Turning games into a gamble, or how I feel about competitive gaming

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Lots of people feel that gaming in general is little more than a waste of time for immature kids. Anyone who makes money from gaming outside of development will inevitably encounter the bewildered bystander who will ask “You get paid for that?”. It’s just a fact of life now that anyone who makes money from content creation in the gaming sphere has to deal with. Although, with the recent explosion of “high-quality” competitive gaming competitions; the mainstream populace is starting to take notice of just how lucrative gaming can be.

Com0petitve tournaments for prizes ranging from stacks of schwag to millions of dollars are becoming an almost monthly occurrence in some sectors of video games. MLG Pro Leagues, SMITE championships, DOTA and CS:GO Invitationals, and more are all puling millions of players and millions of dollars into the scene. But despite their success, I see a bigger ethical issue here.

The recent controversy of ESL One’s drug testing and the use of performance enhancing substances in gaming is causing quite a stir.  And one has to ask, what kind of culture are we creating where exclusion and competitive hostility become the norm to a degree that people resort to these things just to win in a game. Competition for monetary incentives is intrinsic to a Capitalist society, and gaming is definitely starting to be infested with this mentality. Turning what should be an enjoyable sense of community into a giant orgy of spectacle and consumerist bullshit. The dubstep, advertising, and crappy lightshow saturated main stages at major gaming events epitomize this trend.

It’s even being seen on much smaller scales in services like KickBack. Where players pay into prize matches in various games from CS:GO to Minecraft, competing for some small share of the prize. The inescapable fact about both these services and the grand shows of competitive gaming is that they are taking the already overly commercialized gaming industry and adding onto it an element of gambling-for-profit. It’s no secret that betting on matches in sports or gaming is a suckers game. The entire system works like a HYIP (High-Yield-Investment-Program) and is built on constantly bringing in fresh money to enrich the “house” and the older entrants lucky enough to “win”. It should be blatantly obvious to us that even though such practices and the mentality behind them are common, they are exploitative and only justified in the minds of those who accept them as already valid. Yet they continue to grow in popularity.

So the question remains, why do we continue to accept these exploitative and ultimately destructive systems? What will the future of gaming look like if allowed to continue in this trend unabated?

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ISKMogul is a growing video game publication that got its start covering EVE Online, and has since expanded to cover a large number of topics and niches within the purview of gaming.