Top Five Cheating Events in Esports

August 13

Cheating in Video Games is nothing new. Ever since there was a game to play there have been ways to cheat on it. Now, many of you will read cheating and think directly about it as a bad thing and that is totally understandable. Cheats in today’s games (especially esports games) are generally bad, especially when it comes to online games where cheating or hacks actually ruin the game for multiple people.

While some may argue it is harmless in casual gaming it is hardly so. Ruining the experience for others in any form of gaming is simply not done. However, every now and then, we come across such instances in competitive Esports that cause quite a stir. And cheating in a competitive setting is just plain unforgivable. The community and organizers never look kindly upon such dishonesty; the team or player in question certainly feels their wrath.

Over the years we have had quite a few cheating scandals in Esports, some more blatant and shocking than others. Here, we take a look at the Top 5 such incidents that pop to mind.

5. Apxvoid – Hearthstone

While this hardly qualifies as cheating, it still fell under the rules of cheating, technically, and the popular Hearthstone player, Apxvoid was handed a ban by Blizzard. During the 2019 HCT Winter Playoffs Americas, Apxvoid messaged an admin on the admin bard, asking for some advice. Turns out, he was actually asking another player the answer to a simple question just to calm his nerves. He had simply typed up the message on the board so that the payer next to him could see it and answer him. Sadly, he accidentally pressed enter later on to send the message on the board, which led to an investigation.

Regarding the situation, Apxvoid later wrote: “I don’t really know what to do going forward. Part of me wants to continue to try competing and streaming HS and redeem myself. The other part of me just wants to run away from Hearthstone and never look back since the last thing I want to be known as is a cheater. Regarding my situation with my team, the Pittsburgh knights: The Knights are not affiliated with me as my contract had actually ended recently and I was planned to re-sign for this year but given the recent events I will no longer be playing for them as of now. It was great working with the Knights though, they’ve always supported me and really helped me grow as a player. I want to apologize to anyone who I’ve let down and I hope I can somehow make it up to everyone in the future.”

4. Azubu Frost

League of Legends is not only one of the most popular games in the world it also has one of the most intense competitive scenes. Back in 2012, at the League of Legends World Championships, Azubu Frost was up against SoloMid. Each member of Azubu Frost could be seen taking their eyes off their own screens, which in itself is peculiar in a game like LoL. Turns out, they were eyeing the screens set up for the spectators so as to gauge the position of their opponents on the map. Anyone who has ever dabbled in LoL knows what a huge, and unfair, advantage that would be.

While Azubu Frost was not banned for their dishonesty, organizers fined the team to the amount of $30,000.

3. Robodoping

British Cycling’s Esports Championships did not get off to a great start. Officials stripped YouTuber and cyclist, Cameron Jeffers off his championship title for robodoping.

While all other participants were using “Tron” cycles, Jeffers accepted a “Zwift Concept Z1” which gave the user a much superior output. The media promptly termed the cheating scandal as robodoping, which is weirdly apt and yet amusing.

Officials slapped Jeffers with a £250 fine and a six-months’ ban from all racing format competitions.



Back in 2014, Titan’s star player, Hovik “KQLY” Tovmassian, was handed a VAC ban, causing a stir in the CS: GO community. Having won the ESWC 2013 with Clan Mystic, KQLY joined LDCL in 2014 and managed a top 4 placing at ESL One Cologne.

This was particularly shocking as KQLY was one of the best players in the game at the time. While he initially denied having cheated, he went on to admit he had decided to give a hacking software a try. Apparently, the developer of the aim-bot software convinced KQLY that many pros were already using a variant of the software.

Just take a look at one of his LAN games below:

1. Forsaken – CS: GO

Perhaps the most infamous cheating incident in CS: GO history and an amusing one at that too. Optic India’s player, Forsaken, was caught cheating red-handed, using an aim-bot, at the eXTREMESLAND 2018 Asia Finals. Officials soon realized something was fishy with his game and as they approached Forsaken and his setup, the player tried to quickly delete the software installed on the PC, which he had hilariously saved as “Word.exe.”

Further investigation into the incident also led authorities to realize that he had cheated at ESL India Premiership 2018 Fall as well.




Since the success of an online game requires a large and active user base, their developers can’t go letting a subset of cheaters ruin the fun for the larger community. As such, the gaming industry has long sought to counter the influence of cheating players though the methodologies vary widely between games and platforms. Banning players for cheating has long been a useful cudgel for game developers as have anti-cheating software like PunkBuster.

