Fire Base: Moving Forward and the Crossroad of Philippine Esports

Earlier this day, Valve has gave a statement that it removed the Major status from Galaxy Battles because of “new government regulations for esports players entering the Philippines” that are considered to be “unreasonable infringements on the privacy of the players, as a condition to enter the country.”

Now, putting aside the obvious breakdown in communication that happened between all of the parties involved, the correct way to move forward after this obvious setback is to set standardized guidelines for drug testing in Philippine tournaments. Of course, some other topics may be discussed at the sidelines of this one.

As a matter of fact, the country’s Games and Amusements Board (GAB), currently the official government body responsible for licensing esports athletes and organizations in the Philippines, has been set to conduct meetings between different stakeholders in the country “some time in March.”

Now, there are three questions that need to be answered as Philippine esports embarks on a new chapter in this industry.

First, will the discussions be inclusive? It is already a given in the country’s esports scene that the big organizations (i.e. Mineski, TNC, Tier One, etc.) will be invited to share their views. However, what about other stakeholders such as leading organizations of esports communities (Rumble Royale, Pacific, GameClub, PlayPark, WASD, Bren, et al), regional stakeholders (yes, we are talking about those companies that do esports tournaments in the provinces such as ROG, Metronoia and the like) and even local government units that do esports events such as Tarlac, General Santos and Negros Oriental? Do their voices don’t count in a sensitive matter such as this one?

Including stakeholders from different sectors of esports would allow the Games and Amusements Board (GAB) to do informed and sustainable policy decisions, especially in regards to drug testing for esports events in the country, which is going to be the main agenda this coming March. In addition, getting input from different people will ensure that the said issue(s) will be viewed from different perspectives, thus allowing an outcome that is palatable, if not outright satisfying, for the Philippine esports industry.

Second, how will it be standardized? GAB currently tests for marijuana (THC) and shabu (methamphetamine hydrochloride) through urine specimen, whose results are said to be “good for one year.” It is needed to mention that marijuana is legal for different uses, depending on jurisdiction, so this may be a point that needs to be addressed at one point or another.

Now, everyone knows that in the highest tiers of Counter: Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO), players are routinely tested for doping and performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs), which are recognized by the World Anti-Doping Agency, the independent agency working towards eradicating the improper use of drugs in sport, and supported by international esports organizations such as ESL and WESA.

Wouldn’t it be better if players are tested in accordance to international sporting standards and in line with widely-accepted best practices in the industry?

Wouldn't it be better for players to be tested in an expedited manner, especially those in the provinces?

Setting a ruleset that can be applied internationally would allow our events organizers to bid for international tournaments while at the same time increasing the quality of local ones by bringing them to widely-accepted norms, at least in that aspect.

Finally, how will it be implemented? Yes, GAB is about to require people to get licenses for competing in professional esports, but will there be actual government guarantees for membership? Will it facilitate easier entry into international tournaments?

In addition, since everyone and every esports tournament in the Philippines needs to have drug tests as far as GAB and the current iteration of Philippine law is concerned, how will GAB implement it without supporting the various regional stakeholders who may be hard-pressed to conduct drug tests on their own? Will GAB support tournaments in some concrete manner, whether financially or logistically?

GAB needs to make its implementation guidelines clear so that they can be understood and applied by everyone in the Philippines, regardless of institution, location or size of budget.

To sum up, GAB and the stakeholders responsible for representing Philippine esports should ensure that the talks are inclusive in which multiple and diverse voices are heard; that an applicable set of standards based on internationally accepted norms should be adapted and that the guidelines and provisions for implementation should be made as transparent and clear as possible.

Philippine esports is at another crossroads.

It is everyone’s responsibility to set things right.

Earl Carlo "dreamslayer28" Guevarra is the head editor for Play on WASD. His work is forthcoming in CSGO2ASIA, Crossfire Stars and GAMURS.

Formerly the lead FPS writer for eSports by INQUIRER.

People say he loves fruit juice :)