Esportsmanship, or the lack thereof

This article may be controversial.

E-sports tournaments are not new to the local arena here in T&T. Given our explosive, fire-filled personalities in the Caribbean, competitive environments are never short of action and animation from casters, participants and spectators alike. We can also boast of having players worthy of going pro and stepping into the international field. That being said, though, when it comes to sportsmanship, I believe we have some way to go.

Let me zero in on Hearthstone for the moment, as this is my area of specialty. In 2016, Carigamers introduced Fireside Gatherings which have frequently continued until today. ESCL has hosted 3 Gamescon events, at which Hearthstone was one of the featured games. All in all, we have had quite a number of tournaments to date.

As put it, “As with every sport played competitively or for fun, eSports and professional gaming have a set of unwritten rules of which players are expected to follow”.

In Hearthstone, these rules generally consist of:

  • Deck submission
  • No use of deck tracker apps
  • No help from third parties during matches
  • No changing of decks between games

Unfortunately, due to a lack of tournament administrators, players are often trusted to manage their own decks at tournaments. This translates to a question of honour of character, your word that you will not edit your decks in between games. It also means that as a participant in these tournaments, it is your responsibility to thoroughly read through any posted rules, and to pay attention to the instructions and briefings on tournament day. For instance, in the Caribbean where time is relative, it is also considered your responsibility if you show up late to a tournament and there have been changes made to previous information. If it was bo5 and you get there thirty minutes after the fact and it’s now bo3, you don’t have a case.

In any case, due to the fact that generally, HS tourneys are unregulated, players are free to do as they like. I don’t think that we have issues with performance-enhancing substances or match-fixing down here (correct me if I’m wrong), but we do have problems with sportsmanship. Bad attitudes, disrespect towards organisers; deck changes being one of the biggest. And yes, I’m about to say the taboo word as well: cheating.

If you cheat on a test to pass with distinction or merit, whose work is it really? There’s a lot of people out there who are okay with taking credit for other people’s work, but when it comes down to it, it isn’t yours. In the same manner, it’s not your win if you spec others’ games/get information on others’ decks and/or hands and pass it on to your buddy during a tournament. We can do better, guys.  Some of us play casually, some of us play competitively, some of us probably have dreams of going pro.

What about rage-quitting? I myself am guilty of this. Not shaking hands or saying “gg” to an opponent post game are some of the more PG reactions. (Then there’s a complete other end of the spectrum like that one guy who added me after ranked play to wish cancer on me, my family and everyone I love…) Nonetheless, we all get emotionally involved in our games. It is quite an investment – a literal financial one for some of us. Regardless, we should all work towards being better sportsmen.

On the eve of the Olympics 2020, the Paris Olympic sub-committee is already holding discussions on introducing eSports as a legitimate category in 2024. ESCL carried a team over to international eSports competition held at the 2016 Olympics in Rio last year (Rio eGames). There are giant steps being made for T&T in the arena, and potential for even grander steps in the years to come.

In Hearthstone, and many other videogames, players have to make a series of tactical decisions at a rapid rate. Especially in Hearthstone, though, every single decision is time-sensitive. Players need to be of strong mind and have a good ability to cope under stress during their process of decision-making. They also have to deal with the fact that their every decision is directly related to the outcome of the match. Unlike other games, however, Hearthstone is based partially on luck. Players need to understand this. So you didn’t draw your bloodlust, so you didn’t get a good opening hand, you never got the heal or the taunt when you needed it, you didn’t see the OTK coming. It doesn’t matter. As players, we need to work on our character and accept responsibility for our in-game mistakes, acknowledge that we did the best we could with the cards dealt to us, and congratulate our opponents. A win is a win, a loss is a loss.

  1. Feeding opponent hand and deck information to your friend is not okay.
  2. Swearing and disrespecting your fellow competitors and your admins is not okay.
  3. Violent objection to a fair disqualification is not okay. gives a good response to bad eSportsmanship. They place emphasis on building character, responsibility and independence. They categorise player development into four levels:

1 Respect for others

As I’ve mentioned before, respect your opponents as much as you respect yourself and your abilities.

2 Participation and effort

Encourage positivity and productive behaviour. “Da man is rel sh*t, you go mash him up”. Sound familiar? Good vibes only please. Local admins also encourage all types of players to join tourneys. From my observations since Carigamers started the Fireside Gatherings, I think participation has grown and is definitely going to continue to do so. Also, stop hating on people.

3 Independence

Post-game analysis. Again, as I’ve said above: your moves, your responsibility. You can’t help if you’ve gotten a bad draw, but chance and luck aside, your decisions in-game have 90% to do with your win or loss.

4  Caring and helping others

So our HS local scene is male-dominated. Much like every other eSports environment across the globe. Before you think I’m turning this article sappy because I’m a female, refer to the part where I said these are recommendations from Also from a female perspective: Hi, it’s me, Hawkeye. Probably the only girl on the island who plays HS competitively. Anyway, coming from a background in education, I also endorse teaching and learning as a good strategy to help our community grow. Players who can understand how they’ve arrived at their successes and appreciate the streamers/pro players/ research that helped get them there are true resources. We can use these resources as coaches to develop stronger players and better tourney environments. In terms of the ‘caring’ part under this point, good sportsmanship should be a concern for everyone. Try to be a model sportsman when you play, keep your emotions in check and kindly dissuade yourself and others from using profanity or reacting violently. Cut out malicious trash-talking. (I know in Trinidad we like to talk sh*t but guys, keep it friendly).

If we want eSports to grow, we have to grow as well.

(Let’s) Step up your (our) game.