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Harvard's Recent Legacy of Cheating Now Extends to eSports

So much for 'Veritas.'

by Leif Johnson
Mar 27 2016, 2:00pm

Image: Blizzard

For a school with a Latin motto that literally means "truth," Harvard University seems to be having a lot of problems with cheating lately. It's so bad, in fact, that officials this academic year began requiring that students at the 380-year-old school sign an "honor code" symbolizing their commitment to academic integrity in the wake of a 2012 cheating scandal involving around 125 students. But wouldn't you know it? Harvard's team in the "Heroes of the Dorm" eSports competition based around Blizzard Entertainment's Heroes of the Storm multiplayer game was disqualified on Thursday because one of its members was cheating.

Specifically, one of the members of Harvard's Team Ambush was reportedly letting a higher-ranked player who wasn't on Team Ambush's roster share his account during official tournaments. It's a little like letting Stephen Curry masquerade as a player on another basketball team in order to make it past the qualifying rounds. Both the players sharing the accounts and the higher-ranked player were slapped with lifetime bans from future tournaments by Blizzard and tournament organizer Tespa. It's currently not known who the offending players were.

Sound outrageously risky? It's not even the first time it's happened this year, as Team Hot Boys from the University of Michigan was already booted out of the competition for similar reasons.

"We have zero tolerance for cheating in our tournaments," Blizzard said in a statement. "The rules are in place to ensure a fair playing field for all participants—when these rules are abused, they put the integrity of the competition at risk. The students found to be sharing their Battle.net accounts and the players with whom they were sharing will be banned indefinitely from participation in any future Tespa tournaments."

Harvard isn't happy about it, either. In a statement to Motherboard, Harvard College spokeswoman Rachael Dane said: "While Harvard College does not comment on individual students, we consider honesty a foundational value for Harvard in the classroom, in student housing, and in extracurricular activities."

Considering that the annual cost of attending Harvard is now over $60,000 and that one of the prizes for the winning team is full payment of the team's college tuition along with $500,000 in other prizes, there's clearly a motive here beyond simply fighting the way to the top in Blizzard's multiplayer online battle arena game featuring its most famous characters. The four teams that make it to the final found will also get a sweet Cyberpower gaming PC.

That final battle will take place on April 9 and 10 at the CenturyLink Field Events Center in Seattle, Washington. Yesterday, the Golden Mishas from the University of California, Berkeley and Team Tilt from Purdue University in Indiana fought for Harvard's place in the final 16.