“The rise of the professional cyber athlete” reads the tagline of Ben McGrath’s article. The topic is StartCraft, a virtual game that has one of the largest followings in the world. The game is dominated by South Korean’s, but has recently been expanding to other parts of the world, including North America. The most talented players gather to compete in tournaments featuring large cash prizes and many opportunities to gain sponsorships. There is a common question that arises, and the topic has been debated for a long time: What is a sport? (And are eSports actually sports?)
To me, sports are a physical involvement. Athletes sacrifice their bodies for the greater good of a team in most cases, but even in instances of individual sports, physicality is still a major factor. Football, baseball, hockey, basketball, tennis. Sports. Computer games? Not so much.
While my opinion certainly isin’t the only one, I would suspect the majority of people would be in agreement with me.
I can however think of someone who would disagree. Johan Huizinga’s depiction of the Magic Circle would include “eSports” based on his general rules of play. According to Huizinga, play must be:
o Free (Voluntary)
o Uncertain (Unpredictable outcomes)
o Unproductive/autotelic (intrinsically valuable)
o Governed by rules
o Make-believe (Outside of reality)
Technically, it works. eSports would fit all of the categories Huizinga promotes. But for some reason it just doesn’t seem right. As a class, we then went further into the discussion which led to us adding to the definition:
o Play can be for money — players can make a salary
o Play can be apart of real life; does not have to be imaginary
Even still, eSports would fit in the definition. So what makes eSports not sports? Athleticism. What I am proposing is Johan Huizinga’s definition of play is correct, and yes, eSports fall under his definition, but “play” does not necessarily make it a sport. Huizinga does not require anything athletic to be play, so simply put, Huizinga isin’t talking about sports.
That still doesn’t answer the question of “what is a sport?”
According to TopEndSports, it is “An activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others.” While eSports like StarCraft are very competitive, have a great fan following, and offer salaries and sponsorships (just like professional athletics), there is no physical exertion involved. I think to use the word “sport” in the name is unfair. eSports have a mental exertion rather than physical one. Which is why I would propose a rename to “eCompetitions” or something along those lines.
This in no way is putting down or demeaning what the competitors of StarCraft or any other online game
are doing. It is rather changing their classification in order to respect the title athletes have rightfully gained. To call these players athletes is unfair. Even though they train for hours a day, and work very hard toward being the best, just like professional athletes, they aren’t athletes. Golf has received criticism for being “more of a hobby than a sport,” so I am honestly very surprised there hasn’t been more debate on the topic of “eSports.” In the end, these competitors are talented in their own field, but it isin’t from a physical standpoint, but rather mental, which is the simple and concise reason why those who participate in “eSports” are not athletes, but rather competitors.
As you can see in the video below, StarCraft tournaments are pretty serious. This introduction is more intense than most professional sporting event intros, that’s for sure.