It’s an approach that — for every nebulously stupid attempt to hide addictive drug addictions from public scrutiny — makes perfect sense. There’s a stigma attached to hardcore sports, and it would be a shame if anyone who loved esports, the tech-like sport where anything and everything is edited down in favor of the spectacle of the brutal, fast and violent, is prevented from doing it because their prize money might get cut off. Of course the eSports world is at least somewhat just as guilty of this as it is of the Sports Leagues’ dirty money, but somehow it’s not just the social issues that don’t immediately earn attention when you mention eSports, but its underlying problems. (You know, issues like civil liberties and technology that can’t be kept safe.)
So when you have a discussion among a group of people from different countries, you have to acknowledge that they might not be immune to the same natural curiosity that made them ask the question in the first place. And the fifth annual International Esports Summit, which kicked off Monday with a panel on “Virtual Reality” at the District hotel Ritz-Carlton and culminated on Tuesday with an esports tournament featuring online teams from all over the world, couldn’t have steered around any of those issues.
The biggest non-drug-addiction topic of the entire summit? Adderall, of course.
“It’s one of the big problems we don’t talk about because everyone is on it,” said Marialy and Blanca Saeinde, the owners of the online European team Major League Gaming, who were questioning whether esports players should be allowed to use prescribed medications that they need to perform to their best. “But it doesn’t make sense for people to have to give it up because people put in a lot of work and dedication and if something could go away then what’s it got to do with the work you put in? And in video games you need to be able to focus on your ability to be the best so why would you take away something like that?”
“Maybe I’m the one to ask but I don’t think it would be good because it could add a lot of pressure on a player and cause a lot of loss of concentration. I don’t know if I feel comfortable with it, especially after a long season. Maybe that’s the problem. It just takes away from your performance.”
This was either a completely genuine attempt at giving more than the typical lip service to science and science’s power to discourage quickie X-ray eyes scans to prove your NFL chances or just plain screwing around with the summit. My money’s on “the former.”
What the Saeindes were essentially asking is a complicated question that could be phrased as “Would it be good for esports if players were permitted to use physical painkillers that get them through day-to-day situations?” It’s a question that sort of goes to a very basic truth about sporting excellence — you can’t be distracted if you’re trying to focus on the task at hand — and a broader truth about drug use in general. The problem isn’t that any one injury to one elite athlete requires access to a prescription for a muscle relaxant to help him get through the pain, it’s that a pool of hundreds of thousands of people is dependent on the interests of a select few.
And let’s face it: If Adderall existed, esports would have come up with a point where players could get a benefit from it. The gulf between what anyone is willing to admit is true about athletes’ performance and what anyone actually knows about their bodies and what science can prove is so vast, it’s a matter of sports experts circling the wagons and frustrating progress with all sorts of conspiracy theories.
I’m fascinated by two sides of this issue.
On one hand, esports are facing so many challenges that it’s hard to imagine a place in which players would compete for as long as they have and not succumb to one of the many stunted-growth procedures becoming more common. But as is always the case, when the only option or way to compete is clear, then everyone gets a little bit fed up. And their attitude towards those with the most amount of leverage in the game market is that they want to push back — to “drag it out” as it were. In this case, it’s pushing aside solutions to problems that are real.
It’s hard to know where these arguments will