Esports, Gaming community rally behind Ukraine

Gamers around the world are uniting in opposition to the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, both in-game and IRL

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Ukraine has a storied history with esports: Natus Vincere (abbr. NAVI), an esports team based in Kyiv, is one of the largest esports organizations in the world. They’ve released statements on Twitter condemning Russia’s actions since the beginning of the invasion, describing ongoing efforts they’ve made towards aiding their countrymen and announcing further plans for future humanitarian endeavors until “the war is over.” NAVI expressed gratitude for the support of other esports organizations such as 100 Thieves and FaZe Clan who have condemned Russia’s actions.

There has also been a significant outpouring of financial support. The members of the Louvre Agreement, a collection of the largest Counter Strike: Global Offensive teams in the world and esports titan ESL, announced a pool donation of $150,000 towards disaster relief in the war-torn country. Arguably one of the greatest CS:GO players of all time, Aleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev, was displaced by the bombings in his hometown of Kyiv. At a Polish tournament last month, he called for peace in an emotional speech.

“All of us want peace for Ukraine and for [the] whole world,” he said. “All of us [are] scared.”

WePlay Compete, an esports organization that has its roots in Ukraine, has announced tournaments in both Dota 2 and League of Legends wherein all prize money earned by players will be donated to organizations in direct support of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

Developer Epic Games, makers of Fortnite, have committed to donating two weeks’ proceeds towards humanitarian relief for Ukrainians affected by the conflict. That effort, announced Sunday in conjunction with a new season of the popular game, will last until April 3rd and include all “real-money purchases” made in-game. Already, they’ve raised more than 50 million dollars; one of the largest (public) single donations made by any one entity.

It’s a generous move - the start of a new season is one of the most lucrative times for games with payment models like Fortnite, where players buy the new season’s “battle pass” to get access to new content and in-game activities. According to Epic Games, Xbox will also be donating the proceeds they make through Fortnite during the same period.

The money is being spread across a handful of aid groups, including UNICEF, Direct Relief and the World Food Program.

Beyond developers and the established esports scene, games themselves have played a part in the Ukrainian resistance force. Ukrainian tech specialists have created the site, which looks from the outside like a basic upload of popular mid-2010′s puzzle game 2048. In actuality, however, it’s much more than that.

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The site’s programming, which has been verified by the Ukrainian Cyber Police, turns user inputs in the game into inputs on sites utilized by the Russian military for communications and intelligence. Through sliding 2048 tiles, players can contribute to a coordinated Dedicated Denial of Service (DDoS) attack on Russian servers. So far, the site has been responsible for over 50 billion so-called “attacks.” It has gone up and down intermittently since its inception, possibly as the result of Russian counter-hacking. Regardless, the virality of the site allows a method of support beyond direct financial contributions, for those gamers with the desire to aid but without the monetary means to do so.

The gaming community is inherently borderless and international, but they’ve rallied together in action against Putin’s ongoing war.