A topic that has been up for heated debate since the invention of the term “eSport”: can an activity that is generally done sitting down in the comfort of a sofa or armchair, while eating and drinking, really be compared to the likes of marathon running and mountain climbing? In short, can online gaming really be considered a sport?
While you might be ready to hurl your tennis racket at the screen in blind rage at such a suggestion, take a moment to consider what makes a sport. Physical exertion, ability, practice, competition, fans cheering you on: all these aspects make up what we think of when we imagine competitive sports, so why shouldn’t competitive gaming be included in the ranking? Let’s take a closer look at why eSports are real sports:
Most of us have played video games in our lives, but how many of us can say we’re exceptionally good at it? You may have smashed your best friend in a couple of rounds of Street Fighter back in the day, but you were probably beaten by his younger sister a day later. Like any other sport, only a few people will find they have a natural ability to play video games; so they obviously possess a skill that the rest of us lack. Coordination and quick reflexes are both considered desirable in most competitive sports, and the same goes for gaming.
As with anything you want to do, practice is the key to becoming the best. Famous artists will often cringe when played a clip of their singing in their teens, when they had the love but not the skill of their trade. As the saying goes, “practice makes perfect”, and any sports-person will testify the truth to this statement. You know that playing tennis once a week with your friends is never going to get you to Wimbledon – you have to train for hours every day in order to become a professional, and the same is true for online gaming. With some gamers claiming to practice for up to 15 hours per day, there’s no doubt that to play eSports professionally, you need dedication and commitment.
You may imagine football, baseball or soccer being played in big stadiums and arenas around the world, but online gaming tournaments have been filling seats in huge venues for years. The Sang-am World Cup Stadium in Seoul, for example, drew in 40,000 fans for the 2014 League of Legends World Championship final. Not only was the stadium itself filled with devoted fans, but a further 27m people tuned in to watch their favorite teams compete in the game’s finale.
And if gaming isn’t your thing, why not tune into online poker. The stakes are literally high and you can watch people competing for prizes up to $3.7m. Since the start of the pandemic, online gambling has seen a sharp increase, and online poker site PokerStars just saw its largest competition ever, with over 61,000 entries.
Even with sites like Gamstop trying to help people stop gambling, it seems that our love of playing for money, and the thrill of watching others beat the house, is insatiable. That said, it’s still easy to find a casino without Gamstop, and people are queuing up to watch others bet their hard-earned cash in a bid to become overnight millionaires. Like any other sport, there are winners and losers, and online gaming and gambling looks like a trend set to stay.
When you think of rich sports people, soccer players and tennis champions come to mind; but online gamers can win huge amounts of money that will afford them the life of a world-class athlete too. For example, Johan Sundstein, an online gamer from Denmark, has accumulated $6,889,592 from gaming tournaments, and he’s only 27 years old.
And if cold hard cash isn’t enough, some US colleges even offer scholarships to eSports players. Gone are the days when only tall, strong types could get into a good college by playing American football or basketball. Now elite gamers can have the same opportunities to wow prospective schools with their skills too.
To summarise, if you put all these components together you have the building blocks of what makes up a sport. While gamers may not have to hit the gym 7 days a week and eat a strict keto diet, they certainly have to put the hours into their sport and follow a tough regimen every day. They might not have to run 10k in under an hour, but they do have to focus their concentration on a task for hours at a time. The average League of Legends tournament lasts 3 days, with players having to constantly keep their wits razor-sharp.
eSports are real sports. Just because the players don’t look like your typical athletes, doesn’t mean they’re any less dedicated to their craft as anyone else. Now go back and tell your friend’s sister you want that Street Fighter rematch.