Here are some practical tips on how you as an event organizer can use the contents of this document. See these tips as a support mechanism – do not feel pressured to implement them all at once. Instead, regard them more as a way to develop and become a better organizer. Choose to implement a few to begin with, and when they have become part of your routine, you can add more as you go.
I. Establish ethical rules
Make sure to establish codes of conduct for participants at your event. If there are concrete and explicit ethical rules, they act as preventive measures – you reduce the likelihood of problems arising. It also ensures that any measures are effective.
II. Connect the ethical rules to your entry form
You can enclose these ethical rules in the registration for the competitions you organize – you probably already have practical or game specific rules that you communicate to your entrants, where this code of ethics will fit naturally.
It can then be designed as a list of bullet points, where participants actively tick a box to show that they have understood and accept the conditions for participation in the competition. Participants are then also obliged to take responsibility for following the rules – if they breach them, you as the organizer retain the right to take action.
When the players confirm their registration for the tournament (locally or online), a referee can remind them of the rules and their responsibility to comply with them. This minimizes the risk of players not understanding what is expected of them.
By making the ethical rules a compulsory part of the entry process, you as the organizer show that these issues are important, and it is thus very likely that participants will take them seriously, not least because there are real consequences if they violate them. Make it easy for your participants to do the right thing and behave in the right manner.
III. Personal information in the entry form
One way to increase the weight of your rules – both ethical and practical – is to require participants to register personal data (such as their full name) to participate in your tournaments. Here, the players will most likely feel that it is important to carefully read and comply with the rules, and make easier to follow up on the player’s’ actions.
If more organizers make use of the system, it also makes it easier to maintain a common front with regard to players who violate the rules. If a player is suspended from one competition, another organizer can refer to that ban. Note, however, that it can be problematic to require personal data from participants, because it makes it difficult for persons with protected identities to participate.
IV. Have a clear plan of action
Being prepared in advance for events that can happen on your LAN or in your tournament is extremely valuable.
If you have already decided on guidelines for how to deal with a player who insults an opponent, it will be much easier to make a good decision quickly while under pressure. Get the key people at your event together in good time before it takes place and plan for different situations. Again, the benefits of engaging students to help shape the rules and consequences are invaluable.
It is difficult to cover all the situations that may arise during a tournament, but the better you plan, the easier it will be to handle tricky situations when they occur. Assume that the players want to follow the rules and contribute to a positive environment, and try to educate and support rather than punish. The gains to be made from planting a new seed of thought in the mind of a player are much greater than just trying to remove the problem from the tournament.
i. A simple example of how you can establish a plan of action is to start from these three headings:
1. Risk assessment
a) What risks do you see for your event – what can happen? What would those events lead to?
a) How will you act when different problems arise? When should it be done? Assess how quickly you must take action to deal with different situations. Are there costs associated with your efforts? Who is responsible for taking action?
a) What is the goal of your action plan? How do you want the participants and the outside world to perceive your event? What are the anticipated benefits to students?
4. Openness creates trust
a) When situations occur that you as an organizer have to deal with, it may be tempting to make a decision on the possible consequences behind closed doors. It might feel more comfortable, and doing so minimizes the risk of possible objections that the organizer might have to respond to.
However, a clear and well-drafted plan that is open to the public is probably better than leaving yourself open to suspicion, and it increases the chances that your decision will be accepted.
Obviously there are circumstances that make being transparent difficult, and on some occasions privacy may be a contributing factor. But the more open you can be with how decisions are taken, the better – this way, you build trust.
V. Working toward the same vision
In order to be consistent and thorough in your efforts to create events that are open and welcoming, it is important that everyone involved is aware of your approach and that you share the same tools to get there.
As you start planning your event, ensure that you give everyone involved an opportunity to learn about the rules you want to implement. Also be clear about who to turn to or where to go if they have questions or if they have to deal with queries from participants.
This might take the form of a simple short presentation that takes a few minutes, where the person responsible for ethical issues at the event informs staff about the concrete rules and the feeling you want to convey. The point is that everyone should have the same picture of what you want to achieve and the tools to get there.
Another good tool to have in terms of outlining your vision is a clear equal opportunities plan. Designing such a plan will help you as an organizer to ensure that participants feel welcome and safe. It does not need to be advanced – the most important thing is that it is actively used, and that it is clear to everyone involved in the event.
VI. Be consistent
To effectively work with the culture of your event, it is important that you are consistent in how you deal with problematic behaviors. Do not ignore events or occurrences because they seem tough to deal with, and do not let negative behavior pass unnoticed!
If the participants at your event experience your actions as consistent and standing up for what is right, the likelihood is that more people will feel safe.
It may also help to have a person who is in charge of ethical rules and to whom all comments and questions can be referred. This way, that person can deepen their knowledge and become your expert in the field, while you avoid the confusion of sending mixed messages to the participants.
VII. Arrange separate competitions
Esports has few limits when it comes to the groups that can be included, and indeed that is one of its greatest strengths – yet women and LGBT people, for example, are significantly underrepresented. One of the biggest reasons for this is the lack of secure environments where marginalized groups can be introduced to Esports.
