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Should “eSports” be Considered As a Sport?

08:00 AM May 26, 2015

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Advancements in technology have revolutionized videogaming. What started out as a hobby has evolved into something no one has ever expected. The internet has allowed gamers from all over the globe to compete with each other; what started out as a one or two player game can now become multi-player tournaments where players compete for prizes that reach as high as $10 million.

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Esports — competitive videogame tournaments — is slowly making its way into mainstream consciousness. So much so that it caught the attention of companies like Amazon who acquired Twitch for nearly $1 billion and ESPN who ventured into broadcasting videogame tournaments.

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ESPN broadcasted the coverage on The International (Dota 2) pre-show last 2014 on their website and Heroes of the Dorm (Heroes of the Storm) on ESPN 2.

With all these progressions in eSports industry, there is a topic of discussion among fellow eSports fans and skeptics that rose with it: should eSports should be considered as a sport?

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From starting out as a mere hobby, videogames slowly evolved to include a competitive ingredient. It began as high scores and leader boards, which then turned into multiplayer features to be played with friends in a central location. These days, advancements in the online infrastructure worldwide has allowed players from different parts of the world to come together and compete.

This whole new dimension has become what some would argue, the reason why eSports should be among the other sports. Esports tests the player’s’ wits, teamwork and their indomitable will to victory. It affects not just their mental well-being but also their physical well-being, for a sound brain can only do so much in competitive eSports.

But amid the various tournaments with huge prize money and the high level of competitiveness in video games, should eSports really be considered as a sport?

There are those that still find it difficult to accept eSport as a concept, let alone consider it as a sport. But, researchers and gaming enthusiasts are finding a way to let others see a clearer connection between eSports and traditional sports.

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Organizations like Korean eSports Association (KeSPA) was successful in working with the Korean government in championing eSports as a legitimate athletic activity. Together, they have provided a set of rules that govern the whole of eSports in Korea, from the player’s rights and health, to the regulations of tournaments being held. In line with this, the International eSports Federation (IeSF) aims to do the same thing worldwide as it espouses the addition of competitive videogames as Olympic-level events.

 

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Prof. Dr. Ingo Froböse, Head of Center for Health through sport and movement at the German Sport University Cologne shared some insights in an interview with Competitive Gaming Conference (CGC) Europe,  stating that a sport is not only about the physical movements.

“Sport is more than visible movements you see on a sports field. In fact, this is just one component of a big puzzle that defines the term “sport”. Mental skills, strategies or training are just a few other examples of components which influence the performance. All of them can be found in Competitive Gaming.”

Research shows that the reaction time and visual processing of professional gamers  are better than the general population. Unsurprising, given what a professional gamer experiences even in the first 10 minutes of a Dota 2 or League of Legends match. A split second difference determines a phenomenal 30-yard pass to a streaking receiver in a football match. That’s also the time it takes for a sniper to take out a pushing opponent from long A on De_dust 2

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In terms of strategizing, traditional athletes are no different from gamers, not to mention the level of teamwork needed.

There are more studies being conducted for eSports and video games in general, common negative perceptions are getting debunked and it is only a matter of time before the general public would accept eSports as a sport or even as its own entity.

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Red Bull Sports Science Training

 

If eSports will be considered as a sport, it becomes easier for it to achieve stability and governmental recognition. This is important as an emerging industry, there are many issues that arise from the informality of the industry that are hampering its overall growth.

Since eSports, or any virtual-related subject, is still finding its way into the law there is no proper jurisprudence that can cover important industry issues. eSports needs to experience the same legal benefits as sports such as the grant of an Athlete’s Visa for players competing in the international scene like the Olympics or the World Cup.

Visa rejection has been one of the main problems of professional eSports players. Many teams have been denied the chance to compete at prestigious offline events throughout the years. Chinese teams, Invictus Gaming and CDEC, were denied their visas which prevented them from travelling to Kiev, Ukraine to compete in Starladder XI.

Korean-based team Rave was also unable to secure their visas for the joinDota MLG Pro League LAN Finals and was even stopped by the Philippine Bureau of Immigration from leaving the Philippines while on their way back to Korea to train.

Not only does denying their visas violates their right to travel, it limits their opportunity to thrive in their craft and profit more especially with the huge prize money being given away to the victors in international tournaments.

Team Rave Bam Aquino

Team Rave meets Senator Bam Aquino

Esports needs a strong foundation that can supervise its changes and developments. It would be safe to say that it is easier to work on the acceptance of eSports as a sport rather than to work on the acceptance of eSports as eSports. Written law undergoes a lot of process to be changed and it takes years of discussions and paperworks in order for something to be fully acknowledged by the law.

Almost by design, eSports experiences an oversaturation of tournaments, across the many titles that hold competitive events. The frictionless quality of having a competitive platform operated primarily from the internet has also allowed for a multiplicity of event organizers to offer up events for a new batch of players to continually enter and compete in to gain access into the industry.

But because of this, the entire infrastructure of the tournament scene tends to be top-heavy for the players. The best performing teams — the winners — win big, while in some tournaments, finishing in second place may not even be enough to make a decent living.

From this perspective, the player’s rights in the face of a massively informal tournament structure may need the help of regulatory boards and an organization that can maintain order in eSports. Oversaturation of tournaments and player re-shuffling can also be resolved more efficiently.

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There is progress for eSports. The United States recently published its acceptance professional gamers as athletes, allowing them to acquire an Athlete’s Visa and it will only be a matter of time before other countries will follow suit.

However, there are still a lot of obstacles to overcome. In order for eSports to be accepted as a sport, there has to be proof that can support its claim. One of the skeptics that argued against eSports as a sport is John Skipper, President of ESPN, saying that it’s merely a competition like chess or checkers. Even ESPN radio host for The Herd, Colin Cowherd, slammed competitive gaming, threatening to quit if ever he will be tasked to cover a gaming tournament.

HeroesoftheDormCowherd

 

Maybe what eSports needs is to evolve into something not dependent on the term ‘sports’. Give it a few more years and eSports will have its own identity. For now, the question remains: why can’t eSports be eSports?

 

 

 

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