Ethics – eSports Cheating

Overview

Chinese police have arrested ten people, calling themselves Chicken Drumstick, connected to an eSports or video game cheating ring that made an outrageous $100 million in profit.

eSports can be defined as a multiplayer video game played competitively for spectators, typically by professional gamers, but has grown in popularity in colleges and universities. More than 50 colleges have varsity eSports programs governed by the National Association of Collegiate Esports or NACE, a 501 c3 non-profit membership association. These championships pay thousands of dollars in prize money, which is put towards scholarships for the winners.

According to CNN, “eSports describes the world of competitive, organized video gaming. Competitors from different leagues or teams face off in the same games popular with at-home gamers: Fortnite, League of Legends, Counter-Strike, Call of Duty, Overwatch, and Madden NFL, to name a few. These gamers are watched and followed by millions of fans worldwide, who attend live events or tune in on TV or online. Streaming services like Twitch allow viewers to watch as their favorite gamers play in real-time, and this is typically where popular gamers build up their fandoms. Tournaments and other events can attract viewing crowds that rival most traditional professional sports outings. The 2017 League of Legends World Championship drew more than 80 million viewers.

By 2023, Newzoo predicts that the annual growth rate will be approximately 10.4% and expect the number of casual viewers will grow to about 350 million. Also, there will be around 300 million eSports enthusiasts, making the total audience 650 million.

eSports, at its highest levels, functions in a similar way to the NBA and NFL.

Chicken Drumstick

According to the BBC article, the bad actors, who called themselves “Chicken Drumstick,” developed and sold various cheats or hacks to some of the most popular video games, including big titles like Overwatch and Call of Duty Mobile. Hacks may enable a player to see others through walls or automatically shooting anybody who comes across their path.

Chicken Drumstick surfaced in several countries and sold subscriptions ranging from $10 a day to $200 a month, so they made some serious money. By the time police closed in, Chicken Drumstick had managed to rake in more than $75 million in revenue. According to the BBC, police also seized approximately $45million in assets that included several luxury cars.  The police operation was aided by Chinese gaming giant Tencent and led to the arrest of 10 people in connection with the ring.

Cheating in video games is an increasing problem many developers are facing. It also begs the question: Does this behavior carry over into the classroom and work?

Ethics

Many years ago, I gave an ethics presentation, and below is an excerpt from the deck.

  • Of 4,000 high school students with A and B averages, 75 percent admit to cheating to get ahead. 92 percent of those who said they cheated were never caught. – Who’s Who Among American High School Students
  • Almost 80 percent of college students admit to cheating at least once. – The Center for Academic Integrity
  • A Junior Achievement Survey found that 80 percent of teens believed they were prepared to make ethical decisions when entering the workplace. Yet of the Group, nearly half (49 percent) said that lying to parents is okay – and 61 percent had done so in the past year.
  • The percentage of resumes and job applications that contain lies and exaggerations has been estimated between 30 and 80 percent. – Security Management Magazine

Ethics doesn’t appear to get better with age.

  • A survey by USA Weekend-Found that 70 percent of 13 year old’s would return an extra dollar mistakenly given to them in change; only 55 percent of 17-year-olds said they would do the same.
  • In a survey conducted by the Girl Scouts- 65 percent of high school students reported they would cheat to pass an important exam-while only 53 percent of junior high students and 21 percent of elementary students would do the same.

Let’s look at some more alarming data.

Florida State University released a study a while back of more than 700 people within a variety of industries and at different employment levels revealed some interesting facts:

  • Almost two (2) out of five (5) bosses or (39%) fail to keep their word
  • One (1) in four (4) supervisors or (27%) insulted those they supervised to co-workers
  • One (1) in five (5) or (23%) blamed others for their mistakes
  • Almost one (1) in three (3) or (31%) used the silent treatment to show displeasure

All of these behaviors demonstrate that these bosses lacked personal values and personal ethics. This lack of ethical behavior may be attributed to top management because upper management has probably modeled the same behaviors. Finally, there are probably no core values adopted by the organization within the strategic plan. Even if there is a values statement, it is much more for show.

So what are some of the core values of an ethical individual and high-integrity organization? 

Individual 

  • Responsibility
  • Respect
  • Fairness
  • Honesty
  • Compassion
  • Confidentiality
  • Appropriate Communication
  • Internet Use
  • Security

Organization

  • There exists a clear vision and picture of integrity throughout the organization.
  • The vision is owned and embodied by top management over time.
  • The reward system or incentive program is aligned with the vision of integrity.
  • Policies and practices of the organization are aligned with the vision; no mixed messages.
  • It is understood that every significant management decision has ethical value dimensions.
  • Everyone is expected to work through conflicting-stakeholder value perspectives.

Here are some situations that encourage bad behavior

  • “Big Lie” justifies unethical actions – For the Good of the Company -The end justifies the means
  • Verbal or written contracts obligate a person despite doubts
  • Roles are twisted to influence a person to act unethically
  • Vague rules justify unethical employee behavior and enable “unjust” management
  • Positive wording used to justify wrong behavior
  • No accountability results in unethical behavior
  • The first step toward the ultimate “evil” act is small and increases gradually.
  • High exit costs make it difficult to leave a bad situation

The New Ethics Paradigm

  • Understanding culture is key and often ignored;
  • Compliance doesn’t drive business practices and ethics—it’s the other way around;
  • “Tone and conduct from the Top” and Leadership can make or break an organization;
  • Internal Controls and clearly defined roles & responsibilities are critical; and
  • The reality that we need to be relentless to sustain an ethical culture.

Some Red Flags

  • Pressure to maintain earnings, budgets, etc.
  • Fear and silence
  • Young ‘uns and a CEO with a BIG Ego
  • Weak Board of Directors
  • Conflicts of interest overlooked or unaddressed
  • Innovation like no other company
  • Attitude that goodness in some areas atones for evil in others

Closing

It would appear that children who cheat will be cheaters, and those hosting eSports activities (i.e., colleges and universities) need to have compliance and ethics programs in place.

I welcome your thoughts and comments.

Best,

Jonathan T. Marks, CPA, CFF, CFE

 

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