One of the biggest legal stories in Counter-Strike right now is the case of Jamppi, a young Finnish CS:GO player who was VAC banned at the age of twelve because of an account he claims he has handed over to a friend before the alleged infraction has been committed. Strictly speaking, this wouldn’t matter whatsoever looking at the text of Steam’s terms of service which stipulates that Valve can exclude you from playing basically at their discretion. However, such ToS documents don’t tend to stand up to scrutiny in a court of law and if Jamppi can engineer a turnaround on his VAC ban, it could lead to a sea change in the esports environment where the developers lose a great chunk of control over the competitions.
Elias "Jamppi" Olkkonen is a Finnish Counter-Strike player currently playing for ENCE. He is considered one of the most exciting prodigies by many in the scene, and his pickup has revitalized the long-struggling Finnish side across the different CS:GO competitions. Jamppi was pegged as “one for the future” by HLTV in their recurring series in August 2019, one which featured players like ZywOo, CeRq, sergej, poison and meyern.
Jamppi began playing Counter-Strike in 2014, with his first team named REHTI, competing in multiple domestic LANs. "I learned a lot about what it is like to play competitive CS with a real team, and about practice schedules […] It was a really good experience for me since we managed to play like three LAN events. Overall, it was a great time and we are all great friends now" – he said of this period to HLTV.
Short tenures on Team Viral, NYYRIKKI Esports, SuperJymy and SJ Gaming has paved the way for a surprise signing with ENCE, one which was not a surprise because of his skills – which were widely recognized by April 2020 – but due to his inability to participate in CS:GO major tournaments and related events due to his involvement with a VAC-banned account.
Unlike most CS:GO cheaters, the case of Jamppi is nowhere near as clear-cut as one would like in a situation where we’re talking about a lifetime ban. He claims to have bought a copy of CS for his friend during a LAN party at the age of fourteen, using his father’s credit card, which he then sold to him months before the account was hit by a VAC ban.
For many, even the idea of a lifetime ban, especially one that’s doled out as a punishment on a kid, is considered to be a bridge too far. Jamppi “only” claims to be innocent, and has filed a lawsuit seeking a compensation of €266,092 and the removal of his major ban against Steam.
Many have reported on OG’s interest in the player while they were constructing their international lineup and it seems his VAC ban was the eventual reason why they went in a different direction. Though it seemed like that decision could scuttle Jamppi’s professional CS:GO career, ENCE have come to the rescue in April, setting up a six-player roster.
Currently, the organization ENCE’s strategy is to field their original lineup featuring xseven in Valve-sanctioned events (which currently means the Road to Rio tournaments and the eventual Rio Major if they make it that far) with Jamppi as his standard replacement in other competitions in the third-party circuit where the same ban doesn’t apply. Jamppi’s signing came alongside the announcement that suNny would be taking over as the in-game leader from allu, and the combination of these two moves have improved ENCE’s fortunes in the servers since.
Jamppi’s claim is that the VAC ban has directly cost him his opportunity to sign with OG – hence the aforementioned compensation – and that the lifetime ban from Valve-sanctioned events is an extreme overreach in light of the specifics of the situation. Though most players and commentators in the scene sympathize with his plight, Valve has been quite inflexible on matters like these in the past, also refusing to revisit the subject of the iBUYPOWER scandal and the ultimate fate of the players involved with that matchfixing incident, leaving them in limbo ever since.
It goes without saying that if the lawsuit went the way of Jamppi Valve's control over CS:GO esports would be greatly jeopardized, and CSGO teams might start to make different signing decisions in the future.
Valve are well-known in the industry for being a black box of sorts, and it’s always been notoriously difficult to get them to discuss subjects they’re not comfortable with. In October 2019, a Valve employee has responded to Jamppi’s query about his account status stating that their investigation “has found a VAC banned account that we’ve concluded was under your control at the time of the ban. Therefore you are not eligible to participate at our events.” The ensuing lawsuit was reported in late March 2020, with reports emerging of Valve’s response in May.
As it turns out, the latest development was a bit of a dud, claiming that Jamppi sued the wrong company: Valve GmbH is a subsidiary of Valve Corporation and one that "does not own or manage the CS game or its licenses in any way”, and moreover, was formed a year after the account in question has received the VAC ban.
It remains to be seen how the parties will proceed from this point, but Valve’s lawyers responded to the lawsuit by claiming the action was brought against the “wrong company” on “the wrong grounds”, and since Valve GmbH is registered in Germany, the District Court of Eastern Uusimaa has no jurisdiction, they requested the case to be dismissed as soon as possible “as inadmissible before incurring further legal costs”.
Photo credit: ENCE / afkgaming.com