Earlier this week, Jarvis Khattri, also known also as FaZe Jarvis, was given a lifetime ban by Epic Games, the creators of the immensely popular battle royale game “Fortnite.” Khattri is a member of a professional gaming group known as FaZe Clan and is a content creator on YouTube, for those of you who – like myself – didn’t know who he was prior to this story.
This ban was handed down by Epic Games after Khattri uploaded a video of himself using an aimbot hack in a public match of “Fortnite.” Though he was using an alternate account, his main account was issued a lifetime ban from the game and Khattri himself is barred from attending any official “Fortnite” events or creating future content around the game.
So far, this story seems pretty straightforward: a popular player uses a hack and is given a punishment befitting Epic Games’ zero tolerance policy on the matter. Case closed, right? Not if you ask most mainstream news outlets like CNN have been covering the story and weighing in. While most of the gaming community is unsympathetic to Khattri’s ban, these stories and some prominent gaming figures have been treating the ban as unreasonable and some even calling for it to be changed.
I’m here to tell you that not only is the ban justified, but that these calls to “Free Jarvis” only serve to hurt gaming and prove why this ban was necessary. Think of literally any other type of popular competition, from poker to football. If a player was caught cheating — for example, a football player using steroids — that player would be immediately removed from the sport in its entirety.
Now, you can say that Khattri wasn’t playing in a competitive scene when he was banned, and you’d be right. What isn’t correct is that this makes the situations different. The NFL runs professional games exclusively, but if they somehow ran matches open to the public and an athlete used steroids in one of those matches, the NFL wouldn’t allow them to go into competitive play again because the athlete’s transgression was in a public match. “Fortnite” is the same; the platform runs professional and public competition under one umbrella.
Moreover, I think it’s ridiculous that there is a double standard in how traditional sports stars and esports stars are treated in regards to cheating. When Lance Armstrong admitted to using steroids, I didn’t hear a choir of tearful people crying for him to get a second chance like there is for Khattri. Khattri is also in a far better situation than other sports stars; as unlike them, he’s still young enough to choose another path in life to make ends meet and even flourish if he so chose to. Some people, however, are treating the situation as if Khattri’s life is over, while a professional football star that cheats is said to be given his just desserts, even though he is at a point in his life where he can’t just go apply to a minimum wage job like Khattri can and move on with his life.
These double standards just go to show the separation people still make between traditional sports and esports, as though esports are just a silly game while traditional sports are a serious matter. Double standards aside, there is another issue that doesn’t apply to traditional sports. By using a hack, Khattri explicitly tampered with the source code of the game, code which is property of Epic Games. He damaged property in that sense and there are some already calling for the use of hacks in games to be labeled as crimes by law on that basis.
Finally, as a professional gamer, Khattri should know how hacking in games ruins the experience for everyone. For the people playing alongside the hacker, they are denied the ability to have fun and just relax from their stressful lives. For developers, these hacks force them to devote resources toward anti-cheat measures instead of towards new and exciting content for people to enjoy. If hacking becomes a well-known issue in a game, it can also cause its sales to plummet and effectively kill what would have been a great game.
With millions of fans, Khattri should also know that he is a role model and that by using a hack, he was telling his fans that hacking isn’t a big deal. The only way to offset that is for Epic Games to ban him like anyone else, so that they can send the correct counter message. At the end of the day, I hope Epic Games stays the course and that this can serve as a productive case study for the ever-maturing community of gaming.