from the rat-race dept
The esports momentum due to the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t slowing down. And one of things many people are learning now that they’re either spectating or participating in esports for the first time is just how hard it is to be really, really good in these competitions. The days that bore the cliches about unskilled gamers slothing in their parent’s basement are long gone, replaced by corporate sponsorships for sold out events in full-scale arenas. In the absence of traditional IRL sports at the moment, many professional athletes are now getting into esports as well, with autoracing having led the way.
And now, in an occurrence that basically had to happen, we have our first instance of a professional racer getting caught having a gamer stand in for him during a race.
As the BBC report, 27-year-old German driver Daniel Abt finished third in the latest leg of Formula E’s Race at Home Challenge. Or, organisers thought he’d finished third, until later discovering that he’d hired a gamer to drive the race for him.
The switch was discovered by ex-F1 driver Stoffel Vandoorne, who finished second in the race and suspected that Abt—who didn’t have his video on—wasn’t behind the wheel. Instead, it turned out to be a gamer by the name of Lorenz Horzing.
Abt has been forced to pay £8,900, was disqualified from the last race and has had all his points from the series wiped.
This is where you really have to check any inclination to hand-wave this due to it being esports instead of IRL sports. Were a racer to have a different driver drive his car, we all agree that would be indefensible. The same is the case here, especially given just how much we’re talking about in terms of marketing, advertising, purse, and sponsorship dollars. Once you accept that esports is a very real and established thing, this sort of cheating takes on an entirely different light.
It’s perhaps one of the challenges esports faces: getting spectators to buy into events when the participants aren’t live and in-person. Frankly, I’m a bit surprised there wouldn’t be a rule mandating the cameras be turned on.
For what it’s worth, Abt has since apologized. Regardless, this is something that probably had to happen at some point, but it’s worth remembering that not all milestones are positive.