Have you ever heard of e-sports? If so, do you think e-sports are actually sports or just computer games? If you have not heard of e-sports, then get ready to learn something new! There are differing opinions on whether e-sports should be categorized as regular sports. Some people still do not know what e-sports are, and of those who are familiar with e-sports, many refuse to agree that e-sports are “real” sports. Therefore, the issue of whether video gaming can be considered a sport has become quite controversial. Some people believe that because playing video games involves both physical and mental movement, it should be considered a sport; however, others argue that video games do not require enough physical movement to be classified as sports. In my opinion, e-sports cannot be defined as a sport because e-sports currently lack great physicality.
In 1989, the worldwide web and the multiplayer functions of software and hardware technologies advanced to the point that e-sports were first possible (Jonasson & Thiborg, 2010, p. 288). Video games quickly became popular, with growing numbers of players around the world (Jonasson & Thiborg, 2010, p.288). The most popular genres within e-sports are first-person shooters (FPS), in which players control a virtual representation avatar; real-time strategy (RTS), where players control armies in combat and the view is typically birds-eye; and sports games, where players compete in virtual sporting events (Jonasson & Thiborg, 2010, p. 288). This video shows the top 10 e-sports tournaments as of 2017:
There are several e-sports organizations that organize competitions like the Electronic Sports World Cup (ESWC), the World Cyber Games (WCG), and the Cyberathlete Professional League (CPL) (Jonasson & Thiborg, 2010). These events are not broadcast on traditional networks, therefore, social media platforms help promote the e-sport industry and broadcast the live streams of e-sports tournaments, such as Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram. Here is an example of twitter live streaming of e-sports:
With the rise of social media, e-sports have become very popular and the industry is expanding. For example, the introduction of live streaming of tournaments on Twitter has exposed e-sports to a larger audience around the world (Jennings, 2017). In particular, games like League of Legends have garnered millions of fans from social media exposure. In some ways, social media can be seen as a new form of media broadcasters that are challenging the traditional media. For example, they broadcast e-sports, which traditional media does not broadcast. They are also a tool to integrate fragmented audiences while simultaneously increasing promotional circulation (Compton, 2016, p. 54). For instance, online audiences are able to “communicate via blogging, twitter, Facebook and other forms of chat suggesting for some that the institutional media are now outmoded in their capacity to create, maintain and influence audiences” (Rowe & Hutchins, 2014, p. 10).
Thus, with the help of this “new media,” the e-sport industry is expanding. According to the research firm Newzoo, “The eSports industry will grow from $278 million in revenue in 2015 into a $765 million industry by 2018” (Lowe, 2017, para. 12). However, as e-sports become increasingly popular, many traditional media outlets have begun to recognize the potential benefits of the e-sport industry and have started to broadcast e-sports. For instance, the quarterfinals of the League of Legends World championship were broadcast by the BBC in October 2015 (“How The Media,” 2016). Here is a video shows the League of Legends World championship from BBC: http://www.bbc.com/sport/34530455.
Should e-sports be considered sports? Some people say yes because, like traditional sports, playing video games involves both physical movement and mental acuity. For example, Michal Blicharz, a former judoka from Poland, now organizes e-sports events around the world and believes that e-sports are true sports, describing how players must “study strategy, technique and opponents” in order to win (Borg & Live, n. d.). E-sport for players he states is the “crying tears of sorrow and joy” (Borg & Live, n. d., n. p). In other words, players need to put a huge amount of efforts in order to win the games. Blicharz further argues that if darts and snooker can be considered sports, then e-sports should be considered sports because each of these games involves minimal physical exertion (Borg & Live, n. d.).
“In terms of training you have to put in the same amount of hours, perhaps even more in esports. You study strategy, technique and opponents. All the elements are there – the excitement, the adrenalin, players crying tears of sorrow and joy.” – Michal Blicharz
Some people have a hard time categorizing e-sports as sports because when someone mentions sports they immediately think about sports like basketball or baseball, but e-sports are pure competition, just like traditional sports (Lowe, 2017). The Oxford Dictionary defines a sport as something that involves physical exertion and skill in which competitions happen between individuals and teams (As cited in Lowe, 2017, para. 5). E-sports involve an impressive amount of skill because playing them requires a huge amount of effort and training in order to become competitive. Although players always sit to compete and there is minimal physical movement involved, there is still physical exertion. Players “learned to quickly and precisely chain together complicated in-game movements and attacks, which is only possible with a high level of dexterity” (Lowe, 2017, para. 8).
