Harvard Video Gamers Booted from Tournament for Cheating

After making it to the round of 16, a Harvard video game squad was booted from their tournament for cheating.

A group of Harvard video game players competing in the Blizzard Entertainment’s "Heroes of the Dorm" competition—a multiplayer online video game—was disqualified last week for violating several of the contest’s rules.

An investigation by tournament officials revealed a player on the Harvard team, called Team Ambush, was sharing his user account with a higher rated player who was not on the team's official tournament roster.

“We have a zero tolerance for cheating in our tournaments,” Blizzard Entertainment said in a press release posted on its website. “The rules are in place to ensure a fair playing field for all participants—when these rules are abused, they put the integrity of the competition at risk.”

The team issued an apology and said that after the qualifiers, both a team member and the team’s substitute were unable to participate because of what they called an unavoidable lack of Internet access. Andy Kim ’17, co-president of the Harvard College eSports Association, under whose purview Team Ambush falls, declined to provide names of players on the team and said they wished to “remain out of the spotlight for a bit.”

“We were uncertain about how to continue, since we really wanted to continue participating in this event and did not want to forfeit by not having enough players for the first weekend in bracket play, which we had worked hard to achieve,” the team wrote in an open letter on the post-sharing platform Medium.

With the illegal substitute, Harvard had defeated a team from University of California at Berkeley in the first round, and Indiana-Purdue in the round of 32. Afterwards, the team from UC Berkeley, last year’s tournament champions, was allowed to take Harvard’s vacated spot in the “Super Sixteen.”

Kim said the team’s punishment was justified.

“I think that the player did definitely screw up. There’s no other way to say it than that they simply cheated,” Kim wrote in an email. “They went against the rules. And they have been rightly punished for it.”

Kim added that the eSports association has a decentralized structure, in which individual teams manage themselves, though he said in the future his organization hopes to have a more “systematic approach to drafting and managing” the various teams.

Kim added that the association will seek to ensure similar incidents do not occur in the future.

“As individuals who should have been fully aware not only of the rules of the tournament but also of the moral implications of our actions and their effects on others, we recognize that we have committed a grave error and can only ask for forgiveness,” he wrote.

The college tournament, in which teams of five match off in the multiplayer online battle arena “Heroes of the Storm,” began on Feb. 20 with an online qualifier that extended through March 6, after which the initial field of 120 narrowed to just 64.

The disqualification is the second of tournament, following the discipline of a team from Michigan University for a similar case. A number of media outlets seized on the story, including ESPN and the Boston Globe.

–Staff Writer Derek G. Xiao can be reached at derek.xiao@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @derekgxiao.


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