Although the name eSports
implies it is a sport, it does not require physical skills like soccer or
tennis. It is more comparable to chess, which is recognized as a sport whilst
lacking these physical skills. Despite many disagreeing on as to whether chess
is a sport or not, the International Olympic Committee did recognise it as a
sport in 2000 and it has been included at the Asian Games in 2006, not to
mention Tokyo adding chess to their Olympics Games in 2020. This could be the
future of eSports as well.
Discussion of adding eSports
to the Olympics have actually already started. In April 2017, the Olympic
Council of Asia (OCA) made it clear that eSports will be part of a medal sport
at the 2022 Asian Games in China. This would translate to that eSports have
already made it into the sports category, at least in Asia. The Asian Games are
recognised by the IOC and is considered the world’s second largest multi-sport
event if not for the Olympics. This does bring up the question as to whether
the Olympics could perceive it as a sport and if the world outside of Asia
could agree with such. Thomas Bach, who is the IOC president, did give a
statement on the matter. He said that he is not a 100% sure as to whether it is
a sport due to lack of physical activity, while as mentioned earlier, chess did
get recognition from IOC as a sport back in 2000. In 2019, the Olympic
programme for the 2024 Games will be created. This will reveal their final
decision on the matter.
2.2 Closer Comparison to Chess
IOC and OCA aside, eSports
being a sport should not be defined through large events. Chess has been
considered a sport long before the IOC recognised it as such. The London Chess
Conference has written an article on ten reasons as to why chess is a sport. It
appears that eSports have some elements in common.
Both chess and eSports are
competitive; the results of a game will reveal a winner. Despite many games
being involved in eSports, only games with a competitive side to it are
included. Another reason the London Chess Conference brings up, is that they
are well-established, referring to world championships and competitions. Considering
the history of eSportsL1 ,
they mark this category also. The third reason refers to physical fitness,
which is a curious mention as chess does not require much physical activity.
However, the London Chess Conference states that having a peak mental condition
also demands good physical condition. During a game of chess, players are to
concentrate up to seven hours while stress and tension builds up. It appears
that contenders for the world championship have nutritionists and fitness
coaches. As for eSports, Connor Smith wrote in 2017 that Delaware North is in
partnership with eSports to provide things like nutrition and culinary, as
Delaware North is a foodservice and hospitality company. Delaware North also
has sports psychologists and similar resources that they offer professional
sports teams, but are now also available for eSports. This is because for
eSports, taking care of your body still counts as it helps your mind perform
better. Gina Baski said, “if every other
kind of athlete can be helped by diet, nutrition and sleep, then eSports should
be no different.”
What chess and eSports also
value, is behavioural code. In chess, refusing to shake hands can get a player
penalised, mobile phones are not allowed and potential cheating is taken
seriously. For eSports, rules may be similar; cheating is not accepted, violent
language (such as homophobic comments) is not allowed. It is notable that
eSports do come with various unwritten rules, which relate to ethical
expectations. As eSports are not as established as chess yet, they are still
working on an official anti-doping policy. There are also many elements that
are considered bad form, but are not considered not allowed.
The fifth rule of the London
Chess Conference touches upon the Olympic Recognition, but as previously
mentioned, this is still what eSports are working on. However, chess was
recognized by the Olympics first in 2000 and the Asian Games later in 2006,
whilst eSports have already been recognised by the Asian Games.
Their sixth rule on European
recognition is applicable to both chess and eSports. Various European countries
consider eSports a sport already, such as Denmark, Italy and Russia. This is
what an article by IeSF News stated in 2016; it is not unlikely that more
countries have been added to the list by now.
Three of the four next
reasons that the London Chess Conference name, are certainly in common with
eSports. It is a global event as eSports take place in places such as the US,
Europa and Asia, and it is, just like chess, irrespective of age, race, income
or language. A mental component is present, especially with strategy-based
games that are played during an eSports match, and there is a player ranking
system that can be accessed by anyone. These player ranking systems are even
sorted by what games are being played.
