High-profile coaches sanctioned in CS:GO “spectator bug” investigation

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Valve

The broad strokes

Ever since money became involved in sports, it created an incentive to find different ways to skirt the rules and gain unfair advantages. This is simply a fact of life, and it cannot be avoided. And while every ESports fan wishes their scene were different, the same things have happened in the world of video games. Every so often we get stories of players and teams trying different things to earn an extra bit of money.

In August, Steve Dudenhoeffer, the ESEA software development specialist, and veteran referee Michal Slowinski began reviewing demos of professional Counter-Strike: Global Offensive games. The pair had learned of an exploit. The so-called “spectator bug” allowed certain coaches to position themselves anywhere on the map and stay there, able to see in 360 degrees.  This would let them feed information back to their team, telling them the behaviors and positioning of their opponents. 

In CS:GO, the most valuable weapon to have is information. Info allows teams set traps, ultimately leading to easier victories. The people who alerted Slowinski and Dudenhoeffer to this bug claimed it had been in the game since 2016 in some form or another.

The investigation broadens

In the beginning of September, the Esports Integrity Commission (ESIC) issued a release stating that it had decided to get involved. The organization intended to investigate matches going back all the way to 2016. In total, that would make over 5 terabytes of data, or around 25,000 demos. 

The ESIC plans to spend eight months investigating the allegations. The commission offered a grace period to all coaches who wished to confess by September 13. The ESIC reserved the right to pass sanctions, however. These would depend on how often the coaches abused the bug, and how sincere their apologies were.

To date, the ESIC has issued sanctions to three high-profile coaches: MIBR, Hard Legion, and Heroic. So far, the longest ban looks to be about two years, with the sanctioned coach having the right to an appeal. The ESIC seems to have also issued disqualifications.

Game developer Valve has stated that any team disqualified due to the abuse will have its Regional Major Rankings (RMR) reset. Basically, this will disqualify them from the next upcoming major. Valve also said it would wait to hand out individual bans until after ESIC finishes its investigation. The company said it would look into limiting coaching even more in the future. In 2016, Valve had already limited the role of coaches, allowing them only to speak to their team before and after the game, and during the several time-outs available to each team.

The ripple effect

Already the CS:GO world is seeing some massive repercussions because of this scandal. Recently, MIBR decided to release its head coach, Ricardo “dead” Sinigaglia. The team also benched two of its star players, fer and TACO. FalleN, the legendary AWPer, has requested to be benched as a means of protest.  

This bug and this investigation are going to continue causing ripples in ESports for months to come. Expect to see many pros and coaches exit the CS:GO scene in favour of Riot Games’ new shooter, Valorant, and its budding competitive scene.  Riot has not yet stated if it will uphold the bans or if it will allow these players to start fresh in a new scene.  

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