Developed by Even Balance Inc, PunkBuster is a program designed to detect the use of cheating software in online games. It made its debut in 2000 for Half-Life. The PunkBuster Client runs locally on a player’s system, running real-time memory scans to spot any known cheats, hacks, key bindings or illicit scripts, while the program’s servers request frequent status updates — up to and including screenshots — from all clients connected to them.

If a player is found in violation of the rules, PunkBuster Admins can remove the player from the game for a specific amount of time, up to a permanent GUID ban, which is tied to the game’s license key and requires the player to purchase another copy if they want to play again. PunkBuster is primarily used for FPS and action games. The BattlefieldGhost ReconRainbow SixMedal of Honor and CoD franchises, as well as Assassin’s CreedFarCry 2 and 3 all utilized the service.

Anti-cheat systems also exist on the server side, the most well-known being FairFight. AAA studios like EA, Crytek, PopCap, Dice and Ubisoft, as well as a number of indies, utilize the middleware. So rather than reside on the player’s system, constantly scanning for offending 3rd-party code, FairFight examines a player’s actions and tests them “against multiple statistical markers to identify cheating as it occurs. FairFight cross-checks these indicators using objective server-side reporting tools and takes action when both approaches correlate to cheating.”, the company’s website explains. Once the system spots a likely cheat, admins can impose graduated penalties spanning from simple warnings to outright bans.

Valve’s Anti-Cheat system (VAC) is not nearly as forgiving. That system’s bans are “permanent, non-negotiable, and cannot be removed by Steam Support,” according to the Steam Support page.

This fully-automated admin sits on the server side, scanning every player that attempts to connect to a Steam server protected by the VAC. “If a user connects to a VAC-Secured server from a computer with identifiable cheats installed,” the page explains, “the VAC system will ban the user from playing that game on VAC-Secured servers in the future.”

When determining and issuing punishments, a handful of esports companies work with the Esports Integrity Coalition (ESIC), a not-for-profit association established in 2015 to detail with what it labels “integrity challenges” to esports. Among the many integrity challenges to esports, ESIC identified the following as the main threats (in order of priority):

  • Cheating to win using software cheats
  • Online attacks to slow or disable an opponent
  • Match-Fixing
  • Doping

The organization deals with these by publishing a Code of Conduct (for cheating to win), an Anti-Corruption Code (for match-fixing), and an Anti-Doping Policy. ESIC has a unified Disciplinary Procedure that applies to each of these codes, which are implemented individually with its members, that include ESL, DreamHack, Liga de Videojuegos Profesional (LVP), and NODWIN Gaming .

“As a general proposition, most esports companies work on the absolute edge of their resources, both in terms of cash and man-hours.”, said Ian Smith, integrity commissioner for ESIC. “Getting them to focus on this issue without there being a crisis is very difficult.”

Cheats aren’t always used to give players an unfair advantage over the computer or their peers. In recent years, the industry has taken strides to make gaming more inclusive and enjoyable for an increasingly diverse and vocal player-base. As such, developers often include “cheats” as Easter Eggs that can help make the game more accessible (and more fun) to casual players. The “assistant mode” found in both Super Mario Odyssey and Celeste helps take the edge off of otherwise challenging gameplay by reducing or eliminating death penalties and boosting health stats. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe offers a similar feature by giving the player the option of having the computer steer or accelerate for them. When utilized properly, such a feature can make racing against younger or less dextrous drivers a more equitable affair.

Of course, developers have also seen the value of cheat codes as a revenue stream. Rather than simply giving away various bonuses or boosts via secret commands, publishers have discovered that people will happily pay for them as DLC or in-game microtransactions. Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, for example, offers players a means of boosting their XP generation rate by 50 percent – not through a convoluted series of inputs, just a $10 charge on your credit card.

Whether you exploit them or not, cheats are an intractable facet of modern gaming. They help developers test and debug their programs faster, with less effort, while providing a leg up for players otherwise overwhelmed by a game’s difficulty.

Now, obviously, when gamers like Forsaken do it, that’s bad – but their bad is bad in the same way that counting cards in poker or the Patriots slightly deflating footballs is bad. There’s cheating for harmless fun and there’s cheating for profit and you don’t do the latter. However, when used sparingly, judiciously, cheats can be leveraged to make gaming more accommodating and enjoyable for everyone.

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