Now I have you attention from that oh-so catchy title, it is time to strap yourselves in because we are here for the long haul and I’d rather just add to the debate rather then add to the yelling. So if all you read was the title and that pissed you off so you’ve already left your comment and/or threat then jog on. Or what’s more likely, you already have and you haven’t even read this and probably won’t. Anyway…
I’m going to start off with a statement of my opinion. ESports is a sport. But pro gamers are not athletes. Before we get into the nitty gritty of the former, lets get the latter statement clear.
The idea that pro gamers are not athletes is probability something we can all agree on, even among pro gamers themselves. Pro gamers (typically) are not people at the peak of physical athleticism but are at the peak of a particular skill set. So while they are not athletes they are professionals. Their are also different skill sets for some games that are different to others. A pro at DOTA2 isn’t a pro at Counter Strike, who isn’t a pro at Call of Duty and so on. So to me the title of pro gamer can be sliced up more into ‘Pro Gamer of game title here‘. This leads into the reason why I think eSports as a sport.
I am a fan of F1 (go McLaren Mercedes). F1 is a motor sport as it is included in the mainstream idea of what a sport is. It is a sport of technical skill because of the car and mental/physical skill because of the squishy thing behind the wheel. Sport Accord, the largest union of sport organisations, companies and associations both Olympic and non-Olympic in the world, which the F1’s FIA (Federation Internationale de l’Automobile) is a member, has made its own definition of what a sport is to help clear up any and all debate about its membership. It is;
The sport proposed should include an element of competition.
The sport should not rely on any element of “luck” specifically integrated into the sport.
The sport should not be judged to pose an undue risk to the health and safety of its athletes or participants.
The sport proposed should in no way be harmful to any living creature.
The sport should not rely on equipment that is provided by a single supplier.
They also categorise the sports as;
Counter to some of the few that I have heard, there are no defined gender rules for what is a sport. It is up to the discretion of the people holding the event if they have male only/female only tournaments. Look at the F1. There are quite a few female drivers but they are all stuck as test drivers (most of the time). And no Bernie you short git there shouldn’t be a female only F1 circuit. They are just as good as everyone else and they are hired by companies already. Make them/incentivise them to bring them to the front. Tangent over.
This definition is why F1 is a sport and considered as such. It is a primarily motorised sport based on the technical skill of the car and the skill of the driver. They same way that chess is a recognised Olympic sport (a primarily mind sport based on a rigid rule system negating the need for ‘luck’,) with equestrian events (a primarily animal-supported sport based on the skill of the trainer, rider and horse).
Going by this definition, esports clears point one with ease. Luck is negated with everything being available for all players, that being all the guns for Counter Strike, all the Heroes in DOTA2, etc, so that’s point two clear in a decent set up to a match. There is no risk to any life, human or animal, clearing point three and four. The last point is were I would would think there would be a debate. An esport is dependent on the developer/publisher letting their game be used as the sporting arena. But the way that I see it is the same way, going back to the F1 example, that motor sport tracks are used in F1. The tracks are maintained and controlled by third parties and then leased by contracts for the FIA to use. This would be the same way that a game is leased out for an event and/or company to use, so DOTA2 or Counter Strike leased to MLG for tournaments. So with all that, I see pro gaming as a sport.
Even in the categories it would be clear what ones they would fit into. I would put esports as a primarily mind and coordination sport as well partly motorised (because of the use of computers, keyboards, etc). I think that sticks pretty well even with the difference and variety of games played.
With all that said, esports is only a sport if the people involved consider themselves one. I think, with the debate that is going on, that some do and some don’t. If it was considered as a sport and companies like MLG managed to join groups like Sport Accord then there would be no debate as it would have the sporting recognition. The odd traditional sports person that says esports is not a sport and takes the piss then could have the Sport Accord membership shoved up their nose to choke on.
But what would happen in the tumultuous future if esports didn’t become a recognised sport? Well, nothing. It would still be what it is now. Even if it became a recognised sport it still would be what it is now but it could quell the voices of decent and ire. I think it is time for esports to put on the tackyist of pre-match tracksuits and call itself a sport. Just so all the old traditionals will shut the hell up and we can move on to more pressing business. Like understanding matches because even I have no idea what is going on most of the time. Just like every other sport.