Are E-sports Real Sports?

What defines a sport? Sports, when taken at face value, are physical activities that result in a winner and a loser. So are advanced videogames like StarCraft sports? StarCraft in particular has been compared to chess; the mental processes needed to play the games are incredible and the New Yorker article “The Rise of the Professional Cyber Athlete” described the game as “strategic and extremely difficult, requiring a mathematical cast of mind.” Although the game requires a certain amount of quick hand movements, the overall conception of the game and its players as a sport and athletes respectively is an incorrect classification. Without a certain measure of physical movement involved, videogames simply cannot be called sports.

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An e-sport convention in San Francisco

If videogames are in the same category as chess, they are most definitely not sports. To clarify, saying that these games are not sports is not to detract from their worth as games or activities; there is no doubt as to the extreme intelligence required to compete in the world of “e-sports.” In British Sports and Pastimes, Trollope refers to chess as “most adapted for intellectual persons, but to be pre-eminent at chess is generally to be that and nothing else.” Trollope is saying that the idea of being good at intellectual activities exists within a realm separate from that where traditional sports are considered. Traditional sports are defined by set scorekeeping and pre-determined amounts of time in which the game will be played. According to the New Yorker article, e-sports have “no definitive scoreboard, just a variety of economic indicators” and the players do not participate for a certain amount of time; rather, they play until the weakest player signals to the victor that they wish to surrender. Traditional sports play to the bitter end, until the whistle blows, until the clock runs out. Traditional sports cannot be played from the comfort of a single room.

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Should e-sport competitors athletes be considered athletes?

However, e-sports are gaining nationwide legitimacy on college campuses. According to a recent article in the New York Times titled “E-Sports at College, With Stars and Scholarships”, “Game companies say they are awarding scholarship money at college tournaments, rather than unrestricted cash prizes, to give students an incentive to continue their studies.” The fact that people can make good money off of e-sports—or even a scholarship—lends legitimacy toward the argument that, some day in the future, e-sports may become a normal staple of college programs. The article reports that there are “people who not only play games but also consider them a spectator sport.” One of the key components of sport is the presence of a body of spectators, people who validate the joy of winning and who share with the athlete the pain of loss. E-sports might not be there quite yet, but they may soon come to realize the status of sport in our society.

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2 comments

  1. dinaakhmetshina · December 9, 2014

    Although a bit brief, I think this is an interesting evaluation video games in an athletic context. I really liked the way you tied in Trollope, which was sort of unexpected. Using Trollope, you really made a strong case for eSports eventually being accepted as sports. This blog makes a good case for the rationale on which eSports really do qualify to be accepted as sports.

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  2. ethanmartin95 · December 10, 2014

    I can see where you are coming from but I disagree. I do not believe eSports will ever be in the same category as traditional sports. I can accept that eSports are games but there is something unjust about comparing video games to physical sports. There is obviously another dimension to athletic sports that separate them video games. You can put them in the same category of games and competition, but don’t insult the integrity of physical sports. Sports have been around for forever and test the entire being: mind and body. Video games have no physical aspect which is a huge component to sports. I believe if you couldn’t do an activity 1000’s of years ago, then its not a sport.

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