Gaming has come a long way over the past 20 years or so. It has always been a competitive pastime for individuals or groups of friends where players have the ability to create social hierarchies based on a player’s skill level. Before the introduction of online multiplayer game modes, I used to enjoy creating custom FIFA tournaments with my friends to prove who was top dog and had bragging rights over the rest of the friendship group as the best FIFA player. However, with the growth of online gaming, this competitive component has become more widely accessible and it is now much easier to gauge your own skill level against others around the globe.
Off the back of the growth of online gaming we have seen the birth of gaming tournaments, referred to as eSports. Their growing popularity is evidenced by the fact the ESPN are now broadcasting these events live to millions of viewers. Often, the audiences for these gaming events are bigger than some major sporting events but does this mean that competitive gaming should officially become a sport? Let’s look at the facts.
What is a Sport?
The definition of sport is ‘an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment’, as taken from the English Oxford Dictionary. Based on this definition alone, it is obvious to see how video games could be classed as a sport. Minus the obvious lack of physical exertion, gaming fits the definition perfectly, especially in the wake of Twitch and other live streaming services. Surely, if Snooker and chess can be classified as a sport, where there is minimal ‘physical exertion’ then so can playing video games competitively? Unfortunately, this is not the only thing stopping gaming from becoming a sport.
The Regulatory Bodies Opinion
Government bodies in certain countries have refused to class gaming as a sport resulting in participants for major tournaments being unable to attend as they have been unable to attain a work visa. Gamers in the US have, in turn, decided to revolt against this and have submitted a petition with the required 100,000 signatures to force the Whitehouse to reconsider their stance on work permits for these eSports events.
If strides can be made for gaming in the US, it will be a step in the right direction for gamers across the globe but there is still some way to go to class this activity as a sport. There are strong opinions opposing this in many parts of the world but I don’t doubt that the opinions of many will change in the coming years as eSport audiences have grown by 43% in the past 2 years, reaching highs of 292 million in 2016! That’s a lot of enthusiastic gamers and this will only continue to grow in the years ahead. I look forward to seeing more from these gaming tournaments in the future and hopefully they will be more widely publicised across the world.
The final area that helps to classify activities as sports is having individuals or groups who are renowned by the world as masters of their craft. Football has Lionel Messi, Tennis has Novak Djokovic, F1 has Lewis Hamilton. So who are the top players in the esports world?
Saying individual players name will probably mean nothing to you at the moment but it is worth mentioning that the top 5 players in the world have earnt a whopping $1.2m last year. Their names may not ring any bells today but who knows what the future holds for these gaming superstars. Maybe Paul Duarte and Matthew Fiorante will become household names with the growth of eSports and start earning the same ridiculous salaries associated with other sports.
One thing is for sure though, as more players reach ‘fame’ through gaming, the argument for classing this pastime as a sport becomes stronger as these idols help to increase audiences and get gaming closer to the definition of a sport. Regardless of your opinion, if you’re a fan of gaming then you can bet these eSports will be an entertaining experience and may serve as influence to take your gaming skills to the next level. Who knows…eSports could overcome some of the large sporting events in the world sooner than we think.
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