Esports are big business now, and more and more people are getting involved with the practice – both in terms of being competitive players and in terms of sponsoring the players or sponsoring prizes at the big tournaments. Game developers are recruiting pro gamers to represent them, and there are more opportunities now than ever before for players to get involved and for people to make money – either prize money, or money from streaming and YouTube channels.

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As the business grows, though, it gets more and more competitive, and more and more business like. This presents a number of challenges for players, and sometimes things can go wrong. In the early days, gamers were the outcasts, and the perception – if not reality – was that people were all on the same side and that they would play together and be able to have fun together. While the idea of a rag-tag group of gamers is romantic, things have changed.

Gaming as Your Job

When gaming becomes your job, there are a lot of challenges. People may struggle with RSI, for example, form having to put in huge hours performing repetitive mouse clicks and controller motions. When this happens, if you are a professional gamer then you could find that you are stuck in a bad situation, unable to fulfil your contracts and you would find that you have no way of making income. It may be useful to have legal representation so that you can get compensation if that happens to you.

Gamers who are playing for fun can rant at each other, and have a moderate degree of freedom in terms of how they play. If you are sponsored, or employed by a game company, then you will be subject to codes of conduct and will have to remember that you are representing someone else. That is a difficult position to be in, and there may be penalties if you do something wrong. Because the industry is so young, there is not really a precedent for how things should be done, and there is the risk of young talent getting stuck with contracts that are exploitative, or getting ripped off by companies that want them to take on horrendous schedules with limited compensation.

Another issue that gamers can be faced with is harassment. Players can be vicious, and gamers face the threat of being ‘doxxed’ or harassed in real life for things that happened in game. This can be scary, especially for gamers that are in an ethnic minority or for ones who are female. They have the right to privacy and this is sometimes ignored or trampled on by fans or by irresponsible companies.

Know Your Rights and Take Care of Yourself

A good legal representative can help with a lot of those things, and can work with people to ensure that they are well taken care of. Professional gamers that are working for a company deserve to be treated as employees. What ’employee’ means can differ from country to country, but it is worth seeking advice so that you know what your rights are.

Even freelance workers have rights, and sometimes promoters may try to get out of paying a group of gamers. When that happens, having a legal representative to fight your corner can be invaluable.

Copyright and Intellectual Property

Another issue that sometimes crops up in gaming is copyright law. Streamers can struggle sometimes with having content removed or blocked, and it can be hard when they are depending on streaming for their income. Sometimes, the streamer was actually acting within the realms of the law, but sometimes they have actually made a mistake. If you are planning on setting up a channel then it can be invaluable to have a legal expert who is able to offer you advice on what media you can post. Think, for example, about sound tracks and popular music. Do you know if you can play your favorite songs while you are streaming live?

What about character art that is inspired by a game for your avatar, or using a logo that is ‘inspired by’ your favorite game? Sometimes this counts as a derivative work, sometimes, it counts as fair use. Before you start making money from your gaming you should have an idea of where you stand legally.

Gambling and Prizes

The law surrounding loot boxes, giveaways and gambling is becoming increasingly complex.If you are planning on giving away prizes on your channel, make sure that you know what you are doing and how to do it fairly and legally. If you were given prizes to give away by a PR company, and you express an opinion about your games, or review games on a blog, then make sure that you disclose it in a fair and clear fashion. There are laws surrounding PR, incentivized reviews and promotion. This is something that a lot of people either do not understand, or unwittingly fall foul of.

Today, pro gamers, streamers, modders and other people in the esports industry are hugely influential and have huge audiences. This means that gaming companies, server companies and PRs are paying a lot of attention to what gamers are doing. The microscope is on players. It is easy to attract negative attention, and if you really want to build a big business then you need to make sure that you do things right from day one.

If you decide that you want to seek legal advice from, then you should look for a lawyer that understands video games as well as the aspect of the law that you are trying to deal with – whether that’s employment law, intellectual property, or something else entirely. Not all lawyers understand things like virtual currencies, for example, so having someone who is aware of the games that you play and how they work can be hugely beneficial. It’s fair to say that virtual worlds are now serious business, with the same issues as the real world.