The following article was written by Amanda Mitchell

KingsLeague Divorces Thrill from Toxicity (…it’s about time)

Everyone this side of Eden knows that eSports has a toxicity problem. With 2.7 billion digital players and counting, it’s a problem we can’t ignore. But despite efforts to stop the abuse that makes players feel unsafe and drives away ad dollars, relative anonymity still provides ample opportunity for misconduct. Short of divine intervention, we’ll have to hold each other accountable.

But what does accountability look like in practice?

To find out, we called on our friends at Kingsleague—a gaming platform for FIFA, Fortnite and Call of Duty fiends who want to compete for money without ever losing their heads. Kingsleague co-founder Moritz Dreschel says he was inspired to create a safe space for players who are likeminded in their ambition and thirst for adrenaline, but also in their sense of integrity and capacity for restraint. A competitive thrill-seeker himself, Dreschel added that while he’s no stranger to the emotional roller coasters that are a natural byproduct of intense competition, “the real beauty comes through when you celebrate victory and take defeat like a champion.”

Through building a community where players know what to expect from each other, Kingsleague plans to deliver on its core principles: Maximum thrill and champions league sportsmanship. This begins with making it clear that good or bad, everyone’s actions have consequences.

In the same way that people don’t just run red lights because they might get caught, Kingsleague players have little incentive to cheat because everyone is asked to record the match and report the final score before it can be verified. The thrill of cheating comes from knowing that you got away with something. But a sore loser who gets caught? No thanks.

Though it might seem simple, knowing that you can’t simply act with impunity allows Kingsleague players to trust each other. It also prevents the griefing that runs wild in consequence-free environments.

These days, industry leaders are going out of their way to discourage gamers from taunting, time-wasting and otherwise trolling their competitors into a blind fury. Just last week, EA Sports announced that FIFA 21 will nix shushing and Dele Alli’s viral “challenge” move. The decision comes in response to criticism of celebrations that unnecessarily antagonize players on the losing side of a goal. Widely considered delay tactics, both sushing and the challenge celebration also have racial undertones; shushing is considered an “extreme diss” popular with real life racists and Alli’s challenge gesture coincidentally resembles the “A-OK” symbol used to signal “white power.”

Hate speech and other forms of griefing are notoriously persistent in online games because suspended or banned players tend to reappear under different usernames. On Kingsleague, however, if the threat of disciplinary action isn’t enough of a deterrent, losing money might be. Once a match has begun, entry funds are withdrawn  and held in escrow. After the day is won and the score confirmed, prize money is deposited in the victor(s)’ account(s). If a dispute arises, or if a player is reported, the money remains in escrow until Kingsleague’s resolves the matter. According to Emanuel Spitzy, also a co-founder: “It doesn’t matter if you’re waging 1€ or 100€—what matters is that you put your money where your mouth is, as gesture of good will—to raise the stakes in the spirit of friendly competition.”

Ultimately, Kingsleague’s best accountability tool is solidarity, not excommunication. “Growing up playing sports, I learned the importance of sportsmanship from a very young age,” says Dreschel. “Players don’t need to be coerced into treating others with kindness and respect when it’s already second nature.”

From Spitzy’s perspective, what comes across as second nature can also result from being prepared: “Thinking through all of the worst case scenarios and putting measures in place on the back end has really paid off. In practice we don’t even have to go there.”

At the end of the day, Both founders agree that focusing on community is the secret to success. They say it works because everyone has a little skin in the game.

Season 1 – Conquering FIFA 20 in PS4

As FIFA 21 is close to launch, Kingsleague will be launching their Season 1 Tournament: A month-long tournament offering over €2,500 in cash and prizes.

If you’d like to participate in the August 22-September 27 FIFA tournament on KingsLeague or want to learn more about the challenge click here!