The ninth reason they have
mentioned is about national accolade. Although this is an irrelevant subject to
eSports as of now, many people will voice that eSports deserve the same
Having overviewed all ten
reasons that the London Chess Conference named as to why chess is a sport, and
comparing this to eSports, it is safe to say that if eSports are compared to
chess, that eSports should also be considered a sport. Not only do they appear
to touch upon at least nine out of ten rules, fan voice that the tenth rule
should apply also. The London Chess Conference states in the same article that
the recognition of chess would not open the floodgates to video games, but
whether they have taken eSports into account, is questionable. eSports
definitely appear to be as close to sport as chess is.
2.3 Virtual Reality
Virtual Reality is a type of
gaming in which the player wears special glasses to view a game as if they are
in that gaming world. This easily allows for physical activity as movement is
being tracked through a camera. In other words, Virtual Reality brings eSports
a lot closer to being a physical sport. Echo Arena is a game played through
Virtual Reality, which is a three-on-three multiplayer game and is similar to
hockey, but without gravity. Because players use their body to play these
games, injuries also start occurring more often; soft tissue injuries in rib
cages and stubbing fingers have happened to some players. Echo Arena is being
compared to soccer by an article written by Jason Johnson, as he describes it
is a great spectator sport. Players will also be performing activities such as
jumping and crouching. However, Virtual Reality eSports are still very new and
used to seem unlikely. The VR Challenger League Competition, which is a
competition that takes place in Europe and North America, is the first to
practice Virtual Reality eSports and are proudly stating so; this could be the
start of eSports breaking into being recognised as a real sport as it has
turned eSports into something physical as well.
2.4 Former Olympic Sports
Other than comparing to a sport such as chess, in the past there have
been Olympic sports that would be considered strange to what people perceive as
a sport nowadays. This may have to do with lack of physical activity, but there
is some noticeable comparison to very specific eSports games.
A curious former Olympic sport is delivery van driving. Although this
required insight and proper reflexes, one could argue it requires as much
physical activity as some games in eSports may contain. The hands on the wheel
can be compared to holding a video game controller and both driving and gaming
requires paying attention to what is going on. The difference relies in the
focus on either a screen or real life surroundings. Although one may be
perceived easier than the other, the amount of physical activity seems fairly
mutual, at least for participants in cars, trucks and taxis.
Another former Olympic sport would be art. This could involve painting,
sculpting, painting; all sorts of things that is perceived as art. However, art
is not something athletic, though undoubtedly does require skill. The reason
behind mentioning this former sport, is because eSports also requires a high
level of skill and aside from Virtual Reality, is not exactly athletic.
These are only two examples of former Olympic sports that may be
perceived as a strange addition to the Olympics, but it shows an example of how
what can be considered a sport is rather flexible. Physical activity does not
appear to be as much of a criteria as the Olympic Games make it seem.
Although previous factors do
strongly imply that eSports should be a sport, it is still highly debated upon.
However, with the IOC president Thomas Bach at least looking into it, it may be
revealed as an Olympic sport. At least the Asian Games in China appear to
include eSports in their competition; the Western world is still in doubt
despite its fame worldwide.
Because being part of the
Olympics does not define whether something is a sport or not, and because there
have been odd ‘sports’ included before such as art, comparing eSports to chess
proves that eSports may as well be considered a sport. According to the ten
rules of The London Chess Conference, they are on a mutual level of being a
sport, despite the conference’s point of view on video games.
Added to that, with Virtual
Reality slowly breaking into the eSports category, anyone who firmly believes
eSports cannot be sport due to the lack of physical activity, will find it hard
to defend their perspective any longer if it manages to catch on.
It is extremely likely that
in the future eSports are to be considered a sport, even if Virtual Reality
does not catch on. It finds many comparisons to what is and what has been, and having
Asia already recognise it as a sport, promises a positive outlook on the matter.
is in the ‘What Are eSports’