On June 22, 2021, major video game company Valve Corporation announced the sad news to the gaming and esports community. The much-awaited world’s richest esports tournament, Dota 2 The International 10 (TI10), could not be hosted in Sweden. Their Sports Federation cited that esports is not an ‘elite sporting event’, hence it can’t be part of the organisation. However, does esport have the right to be considered a ‘real sport’?
What the IOC is saying
The term ‘esports’ is a portmanteau of ‘electronic sports’. It refers to any organised multiplayer video game tournament where professional gamers and teams compete for pool prizes and prestige. This is where esports is different to gaming, as there is a more competitive and professional element to it.
Despite esports’ attached rewards, sponsorships, and the fact that it is now a billion-dollar industry, many still do not consider them as leverages to label them as actual sports. Decades have passed, and technologies have become more advanced, but labelling it as sports is still a controversial topic.
Esports doesn’t meet the textbook definition of sports, which is the present integration of physical movements. Compared to athletes, pro gamers are stationary. They fight to become League of Legends World champions by sitting at desks and staring at screens. This fact alone already puts competitive video gaming at a disadvantage for the International Olympics Committee (IOC).
When asked about her opinion about IOC’s acknowledgement to esports, three-time BMX world champion Sarah Walker sided with the nays.
‘The main difference for me is if I want to practice any Olympic discipline, if I wanted to try one of them, I actually have to go out and do it. I have to be active. Where gaming is right now, if I was inspired to be a gamer, my first step is to go home and sit on the couch’, she said.
While sitting on the couch is partly true, that’s not, of course, the only way for a gamer to become a professional. Like any other career, breaking down the skills required to game on a competitive level is quite challenging mentally, emotionally, and even physically.
Esports pro gamers: Athletes in the digital battlefield
Pro gaming isn’t a stable profession. On average, gamers make between $1,000 and $5,000 per month, depending on your team contract, inevitable losses, and the number of sponsorships. In other words, everyone in this industry is competitive and determined to reach the top, but truthfully speaking, only a few can.
That is why gamers aren’t just ‘sitting’ around. Since esports tournaments are multiplayer video games, gamers are part of organisations or teams. They often live in specially designed training facilities where they can develop their skills, team strategies, and bond. Like athletes, these abilities are practised every day towards excellence.
Esports tournaments are broadcasted live on multiple cable channels and social media platforms. This easily puts gamers to stardom, thus also making them vulnerable to backlashes from thousands of netizens that might affect their performances.
An example of the said unfortunate case is the Shanghai Dragons in the 2018 Overwatch League. They made headlines for being the season’s worst performance — a 42-game losing streak with zero win matches. Instead of getting support, they got harsh criticisms from fans and esports betting punters.
On average, gamers practice 12 to 14 hours a day, whereas athletes train five hours per day. While the latter exhausts their bodies by exercise and routines, both kinds of training are prone to injuries.
Gamers may be safer sitting and staring at a screen, but long hours of practice increase their chance of getting an injury. The most common ones today are bad posture, eye strain, muscle and joint problems, and swollen fingers and forearms.
The hypercompetitive environment of esports
Without South Korea’s esports development, the world of gaming wouldn’t have a hypercompetitive environment. Beyond the blinding lights, massive stadiums, and roaring fans, it is a new era of entertainment. Tournaments are franchises with different formats and standards.
While anyone can play sports like basketball and video games like Dota 2, not everyone can compete in the national or international competitions. This shows that it takes real talent, brilliance, and skills to compete worldwide.
The final verdict: Is esports a real sport?
So, going back to the question that has been lingering among fans and organisations for decades, is esports a real sport? As it turns out, there is no easy answer because fusing two similar activities from entirely different platforms is impossible at the moment.
To recap, esports is digital, whereas traditional sports are physical. If there is anything to learn here at Bitcasino, ‘sport’ is actually a cultural construct whose definition changes across time and geography. From Afghanistan’s Buzkashi, England’s Cheese Rolling, and Switzerlands’ Hornussen, perhaps the generation today is ready for a little change for esports.
As exciting as the thought sounds, a high governing body’s recognition is still important. Esports fans can, however, remain hopeful that this level of recognition will become a reality as the industry continues to grow internationally.
If or when this happens, you can be sure we’ll let you know. Catch the latest esports news here at Bitcasino, your number one destination for esports crypto betting.
Words by: Antoinette Laraze