The Rise of Esports and Olympic Potential

Josh I., Contributor

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The Olympics have been, historically, the most prestigious events in the world – with athletes from all over coming to one city to compete for honor, fame, and bragging rights. The Olympic Games offer a wide array of competition, including common activities such as rugby and football (soccer), to more obscure activities such as… trampoline?

Nonetheless, the Olympic Games are an international event for countries to showcase their greatest athletes and able competitors.

In October 2017, it was reported that the International Olympic Committee is considering adding esports to the lineup at the 2024 Paris Olympic Games, and possibly as a permanent staple. This consideration is not out of the blue, for the 2022 Olympic games already have esports planned as a medal event.

This interest by the International Olympic Committee has been seen by many as a step towards the legitimization of esports, but do esports deserve to be at the Olympics? Do they deserve to be recognized as a sport?

If we want to answer that question, we need to look at the definition of the word “sport.” However, this is not an easy task, as the exact definition of “sport” can vary based on which dictionary is cited. The general definition used by most dictionaries is that “sport” is “any activity that requires the exertion of physical force and skill.”

Now the question is, could we apply this definition to an esport? Take for example, League of Legends. League of Legends requires some form of skill in order to figure out which lane to attack, how to approach fights, and what to purchase with gold. But does it require “the exertion of physical force?” Some could argue games like Counter Strike: Global Offensive require the user to aim, which can fall under physical exertion (due to the player having to move his arm precisely to hit the enemy). But for MOBAs (Massive Online Battle Arenas), could the same idea to be used? Do the games rely on physical skill?

In my opinion, no, they don’t. The flick of the wrist or the tap of a button may be crucial in these games, and they may require some talent to execute perfectly, but compared to the force exerted while throwing a ball or swimming faster than any other human in the world, these actions seem trivial.

Another problem comes with the pure nature of esports. Esports are competitions within a video game – a game developed and published by a company for profit. Games and activities such as football (soccer) and swimming work in the Olympic games not only because they require great athleticism, but because they are simple and relatable enough that most people could train themselves in the activity without having to fork over loads of cash. Anyone can get some friends together with a ball and play football (soccer), with the goal of one day becoming an Olympic superstar.

But with esports, this really isn’t possible. Esports rely heavily on products purchased from specific manufacturers and developers. To play a game such as Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, you’d require a PC powerful enough to run the game, as well as purchase the game itself. In more decrepit parts of the world, such luxuries are out of reach. While countries in North America and Europe may prosper, smaller countries without easy access to the technology may be out of luck in esports at the Olympics.

And finally, the big problem with including esports is: what do they want to host? Do they want to host an Overwatch tournament at the Olympic Games? Do they want to host League of Legends, or Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, or Starcraft II? The problem comes with what defines an esport, or what an esport is.

Are only the world’s most popular games considered esports? If so, do the Olympic Games act as an advertising arm for that game’s publisher? Could a publisher throw money at a scene and instantly get their game into the Olympics for free advertising and prestige?

Esports cover too wide of a spectrum to include in the Olympics, and are too loosely defined to be added with one broad stroke. Even if the International Olympic Committee created a definition for esport, any publisher can manipulate and bend the rules to play in its favor, whether ethical or not.

The (modern) Olympic games were created to celebrate and contest the athleticism from different countries around the world, I don’t believe esports are a good fit for the Games. While I believe esports provide great entertainment value on their own, they cannot qualify as a legitimate sport due to the nature of the activity and the purpose of their existence.

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