Stephen Ellis: eSports union ‘may be necessary’

Ben Parfitt
Stephen Ellis: eSports union ‘may be necessary’

Scottish eSports player Stephen ‘Snoopeh' Ellis has said that he envisages a time where a union for professional video game players may become a necessity.

Ellis, who has played League of Legends professionally for four years, has admitted in a Reddit AMA that he has now retired and sees his future career as a player manager, stating that he's making it a personal mission to help amateur and professional eSports players”.

With salaries having climbed from five to six figures in just the last few years, Ellis argues that many players are not in the position to ensure they receive fair treatment from the many companies looking to cash in on the growing phenomenon.

The concept of a players union has been thrown around a lot lately, and I've always been asked to help start such an entity,” he said. However, while I do think a union may be necessary down the road, we are not at that point yet.

There are several reasons why it doesn't make sense right now; in my research I've found it to have a very complex legal structure, costly (no one prepared to front that yet) and extremely time consuming (labour law, define bargaining unit, global/regional). The problems I am identifying are happening right now; players need education, support and advocacy at the present time. Currently they have neither the time nor the inclination to go through the costly and arduous process of formalizing a union to meet those needs.

That being said, players absolutely need some form of representation. They need someone they can turn to for aid, advice and advocacy; to help them make more informed decisions about their careers and lives. The player base as a whole still lacks job/financial security, entirely gives up rights of publicity, and have absolutely no voice in the higher-level decision and rule making processes.

Ellis also credited League of Legends developer Riot for its attitude towards players, even if not for its player support infrastructure.

Riot genuinely has the interest of the player at heart, they have a team dedicated to just doing that,” he added. I do think Riot could do more for the players however it is a fine line to tread. You have to understand that Riot has a significant conflict of interest when offering things such as legal advice to players – which is why they have strayed away from doing it, even if they encourage players seek it out.”

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