The Russian Association for Electronic Communications (RAEC) has announced the creation of the Gaming Industry and E-Sports cluster. The cluster will serve as a platform for gaming companies and cybersports organisations to communicate with officials, society and the media. The expert council of the cluster includes Vladislav Arkhipov, Associate Professor of St Petersburg University, Head of the Department of Theory and History of State and Law, Counsel in the international law firm Dentons.

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One of the most popular myths about cybersports is that it is something shady, underground, and perhaps even marginal. 'Computer games in general and cybersports in particular have moved a long way towards social recognition. In the early 1990s, when many of my generation began to explore games, it was part of a subculture. Today, it is part of a large industry,' said Vladislav Arkhipov. Cybersports have been filling stadiums and attracting millions of spectators over the last ten years. There are now professional clubs whose structure resembles that of major sports. According to Yaroslav Meshalkin, Director of Strategic Communications at ESforce Holding and Co-Chairman of the Gaming Industry and E-Sports cluster of the RAEC, the salaries of cybersportsmen in Russia have increased severalfold, and can be up to one million roubles a month. Similarly, the prize funds of the largest tournaments have increased. For example, the prize fund of last year's world championship on Dota 2 exceeded $34 million. Also last year, the largest CIS transfer took place when the Russian club Virtus.pro bought Kazakhstan's Avangar in the game Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.

The global market for video games, which includes mobile, computer and console games, is estimated by SuperData analysts at $120 billion, with the cyber sports market reaching $1 billion, according to NewZoo.

Apparently, eSports is not yet very big on the scale of the gaming industry, but it is the sport of the future.

Yaroslav Meshalkin, Chief Strategic Communications Officer at ESforce Holding and Co-Chairman of the Gaming Industry and eSports cluster at RAEC

According to statistics, the average age of a hockey fan is 49, whereas tennis and golf fans average 61 and 64 years respectively. The audience of cybersports is people between 18 and 34 years old. According to experts, the audience is constantly expanding as more and more young people get involved in cybersports. It is also becoming wealthier because of its adult members.

In many countries, eSports is recognised as an official sport. Russia is no exception. Since 2016, cybersports has been included in the register of the Ministry of Sport. The Russian Federation for Computer Sport also has a long record of effective work.

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The founders and experts from the cluster will be working in this rapidly evolving and dynamic field. One of its most important tasks, according to Yaroslav Meshalkin, is to dispel myths and promote the experts' view on the growing role of video games: ‘This is a very simple situation as video games are not some kind of evil that must be fought with all our might. They are a significant, perhaps the most significant, part of the global entertainment industry today. Yet, society and the state often play the role of a strict parent, for whom it is easier to blame video games if their child refuses to read or does not show academic brilliance. To make gaming useful rather than a source of annoyance, you have to work with it, explore its possibilities and try to use it for the benefit of the community.’

The founders of the cluster agreed that it was necessary to include expertise from established fields and a fresh perspective when drawing up the list of experts. Vladislav Arkhipov is the only lawyer on the list of cluster experts. Yaroslav Meshalkin explained his choice by the unique expertise in the field of eSports, which the scholar from St Petersburg University can bring to the work of the cluster: 'There are huge gaps in the legal field surrounding the gaming industry, and Vladislav Arkhipov is the main, if not the only, expert on them. I have read Vladislav's articles, where he discusses the legal aspects of the “genocide of the Orcs” in Warcraft and “dynamite production” in Minecraft, with great interest. It may seem quite amusing, but there are heated discussions all over the world about game currencies, “loot boxes”, user rights, marketplaces and game developers. That is why Vladislav's research is not just entertaining but incredibly relevant'.

Among other tasks, the expert from St Petersburg University will conduct an analysis of the legal regulation of the gaming industry both in Russia and abroad.

In order to assess adequately all various legislative initiatives and to act as a 'team counsel', which is also the task facing our cluster, we need a top-notch lawyer.

Yaroslav Meshalkin, Chief Strategic Communications Officer at ESforce Holding and Co-Chairman of the Gaming Industry and eSports cluster at RAEC

Vladislav Arkhipov said that the official recognition of cybersports would mean that the norms previously developed for ‘traditional’ sports would be applied to relations in the field of eSports ‘by default’. However, according to the expert, this is not always possible for two reasons: 'Firstly, cybersports have developed for a long time without any direct regulation by sports law, and the industry has already established its own business practices. Changing them radically now would hardly be useful for its development. Secondly, since cybersports competitions take place in virtual space with the use of information and telecommunications technologies, it is technically impossible in some cases to apply certain rules in the conventional way (e.g. rules concerning doping in online tournaments)'.

The lawyer believes that many issues in the gaming industry have already been settled at the level of individual branches of law and legislation. From the legal point of view, computer games involve a complex set of legal relations related to intellectual property, distribution of information, processing of personal data, communication between users and protection of children. The ambiguity may arise regarding individual issues. For example, in the area of intellectual property, it is the legal nature of a computer game that raises questions.

Games are often regarded as a mere computer programme, but now researchers suggest that games are a complex object and a multimedia product. This idea reflects the actual complexity of the game and allows for more transparent regulation of relations not only with programmers, but with many other specialists as well, including scriptwriters and artists.

Vladislav Arkhipov, Associate Professor of St Petersburg University, Head of the Department of Theory and History of State and Law

'Concerning information law, it will be useful to promote the idea understood to “gaming lawyers” that a computer game is a new interactive media that is protected by the freedom of speech and freedom of creativity. As a rule, games are aimed at distracting the player from reality, rather than carrying a social or political “message”. This means that any norms restricting information exchange should be applied to games with caution,' said Vladislav Arkhipov.

Vladislav Arkhipov believes, therefore, that the main task of law in the gaming industry is not to change regulation fundamentally, nor to create additional barriers to its development, but to make targeted changes if it becomes necessary to remove excessive regulation or eliminate contradictions and formal ambiguity. One of the cluster's tasks will be to seek balanced new approaches to the industry.