Putin orders creation of annual esports 'cyberchampionship,' where CS:GO is banned because of 'one-sided coverage of political events'

Vladimir Putin being shown something on a computer monitor
(Image credit: Alexey Nikolsky via Getty)

Apparently finding some free time on his hands, Russian president Vladimir Putin has ordered the establishment of an annual Russian Online Games "Cyberchampionship", Kommersant reports. An exec from Russia-based Lesta Games—Gaukhar Aldiyarova—told the outlet that Putin instructed the championship's establishment during a recent visit to an exhibition of creative industries at Moscow's Zotov Centre.

The tournament will feature such domestic Russian icons as World of Tanks, World of Warships, World of Tanks Blitz, and other homegrown hits. Those wouldn't be the versions of the games controlled by Wargaming, but rather the ones run by Lesta, to which Wargaming transferred the entirety of its Russian and Belarusian gaming business after Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Wargaming would not be involved at all.

"It'll be an all-Russian championship, from Vladivostok to Kaliningrad, where games from domestic developers and developers from friendly countries can be shown," Aldiyarova said. What does that mean exactly? Well, she had a couple of examples. League of Legends—from China's Tencent—would be more than welcome at the cyberchampionship, but Counter-Strike is verboten owing to its "one-sided coverage of political events within the game's universe".

That might sound a little absurd to you and me, but I suppose it was only earlier this month that Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat announced its intentions to smuggle info about the Ukraine war into Russia via CS:GO maps. Perhaps it's that kind of thing, rather than the rich and textured political tapestry of CS:GO's deep lore, that Aldiyarova is referring to when she cites the game's "one-sided coverage".

It's a bit of an odd thing for Vladimir Putin to be asking for when Moscow is being hit by drone strikes, but it's not totally out of the blue. Russia has been trying to magic up a culturally and economically independent games sector ever since the mass exodus of western tech companies from the country last year. Whether it's a state-funded domestic game engine, a "Russian Electronic Arts," or accusing western games of "hidden inserts" targeting Russian youth, the country has been keen to divest itself from western tech for a while now. This is likely yet another way to provide a foundation for that.

The tournament is still in the planning stages, but the intention is to start it off in Russia's far eastern territories (like the aforementioned Vladivostok) rather than in a western hub like Moscow or Petersburg. But beyond that? "A detailed plan for the organisation of the championship will be drawn up by gaming experts together with the Agency for Strategic Intiaitives," said Aldiyarova. Maybe the "fighters of the virtual stadium" from Russia's state cybersports school—established last year—will be among the first to participate.

Joshua Wolens
News Writer

One of Josh's first memories is of playing Quake 2 on the family computer when he was much too young to be doing that, and he's been irreparably game-brained ever since. His writing has been featured in Vice, Fanbyte, and the Financial Times. He'll play pretty much anything, and has written far too much on everything from visual novels to Assassin's Creed. His most profound loves are for CRPGs, immersive sims, and any game whose ambition outstrips its budget. He thinks you're all far too mean about Deus Ex: Invisible War.