UK-based esports org Fnatic have published their report and guidelines on safeguarding children and adults at risk in the world of competitive gaming.
Safeguarding incidents in sports and esports
Traditional sports also rely on young students and academy clubs to scout talent that they can sign on to their teams or trade to others. They benefit from frameworks and regulations that have been implemented over time as well as being subject to scrutiny from government-mandated bodies. Esports does not yet have overarching bodies that have jurisdiction over youth and education activities, and governments have not yet stepped in to create monitoring systems.
For both traditional sports as well as esports, safeguarding can be defined as actions that are taken to promote the welfare of children and at-risk adults, and to protect them from harm. This protection can be related to abuse and maltreatment, and also includes prevention of any detriments to children’s health and development. Incidents related to safeguarding can result in children and at-risk adults being abused, taken advantage of or otherwise harmed. The positive outcomes of safeguarding ensure that children are provided safe and effective care.
This means that many parents don’t want their children to spend so much time on an activity that cannot be deemed completely safe, which cuts down the talent supply – similarly, investors are also not keen on financing teams, organizations and events when the industry is not completely transparent and open to abuses of power, which cuts down the cash supply.
Esports relies on pipelines that utilize academy teams and young players to refresh professional, competitive talent. Robust policies are therefore required to ensure children and teenagers are able to grow their skills in a safe and monitored environment. This week, Fnatic have become one of the forerunners in implementing such policies.
What Fnatic are doing
Fnatic have realized how important safeguarding (ensuring the health and well-being of children, young people and adults at risk) is for an organization that routinely interacts with these groups and have taken necessary steps to put into place policies that outline how they approach the topic.
Working with experts in the field, they have developed two sets of policies; one aimed at children and young people, and the other aimed at vulnerable adults.These policies aim to prevent abuse, bullying, harm, harassment and neglect towards children (any person under 18 years) and adults at risk (any person over 18 years old with special needs for care and support).
Fnatic have outlined a methodology to reach their aims, consisting of 5 Rs: recognizing rights, accepting responsibility, respecting self and others, reporting concerns and managing risks. They have also outlined what steps need to be taken by Fnatic staff and contractors if a safeguarding incident occurs. Fnatic also understand that esports, and the safeguarding of it, are constantly evolving and have stated that all stakeholders are welcome to share their input on how these policies can be improved.
Fnatic have also compiled a report titled “Fnatic Insights – Safeguarding in Esports”.
In this report, they have outlined how young traditional sports professionals enjoy robust protection procedures, which their equally young (and even younger) esports counterparts do not have access to.
Esports also differs significantly from traditional sports in certain aspects: most communication takes place over social media with data protection laws preventing access to these conversations by third parties. The geographical location of players, teams, organizations and events can be also wildly different, resulting in jurisdiction issues. Fnatic have concluded the report by openly sharing what they are doing and their five-R safeguarding pledge: they have invited other leading organizations to follow suit.
What others are doing with digital safe spaces
Other esports teams and organizations are also aware of the importance of providing safe spaces. Guild Esports, while not as procedural as Fnatic, state in the parents’ centre section of their academy webpage that nothing is as important as right development and safety of children. British Esports Association has collaborated with IBM, GoBubble and Yoti to implement a system which will reduce in-game toxicity and allow for oversight by using a verification system for users. GoBubble will help moderate real-time content and Yoti will supply AI-powered age verification. British charity NSPCC have helped both Fnatic as well as the British Esports Association in preparing their procedures.
Esports stands to further increase in popularity and attract a progressively younger audience in the process. In order to put into place the necessary procedures before a major safeguarding incident occurs, other major esports organizations will need to follow Fnatic’s example and help in creating a global framework to deal with potential issues.