Competitive gaming now offers multi-million dollar prizes and gamers and streamers are as popular and well-known as some of the world’s most successful athletes. Competitions like the League of Legends Championship Korea and Overwatch League attract hundreds of thousands of viewers each week. It’s on its way to becoming just as big, but is esports a sport? Esports fan João Silva gives his opinion.
Competitive gaming has long been a thing among PC gamers, with professional StarCraft competitions and tournaments for games like Quake or Counter-Strike.
Competitive gaming, otherwise known as esports, has become increasingly prevalent of late, with organisations like Major League Gaming, ESL and Eleague running competitions with huge amounts of money up for grabs.
Even sports publications like ESPN have found themselves caught up in the esports wave.
Be that as it may, is esports a sport? The immediate response is no and here’s why.
Is esports a sport?
Many will use the excuse that gaming isn’t a sport because there is no physical element to it. I’m not saying this, since it is incorrect. NASCAR is a sport, yet the driver largely spends much of his time still. Even chess is considered a sport, despite only using your hands to move pieces. Much the same, gaming requires excellent reflexes.
But is esports a sport? No.
Being successful in sport is a long and difficult process. It takes years of dedication from a young age to make it that involves compromising your childhood, social life and education for a slim chance of making it as a professional.
Professional gamers do not have to go through that same process. Making it in esports is a far easier process.
I’m not saying that anybody can be a professional gamer without putting the effort in. I’m also not saying that I could best Tom “Tsquared” Taylor, one of the best players in competition Halo 3.
An absence of natural expertise implies that, with commitment, any gamer can turn into a star at the game they want to contend in. This isn’t valid for everyone and I have a good example of that.
When I used to play SOCOM II, a friend of mine had put more than 2,000 hours into the game. I had under 50 hours. However, I was by a wide margin a better player than him.
I imagine that regardless of the amount of time that he spent playing, I would have always been better than him.
There are many players that are simply better equipped to play video games.
I have a 2.5 Kill/Death rate on Halo 3, but I don’t often play the game. However, I feel that, with enough practice, I could likely compete at a professional level. I also believe that the lion’s share of Halo 3 players who commit to playing it regularly could contend at that same level.
That isn’t the case with traditional sports like hockey, basketball, baseball, football, golf or tennis.
I used to play hockey as a child and regardless of how much I played, the chances of making it into the National Hockey League was never anything more than slim. The same can be said for the thousands of other children that hope to make it in the sport.
Be that as it may, things aren’t the same in gaming. Everyone that commits to it has a decent shot of making it as a competitive gamer.
Maybe I would never reach the level of TSquared, but since gaming does not include physicality, the distinction between us would be commitment. He is significantly more committed than I am and has been for quite some time.
In the United States, there is no American football division more prestigious than the NFL, or a hockey competition more well-known than the NHL. These competitions are the pinnacle of their sport and reaching it is the end-goal for all players.
However, esports doesn’t possess the same pyramid structure as more traditional sports. Is winning an MLG tournament worth more than winning the ELEAGUE? Why really knows? I can say for sure that NHL is superior to any of the European hockey leagues, but is League of Legends’ LCK really better than NA LCS?
This brings me to my next point. Esports isn’t at all structured like a traditional sport. There is no scheduled season, just many occasions throughout the year, ran by different hosts and publishers, featuring different teams that can pick and choose what they play in and when.
Teams can enter and leave as they please, disbanding when things don’t go their way and returning with a different name, or discarding their roster and starting from scratch.
The esports community seems to try to make gaming have all the earmarks of being a sport without really being one.
What’s the solution?
Esports leagues need structure. That is evident in competitions like Riot’s League of Legends divisions and the Overwatch League.
Teams shouldn’t be able to join or leave once a season is in progress. Teams should be given their schedules and have to stick with it. If a team is scheduled to play a game, they should have to turn up and play it.