and even hiring spies to uncover illicit code.
“We’ve got a full team in place that does everything from what we call anti-cheat development on the technology side, all the way up to the policies and practices that we have for how we’re administering competitions to ensure competitive integrity,” Levine said.
It’s even more intense for the live competitions. “We provide standardized tournament computers or consoles, we provide trained referees as well as actually drug testing,” Levine noted.