Published on December 6th, 2016 | by Lukasz Chomicki
Is video gaming a real sport?
There is a grey area when it comes to determining if certain activities are a sport.
These can range from card games, chess and wrestling to fishing or pool. In recent years however, a new pastime has become part of the debate – gaming.
As with the other activities touted as sports, opinions are sharply divided. But those who argue that gaming should be considered a sport make a surprisingly strong case.
At first glance it might seem downright silly to call gaming a sport but there are a lot of commonalities between classic sports and playing on a console or PC.
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, the definition of a sport is: “A game, competition, or activity needing physical effort and skill that is played or done according to the rules, for enjoyment and/or as a job”.
The key word here is, of course, ‘physical’. Gaming is not a physical activity (button-mashing Tekken doesn’t count), no matter what level you compete at.
However, I don’t think that the lack of a physical aspect to gaming completely rules it out as a sport.
Here are a few similarities between sport and gaming:
- There is a competitive, individual/team activity.
- They draw crowds (and big crowds at that). The big events even take place in stadiums and arenas and are broadcast on TV with pundits, analysts and commentators.
- Both involve a high level of strategy, especially games like Defence of the Ancients (DOTA), League of Legends and even Call of Duty.
- There is also the classic argument made by every gamer ever that playing requires high levels of reaction times.
- They have rules and codes of conduct.
So now we’ve established that there are a lot of close similarities, but re-read those points with the context of TV cooking shows.
Done? Again, apart from the stadiums and reaction times, they seem to somewhat match the aspects of sport, but that doesn’t mean that cooking should be considered a sport.
Michal Blicharz is a former judoka who now organises events on the Intel Extreme Masters circuit, an elite global pro-gaming tour.
He told the BBC: “I’ve sweated on the judo mat enough times to have a good opinion about it.
“Judo and e-sports are not that dissimilar. In terms of training you have to put in the same amount of hours, perhaps even more in e-sports.
“You study strategy, technique and opponents. All the elements are there – the excitement, the adrenalin, players crying tears of sorrow and joy.”
On top of all of that, professional gaming is becoming an exponentially growing business.
The prize money on offer at major tournaments such as League of Legends World Championship, Halo World Championship, and DOTA 2 International are now reaching similar levels to those of major sporting events.
The entire prize pool for the 2016 Defence Against the Ancients Championship reached over $20m with the winning team (Wings Gaming) receiving just over $9m.
Each team consists of five people which works out as $1.8m per player. The total of the prize pool at the US Open tennis was over $36m with the singles champions getting $3.5m.
It’s also worth pointing out that each year the prize pools at major gaming events have increased so it is not unrealistic that eventually pro gamers will be earning as much as top athletes.
Gaming also has a similar format as in sport when it comes to making it to the major tournaments.
A pro-gaming team first has to get into a Secondary Pro League which is a national event by competing in local and regional events. The winners and runners up of the Pro League are then seeded into the world championship.
So is gaming a sport? My personal opinion is that it isn’t, even though there are undeniable similarities.
I believe that it is acceptable to call it e-sports but it should become its own establishment with its own governing body rather being approved by sporting councils.
For me, watching someone playing Fifa on an Xbox or PlayStation and calling it a sport is almost an insult to all those athletes who put in the many hours training to improve their skills.
By no means am I saying that improving skill, ability and intellect in gaming doesn’t take time and effort and dedication, but rather that there is a difference.
Just like cooking is cooking, art is art, and music is music, so should pro gaming be pro gaming, or in this case, e-sports, but not sports.
Feature image of the League of Legends tourney courtesy of Wikimedia.