Esports- Sport or hobby?

During my biweekly pub quiz mentioned to my stepdad, Peter, that there was talk of gaming becoming an Olympic sport. Being of a different generation, it was difficult for him to understand why something that is a hobby or passtime could become a sport in a massive sporting event. This got me thinking, was he right? As someone who plays games (and would love to play competitively/get paid for it) the opportunity would be amazing but is it the right format for it?

Peter’s argument was that a sport should be something you practice and physically perform. This seems to be the general attitude towards gaming competitively, and something that people misunderstand in my view. Firstly, to get to a level where you play competitively takes time and practice. A lot of other things will need to fall by the wayside and it becomes something you repeat over and over. This is the same way footballers hone their skills on the field, that basketball player’s review tactics to apply to the game and how other sportspeople watch their own performance to analyse and develop their play. Gamers do these too to strengthen and build their ability, they commit, they train and they work to compete. Just because they sit at a desk or on a sofa, doesn’t mean they are less committed to their game. Plus, there are respectable sports that don’t require a field play or movement, take Chess for example. This requires learning tactics, practising and studying your opponents, no different to a Dota or Overwatch player would. In all fairness to Peter, he accepted this as a fair argument.

Additional to this, competitive gaming is on the rise with these guys becoming the ‘rockstars’ of gaming. These competitions draw in millions of viewers from across the globe, either in stadiums or on platforms such as Twitch and Youtube. ESPN even covers esports now; the growth in this industry is huge. And the money! Lets put this in perspective, Blizzard’s recently announced Mythical Dungeon Invitational offers a $100,000 prize for running Mythic Dungeons in World of Warcraft, and that prize is tiny in comparison to some prize buckets. Some of these players earn over $1 million dollars a year, no Wayne Rooney or Ronaldo, but that is some serious money for someone partaking in their hobby full time. A lot of this comes from the support of the gaming community on the likes of Twitch. Because of the ease of viewing it can draw in an international audience while allowing other business to advertise to this audience. To me, if its this serious and draws in both crowds and money like this, it deserves it’s place at the sporting table.

I touched on it briefly earlier but lets also talk about the ‘athletes’ for a second. Now, I am prone to my drunk gaming, thinking I’m a Tracer pro while the beers make me a better gamer. But scientifically, this can’t be true as it slows your reflexes and impairs your judgement. These pro’s however, they have strict diets to keep their focus, they exercise (they what?) and they can be training for about 14 hours a day. They put the work in like any good athlete would do, both with the team and solo, to keep themselves sharp and ready. It’s this commitment to their game that makes them great. I’ll be honest, I wish I could dedicate the time to train for a competitive game like they do. For most, we can be good through natural skill and fail to transcend, purely due to other commitments. But that same logic can be applied to any sport, not just esports. To many people, they probably think pro gamers, and those who game for a living, are the archetypal lonely person in their parents house (I am sometimes at my girlfriends house too- buying a house is hard okay!) however this new athlete suggests otherwise. It shows routine and planning akin to the preparation an Olympic athlete would, or at least a professional chess player.

I understand why people, especially the different generations, look at esports as something that shouldn’t be in the Olympics, or even considered a sport, however the effort these guys put in means they deserve all they earn. People (like myself) will aspire to be as good or successful as they are however we will never hit those dizzy heights… much like a lot of Sunday League Football players don’t hit stardom in the Premiership. It can be a hobby that becomes a sport, but with changing technologies and evolving audiences it’s not surprising that esports is a thing, and especially a sport.

Do you think it should be a sport? An Olympic sport? Do you want to be an MLG player or coach me to be one? Leave me a comment, share my post and lets get training!

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