A tool you can use to work for greater diversity in Esports is to organize distinct competitions, directed only at a specific group. This creates a safer environment, making the step to start competing easier to take. Separate competitions are not an ultimate goal, they should instead be seen as a step on the road to a more welcoming Esports environment.
Hopefully the need for separate competitions will disappear as soon as possible. The criticism usually directed at separate competitions is that it is unfair to other groups – the counter-argument to this is that the more established groups already have a big lead, and they have been able to shape Esports according to their own preferences.
Therefore, there is a need to give other groups space to develop. Greater diversity in Esports benefits everyone and leads to the development of the sport.
One thing that may be helpful to think about when you want to make targeted action against specific groups is to ask people belonging to that group which action or actions are most relevant – this way, you ensure that the energy is directed toward aspects that can make a real difference.
VIII. Have role models that set the tone
Regardless of whether it is an international competition with hundreds of thousands of viewers watching the stream, or a small local LAN party, most Esports have role models that players and spectators look up to and listen to.
One way to create an inclusive atmosphere is to encourage these role models and give them a platform to speak about why it is important to have an open and welcoming attitude in Esports.
The role model might be a good player, a respected commentator, or a streamer. If in addition they belong to an underrepresented group in Esports, the chances are good that people from other backgrounds will feel welcome at your event. You will show that diversity is essential to you.
IX. Have the rules on public display
By visually reminding participants of the rules at your event, you increase the likelihood that they will be followed. Put up signs at the entrance to the premises, paste them in the Facebook group, let them roll on the monitors with other information such as the schedule and sponsorship messages, broadcast them regularly via a video from the stage. Make the rules visible, all the while trying to get them to fit as naturally as possible in the context, so that they are not perceived as intrusive.
X. Show your diversity
By working actively to show that your event is diverse, you will strengthen the groups that are underrepresented in Esports. More people from those groups might dare to take the plunge and show up at your event if they feel seen and represented. This can involve everything from how you advertise – for example, consider the gender or skin color of people in the images you use to promote the event – to the diversity in your team. A diverse working group will also help you broaden the perspective and identify more important issues to work with at your event.
XI. Clarity about communication
Decide what tone you want in chat rooms, both in- game and in community spaces related to your event (Facebook groups, forums, etc.) Inform participants about how you expect them to behave. Also, ensure that your team communicates the same message and does not present conflicting ideas or solutions.
If you think someone has crossed the line, be consistent in terms of taking it up with them. Remind them of the rules and explain why they are important. By being clear and consistent, you will create a positive culture where participants are expected to maintain a good tone and where not doing so becomes the exception.
A dedicated effort aimed at improving how participants communicate with each other, and where violation of your ethical rules is consistently followed up, could eventually lead to self-moderation, meaning that the participants themselves see that the rules are maintained without the organizers having to get involved. It simply becomes a habit to communicate constructively.
XII. Meet before the match-up
If you hold a physical event, you can ensure that all participants in a particular contest meet a short time before the tournament starts. This way, they become less anonymous to each other and the problem of not perceiving the individual on the other side of the screen as a person is also reduced. For example, it might be a short meeting in conjunction with a regular briefing where prospective opponents shake hands – the point is to create an opportunity to reinforce empathy and to allow for good sporting behavior during competition.
XIII. Encourage positive behavior
The idea of this document is to encourage a more open and welcoming approach in Esports. Highlighting the most positive examples and rewarding them sets the tone for your event. A player who has displayed particularly good teamwork and sportsmanship could be given an award or a prize, a new keyboard or a hard drive, for example.
XIV. Create inclusive facilities
Everyone comes to Esports from different backgrounds, and ensuring that your premises reflects that fact is an important step towards being more inclusive.
It could be about having a wheelchair ramp at the entrance, offering a secluded place for prayer, or having gender-neutral restrooms. One way to get help to develop your premises to accommodate more people could be to contact organizations who are accustomed to working with diversity issues, such as a local LGBT group or a disability rights organization.
XV. Consequences for violations
The idea and purpose of the ethical framework is to get participants to think before they act and to create good habits. The punishment for rule violations should not be seen as an end in itself – it is a tool to reach out to the offender and a way to provide security for participants.
If a person violates your ethical framework, make sure to explain how it happened and why you decided to take action. Otherwise, it could create greater anger and more misunderstandings.
In the worst case scenario you might even end up reinforcing the behavior, rather than planting a seed for new patterns of thought. You as organizers must first assess if the person violated the code of ethics and, if you come to the conclusion that this is the case, you also need to assess the degree of seriousness of the offense.
Refer to Section 5 of the Code of Conduct for a list of recommended consequences when a participant fails to abide by the standards your team has decided upon. In addition to these penalties, deduction of prize money may be an option for events which have a prize pool.
Communication is very important when it comes to penalties. If what is expected of the players is made clear to them in advance, and you as the organizer are consistent in your interpretations of the rules, the chances are good that players accept your authority and that they understand why certain behaviors are problematic.