Russia Is Using Its Army of Trolls To Peddle Its Government-Backed Version of Esports

Russia is about to host a big Esports and Sports competition named “Games of the Future” and it appears to be using its well-documented army of trolls to promote it. 

The competition will be hosted in Kazan, the capital of the Russian Republic of Tatarstan, between tomorrow, February 21, and March 3. 

With the tournament coming close, a massive spamming operation has been put in motion to promote it. 

A collage of spam tweets sent to promote “Games of the Future” by bot accounts.

Many X (formerly Twitter) accounts are targeting other posts mainly about video games and sports with answers quoting Tweets featuring the trailer of the competition and a variety of memes promoting “Games of the Future” with links that I would not advise clicking.

All the tweets quoted have roughly the same number of retweets and no likes, and all the accounts involved have zero followers and are following no one. The accounts that posted the original tweets have nothing else on their timeline and have all been created in December 2023, while those doing the actual spamming are brand-new created this month (February 2024), and sent nothing but hundreds of quote Tweets to different targets in just a few hours.

All of these elements indicate a widespread, coordinated spamming operation to promote the event, which is backed by the highest levels of the Russian government.

Russian president Vladimir Putin himself, signed its creation into law in December 2023, while Deputy Prime Minister of Russia for Tourism, Sport, Culture, and Communications Dmitry Chernyshenko (who is subject to a plethora of international sanctions) is directly involved with the organization. 

This is how the event is officially described in a variety of press releases.

The inaugural cybersport Games of the Future will be hosted by the Russian city of Kazan between February 21 and March 3, 2024. The Games will feature entirely new sports disciplines combining advanced technology, the digital environment and physical activity.

The competitions are designed to use cutting-edge developments in cybersports, robotics, both augmented (AR) and virtual reality (VR), information technology (IT) and artificial intelligence (AI). The tournament offers $25 mln in prize money.

As part of the preparations for the Games of the Future, Russia has organized a series of Phygital Games. The first Phygital Games were held in September 2022 and they were followed by numerous editions up until the present, with the most recent such event held in Kazan on October 5-22, 2023.

The concept of “phygital” games mixes video games and real-world sports. For instance, the Phygital Racing discipline includes a racing simulation game and real Formula 4 racing, with teams competing across both versions.

21 such disciplines will be hosted at Games of the Future 2024, and officials claim that over 2,000 competitors from over 100 countries will participate. According to a report by TASS, of over 250 teams competing, 119 are composed entirely or partially of Russians.

The Russian state-run news agency also reported that President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping confirmed directly to Putin in a recent phone call that Chinese competitors will take part in the event.

Chernyshenko boasted earlier this month that tickets are “selling like hot cakes” and that the tournament will be broadcast by over 600 Russian and foreign companies.

It’s worth mentioning that the claimed figures have not been verified by independent sources, to our knowledge.

Of course, the event has a strong political color, with Chernyshenko mentioning that the competition is designed “to open a new chapter in the world of sports, to demonstrate a unique sporting concept to the international community.” 

Back in early 2023, the politician claimed that countries hostile to Russia due to the invasion of Ukraine are not succeeding in excluding the embattled country from the system of world sports, citing Games of the Future among other events hosted by Russia itself. 

In the meanwhile, a large portion of the international gaming community has sided with Ukraine in the ongoing conflict, creating dedicated games and a variety of collaborations, sales, and events backing the invaded country and its people. 

The Ukrainian gaming industry continues to function against the odds, with its poster boy S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Heart of Chornobyl by GSC Game World finally releasing for PC and Xbox on September 5, 2024, and many independent games continuing to appear, even if the war has claimed its toll among the development community itself.

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