On April 24th of this year, the Commission for Science, Technology, Innovation, Communication and Informatics approved Bill 383 of 2017, which is still in progress. The intention of the bill is to recognize E-Sports (or electronic sports) as a valid sporting category in the country. The purpose of this post is to analyze the initiative and discuss whether or not we need a law that regulates the practice of E-Sports in Brazil.
What exactly are E-Sports?
E-Sport is the term attributed to any organized competition held though electronic games. Note that it’s a very general concept, that embraces numerous categories of video games.
Some examples of the most popular categories include competitive multiplayer genres, such as fighting – Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, among others -, MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) – of which DotA (Defense of the Ancients) and LoL (League of Legends) are by far the most famous -, FPS (First Person Shooter) – such as CS:GO (Counter Strike: Global Offensive), Overwatch, Rainbow Six: Siege, and others. Furthermore, competitions for the highest score on single player games, as well as for the least amount of time needed to finish them (speedrunning) also fit into the E-Sports definition.
The need for the competition to be organized means that some level of professionalization is necessary in the tournaments. In other words, a friends gathering to play something together for the purpose of entertainment is not characterised as E-Sports practice, as the competitive intuit and the ranking of players are necessary.
Birth and evolution of E-Sports
The first record of an organized competition involving video games dates back to 1972, when the “Intergalactic Spacewar Olympics” were held. The event happened at the University of Stanford, in California, and involved a series of competitive matches of Spacewar. The prize: a subscription to Rolling Stone magazine.
It was in 1980, however, that the first major E-Sports competition happened. The event was the “Space Invaders Championship” – a game developed by Atari that achieved great popularity by the time of its launch and that retains a devoted fan base even to this day. The championship was organized by Atari itself, which was one of the biggest video game companies at the time, and was attended by around ten thousand participants.
From this initiative, the competitive practice of video games became increasingly popular, and in 1981 Twin Galaxies was founded in the USA. The entity, that still exists and maintains its relevance up to this day, is responsible for registering video game records all around the world. Twin Galaxies’ work was even used by Guinness World Records for making the book’s Gamer’s Edition, which focuses exclusively on video games.
From the early 2000’s, E-Sports began to grow massively. It was during the millennium’s first decade that some of the most famous games aimed towards competitions – such as Counter Strike and Halo – were created. Since 2010, however, the popularization of content streaming allowed the category to reach unprecedented growth. The transmission of matches through platforms such as Twitch.tv put E-Sports in evidence, which resulted in their transmission even by TV “regular” sports broadcasters during big championships.
Nowadays, despite the resistance that was observed in the past, there are no more controversies regarding whether E-Sports are, in fact, sporting categories. The players, just like any other type of athlete, have to go through extensive and rigorous training, of both individual abilities and team work, to ensure their best possible performance.
What does the bill say?
Brazil is one of the countries with the largest worldwide presence in E-Sports and, motivated by this scenario of ascension of digital sports, the Brazilian legislators found it pertinent to create a bill (Bill nº 383/2017) which regulates this practice. The bill, composed of only six articles, in short, enunciates the following:
- Defines E-Sport as “activities that, making use of electronic artifacts, involve the competition of two or more participants, utilizing the round-robin tournament system, the knockout system, or other similar technology for the same purpose;
- Determines that the E-Sports practitioner starts being called an athlete;
- Widely allows the practice of E-Sports, and determines general objectives for the activity. Among these objectives, there are the promotion of citizenship, of fair play, of culture, of the fight against discrimination, and others;
- Leaves the regulation of E-Sports to other nonspecific entities.
Opinion of the main affected parties
The bill has been criticized a lot since its inception. Some of the main critics were the actual E-Sports practitioners and companies responsible for creating and maintaining the games, who were not properly consulted during the making of the legal text. In fact, CBDEL (Brazilian Confederation of Electronic Sports) mentioned to the media that the only ones involved in the writing of the bill were the president of the Confederation and the senator who proposed it to the Legislative.
It should be noted that the very existence of CBDEL already represents a controversial point in the national E-Sports scenario. This is because the Confederation came about despite the creation of the ABCDE (Brazilian Association of E-Sports Clubs) by the national video game companies themselves. Thus, CBDEL has always been considered by most of the players as an entity not representative of the modality – which became even more evident with the way in which the Bill 383/2017 was treated.
Also, society as a whole does not appear to have approved the bill on a large scale. On the Senate’s official website, there is a meter that indicates a mere 43% approval of the bill by the population, among approximately 11,200 voters (data collected on 08/17/2018).
The question is: “What for?”
Given all these factors, it is no surprise that the end result of the project leaves much to be desired. In the current state of the document, and considering that there were no changes in the original bill text, what can be expected is a generic law that is essentially devoid of any real usefulness.
First of all, the reduced size of the bill does not allow for great elaboration on any of the topics addressed. The article that deals with the goals of electronic sports, for example, does nothing but list generic goals that could be pointed out about any other theme, and does not indicate a means by which these goals will be achieved.
The legal recognition that practitioners of the sport are indeed athletes also does not present any novelty, since this title had already been achieved through custom and popular acceptance – including this in the legal text does not make this fact any more or less valid, as the factual situation remains practically the same. Some progress could have been made if the legislator had produced more extensive regulation, encompassing more specific forecasts, rather than fully assigning this responsibility to other entities.
The responsibility of creating any specific legislation to these other entities, in addition, demonstrates even more the doubtful content of the bill. As we all know, E-Sports is an already relatively old practice, that has been regulated independently from the beginning. There would be no need for a new law just to reaffirm the validity of existing and internationally accepted federations, leagues and associations. The acceptance of this decentralized regulatory model does have some importance, but that does not seem sufficient to motivate the whole process of creating a law by itself. This is because the Federal Constitution of 1988, in its Article 217, I, provides “the autonomy of the leading sports organizations and associations, as to their organization and functioning.”
It is also true that the Union, the States and the Federal District have the power to legislate on sports in general, as stated in Article 217 of the Constitution. However, it is clear that PL 383/2017 does nothing to effectively foster E-Sports practice, which is the biggest flaw in the project.
In summary, it can be said that, although the intention of the Brazilian legislators may have been the best possible during the writting of the Bill 383/2017, it can not be said that its approval will bring any benefits – or even changes – to the practice of E-Sports. Perhaps the failure is not specifically related to the inclusion of E-Sports in legal text, but rather to the fact that our bill on the subject has neither relevant predictions nor even popular support.
Whether or not the bill is approved, in short, can be considered insignificant, and merely an unnecessary expense of state resources. Unfortunately, the main objective of the Bill 383/2017, which was the promotion of digital sports, is unreachable by a legislation that is so anemic and distanced from reality and the yearnings of those who will actually be affected by it. If the project had audited players, as well as the population, we might have had a much more mature future law that respected the interests of Brazilian society regarding the practice of digital sports.
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