Technical tricks: what do gamers go to to win in esports?

Since last year, the World Anti-Doping Agency WADA has been monitoring the doping tests of cybersportsmen.

The “Yekaterinburg-Expo” hosted the all-Russian tournament for gamers “Cyberfest-2016”. Having been in the thick of things, Life asked the participants about a forbidden topic, and specifically about doping in computer sports. The organizer of the festival Ilya Marshev, as well as DotA and League of Legends players Alexei Mamylov, Ilya Vostryakov and Mikhail Brud, told Life about the intricacies and tricks in virtual competitions .

– There really is a problem with doping. And not to say that these are isolated cases, – the organizer Ilya Marshev admits. – Professional players, focused on the result, not just the pleasure of the game process, use various chemicals that enhance the reaction and can increase the performance.

Until recently, there were no checks at the virtual sports championships, only since 2015 WADA began to monitor the situation with doping. The list of prohibited drugs includes anabolic agents and steroids, peptide hormones and growth hormones, mimetics, metabolic modulators, Beta2 agonists, as well as marijuana, cannabis, hashish, synthetic THC, cannabimimetics (spice), heroin, methadone, morphine, fentanyl and their derivatives. After that, the world of computer competitions became fairer, but automatically got another problem.

WADA also included anabolics and steroids in the list of drugs prohibited for e-sports. How do they affect the improvement of results in virtual competitions ?! Right! In no way anabolics and steroids are able to affect the performance of a gamer, but for their use the league can ban the whole team of the amateur to swing. The anti-doping agency included them in the list of prohibited ones, because WADA did not develop a separate program for e-sports, but ascribed already existing standards to it, without understanding the intricacies. This copying of the postulates without analyzing the sport itself caused a lot of controversy among gamers and virtual competition experts. In particular, this applies to steroids, which some gamers use to pump their own body in their free time from competition.

– There is an opinion that the list of drugs prohibited for gamers, which has been introduced by ESL, can provoke conflict situations, – Ilya Marshev commented. – For example, there is a gamer who, in addition to playing games, loves to go to the gym, and in order to achieve results as soon as possible, the guy starts taking steroids. However, the catch is that after that he will no longer pass the doping control in the professional ESL championships. And he will be disqualified.

Ilya remembered that less than a year ago in Europe there was already a similar scandal with one of the cybersportsmen who was caught using steroids and excluded from the competition.

Overclocking hardware, not brain

As in any sport, where not only an athlete participates, but also some kind of mechanism, be it a car, a bicycle or a biathlete’s rifle, there are always technical tricks. Six years ago, “codes of immortality” and “eternal patrons” were ubiquitous, but the situation began to change for the better since 2010, when not only the athlete himself was banned for cheating, but entire teams.

“Technical doping in esports, the so-called cheat codes, are programs that change the game settings and give a gamer or team an advantage over rivals,” explains Ilya Marshev, organizer of Cyberfest-2016. – For example, in the game Counter-Strike at one time there was a very popular cheat code, the so-called white dot. Using this cheat, the player could see where his opponents are, even if they were hiding on other floors or behind walls.

But this is already an unfair game. Ilya said that at the Cyberfest championships they fight cheats simply and effectively. The fact is that players are physically unable to download their software to tournament computers, because the necessary software is already installed on the machines and there is no hard drive as such. Another forbidden e-sports life hack is the special setting of a computer mouse, the so-called macros – programs that allow you to assign a multi-step action of the hero to pressing just one key or several.

– The main problem with cheats now is that you can play with them, train, and then you come to the tournament, and they will tell you that you cannot use them, – explains the captain of the 1FALL team Alexey Mamylov. – Many well-known players who abundantly used cheats and macros predicted a quick failure after the ban, but they showed absolutely the same result at the next tournament. So in fact, these additional programs will not give a bad player any superpower.


The culture of gamers is somehow connected with alcohol. Many of the regulars in computer clubs like to have a couple of beers during a CS game. According to gamers themselves, alcohol helps to concentrate, in turn, relaxing and killing anxiety.

– Alcohol relieves unnecessary anxiety, allows you to more fully immerse yourself in the process and focus only on the game, – says Ilya Marshev. – Alcohol is prohibited in competitions, only energy drinks are allowed. We were in one of the clubs where the guys trained before “Cyberfest”, they drank alcohol, but behaved quite adequately.

At the moment, there is one known incident with an esports player who was disqualified from ESL for drinking alcohol. The European esports league then canceled the gamer’s results after the competition, but did not disclose the name of the athlete.

– If the tournament is important, where you can win money, then it is unlikely that a professional player will show up for it drunk and in poor condition, says the captain of the Huesosi Team Mikhail Brud. – It’s like athletes who have to run a hundred meters will come to the start after a sleepless night.

Nootropics and stress pills 

There is a stereotype that since speed is important in e-sports, players will definitely accelerate their reaction speed with some kind of substance. However, this is not entirely true, but rather a myth, and in reality everything is quite the opposite. Many gamers prefer not to be “accelerated” during the tournament, but to be extremely collected and concentrated. Therefore, professional cybersportsmen often use tranquilizers or beta-blockers – medications that help relieve stress, tremors and anxiety that interferes with concentration. Gamers use sedatives: from banal valerian, antidepressants such as novopassit, which is freely available in any pharmacy, to strong tranquilizers. For example, ten years ago, one of the best players in Unreal and Quake 4, Ricardo Zanozio, admitted that a dose of Valium helped him at the CPL Winter tournament. The Germans went even further and in 2008, specifically for gamers, they developed a “legal tranquilizer”, calling it FpsBrain. Many e-sportsmen do not shy away from nootropics – the favorite pills of students who need to write a term paper or a diploma in a short time.

– In Russia we have an analogue of the German legal doping, but only weaker. This is glycine, – says Ilya Vostryakov, the leader of the Edem za prizovimi team. – If you drink it as a course, then it also calms the nerves and increases concentration. This is exactly what I need in DotA when I’m in third position against several opponents at once.

– I think that the doping of the Germans is marketing, otherwise they would have won en masse in all competitions, says the captain of the Huesosi Team. – As for nootropics, the same glycine or piracytam, I personally know those who take them. They say it helps.

Psychostimulants: amphetamine and others

In the 2008 documentary about esports athletes, Frag, pro gambler Michael Carmac Blichars listed specific drugs popular with gamers. In particular, he mentioned the so-called crystal meth, which is a form of amphetamine, Ritalin and amphetamine itself.

All these drugs sharpen perception, give strength and improve concentration. Last summer, player Corey Semphis Friesen of the American team Cloud9 admitted that he and the entire team took Adderall, a psychostimulant that is used in some countries to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children.

– I heard that someone is playing under “speed”. But this is not at all the best way out, – explains gamer Mikhail Brood. – But if an athlete plays lousy, then no drugs will save him.

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