I believe that e-sports should not be defined as a traditional sport because e-sports lack great physicality. Although e-sports do involve physical effort, the physical movements are minimal, primarily involving only fine motor skills that “utilize smaller muscle groups” such as fingers (Seth et al., 2016, p. 9). This is very different than sporting activities, which involve gross motor skills that use large muscle groups to produce movement (Seth et al., 2016, p. 9). Thus, if e-sports are to be considered a sport, then the player must have “developed physical skills and abilities within the context of large [“segments of the body, or the entire body, is coordinated and integral to the successful completion of the task”]” (Seth et al., 2016, p. 10). In addition, e-sports lack the face-to-face aggression, power, and body contact of traditional sports, which are replaced by virtual violence (Seth et al., 2016, p. 10). For example, traditional athletes risk real-world physical injury and increased physical dangers with every competition. In e-sports, however, neither the avatar in the virtual space nor the player risks feeling any actual pain.
Furthermore, e-sports involves sedentary video gaming, which can actually increase obesity and decrease exercise (Seth et al., 2016, p. 10). As a result, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2014) recommends “no more than 2 hours of daily television, videos, or video games for children ages 2 to 12 years” (as cited in Seth et al., 2016, p. 10).
Alternatives to Sports
In fact, for players, they do not care if e-sports are a sport. Most of the players today do not identify themselves fully with common sports, and most of the players call themselves gamers (Jonasson, & Thiborg, 2010, p. 293). If Players and organizers can attain a higher social status or obtain bigger funding and sponsorship without becoming a sport, why would they care if e-sports are a sport? In this scenario, e-sport might develop “into a strong counterculture and as an alternative to modern sport” (Jonasson, & Thiborg, 2010, p. 293).
The Future of E-sports
E-sports are important to discuss because the existence of e-sports complicates how we define the term “sport.” Although some countries such as America and Korea already hold several e-sport mega-events to show their acceptance of e-sports as a sport, many people are still skeptical. However, strong international sports organizations, such as the International Olympic Committee, does not accept or recognize e-sports as a sport by their standards.
Currently, e-sports only involve fine motor movements in which a player manipulates a handheld controller, which does not meet the condition of physicality for a true sport. Moreover, e-sports players do not risk injury like athletes in real-world competitions. The rising success of e-sports can be partially attributed to media outlets, particularly the capacity of social media to allow online audiences to watch live streams of e-sports and chat with others in real-time about the events. This has also challenged the role of the traditional media in broadcasting sporting events, forcing traditional broadcasters to realize the potential of the e-sport industry.
I believe, in the future, if the e-sports integrate motion-based video games that track gross motor physical body movement within the competition, then it will be more acceptable to the general public. Also, if more and more organizations and communities of e-sports can unite together as a global organization, then this might help e-sports to promote itself as a sport in its own rights.
- In your opinion, are e-sports real sports?
- What would it take for e-sports to be commonly accepted as real sports?
- Is there room in the sports industry for both traditional sports and e-sports?
Borg, O., & Live, R. (n.d.). Is computer gaming really sport? Retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/guides/zygq2hv
Compton, J. (2016). Mega event, media and the integrated world of global spectacle. In R. S. Gruneau & J. Horne (Eds.), Mega-events and globalization: Capital and spectacle in a changing World order (pp. 48-60). Abingdon, New York: Routledge.
How The Media Has Helped The Growth of eSports. (2016). Retrieved April 06, 2018, from http://www.esportsbetting.co.uk/the-medias-role-in-promoting-the-growth-of-esports
Jonasson, K., & Thiborg, J. (2010). Electronic sport and its impact on future sport. Sport in Society, 13(2), 287–299. doi:10.1080/17430430903522996
Jennings, R. (2017). How Popular is Esports on Social Media? Retrieved April 05, 2018, from https://fastweb.media/articles/blog/esports-on-social-media
Lowe, C. (2017, February 13). Professional gaming should be considered a sport. Retrieved from http://www.reflector-online.com/opinion/article_b8040060-e41b-11e6-86b4-67b86ce4c15b.html
Rowe, D., & Hutchins, B. (2014). Globalization and Online Audiences. In A. C. Billings and M. Hardin (Eds), Routledge Handbook of Sport and New Media (pp. 7-16). London: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group
Seth, E. J., Douglas, R. M., Margaret C. K., & Tracy W. O. (2016). Virtual(ly) Athletes: Where eSports fit within the definition of “sport”. Quest, 69(1), 1-18. doi:10.1080/00336297.2016.1144517