The eSports Market: Is Gaming a Sport?
When people talk sports, they usually speak of the usual suspects: basketball, football, baseball, even professional wrestling, though the latter is more of a cross between sports and entertainment. What about eSports? Is Gaming a Sport? You’ve got to wonder, as it isn’t your usual sport where you need to get a ball through the hoop or past a fence or the end zone. It doesn’t require you to be seven foot tall or 300 pounds with superhuman athleticism to succeed. You just need to be a star in your multiplayer game of choice, armed with the right mix of motor skills and knowledge of the game. Just like in traditional sports, you need to work well with your team and listen to your coach.
For those who aren’t aware of eSports, it’s a serious business and popular in countries, such as South Korea, where eSports events could sometimes draw as much interest as, or even more attention than a major traditional sporting event. As of 2016, close to 300 million people around the world watched eSports events, with that number expected to be closer to 430 million by 2019. Revenues have also been rising in recent years, with the expected revenue from eSports events forecasted to go beyond the $1 billion mark in just two years from now. It’s still experiencing rapid growth, as more video games are now falling under the eSports umbrella. None of those stats answer the one fundamental question of whether eSports is a real sport or not.
From an objective point of view, we can say that eSports is real since eSports “athletes,” if you can call them that, train for hours a day, trying to perfect certain moves or techniques to help them get the edge over their opponents. None of this involves pumping any iron or engaging in strenuous physical activity or exercises. In a nutshell, it’s all about perfecting the way you play a certain game. eSports has teams with actual coaches, analysts who crunch the numbers and study the tendency of players, and celebrity players, including Tom Brady (from the NFL) or LeBron James (from the NBA), for instance. There’s that feeling of accountability depending on how well or how poorly you perform. Do well, and you earn praise and respect from teammates, do poorly, and you feel as if you let your teammates down.
eSports is Real
The eSports scene has lots of features similar to or identical to real sports. If the above similarities weren’t enough, you should take note that you can get injured in eSports ever since “Nintendinitis” became a buzzword of sorts in the late 80s and early 90s. In fact, gamers do suffer injuries that compromise their ability to play or leave them unable to play altogether.
On the other hand, you’ve got people who believe that eSports is not a real sport. At worst, you’ve got individuals who showcase the worst of the bully jock stereotype. The first one is referring to eSports players as uncoordinated geeks who play video games competitively because they’re no good at playing “real” sports. The second stereotype is pigeonholing eSports players like grown men who live in their parents’ basements, don’t have a social life, and can’t get a date. These stereotypes are not just offensive to eSports players, but untrue in most cases. It’s true that you don’t need to be a super-athlete to be an eSports superstar, but it takes true skill and in many cases, eye-hand coordination to be among the best in the world when it comes to playing certain video games.
Fortunately, many of those who don’t file eSports under the “real sports” category keep a more open mind toward things, arguing that eSports is indeed competitive video gaming and can be kind of interesting and appealing, but not a sport due to the lack of physicality involved. We salute those who look at things in such a constructive way, instead of resorting to old, inaccurate tropes about video gamers when arguing that eSports isn’t real.
In the end, it all depends on how you see things. You may be a purist regarding your definition of sports, and consider eSports less because it isn’t physical, or you may think that it’s an actual mentally-oriented sport similar to chess. While it may still appeal to a niche market in many ways, those who are thankful for gaming can appreciate eSports and recognize that there’s lots of fun in watching and/or competing. The debate of whether eSports is a real sport or not still rages on, so if we are to leave a lasting impression, we’d advise you to enjoy it for what it is, regardless of how you define it.