Cape Town - During the 20 years I have spent in esports, a question
I’m frequently asked is: “Is esports
actually a ‘real’ sport?”
People then go on to say things like: "I mean how can you call sitting behind a
chair staring at a screen for hours on end a sport? Then surely every single person with a nine
to five job should be called an athlete and be treated like a rock star? Can
you compare esports and the players that play, to the likes of a rugby player?"
If you compare most
conventional sport to esports, there are a few stereotypes that we as ‘ethletes’
have to deal with.
Let me try and break it down.
Imagine an overweight person sitting in a dark basement with
empty cartons of fast food and empty cold drink cans at his feet. Now imagine a
South African rugby player, chiseled from marble, hair made of the finest silk
and, well, let’s be honest, just plain and simple Greek god material to say the
Let’s start with the definition of ‘sport’. According to the dictionary, ‘sport’ is
defined as “an activity involving
physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against
another or others for entertainment.”
the original meaning of ‘sport’ as a noun in the 1500s was defined as a “pleasant pastime”; in the 1300’s as an “activity that offers amusement or
relaxation; entertainment, fun” in the late 1400’s “a pastime or game”.
‘Sport’ as a verb in the 1400s was defined as “to divert, amuse, please, play; to seek
amusement, literally ‘carry away’ (the mind from serious matters).”
So over time the very definition of ‘sport’ has changed, and
since its most recent definition was coined before the existence of ‘esports’,
as with so many other definitions that are changing with the inclusion of
technology, this may become one of those.
If you consider the current definition of the word, these
are the important aspects that define a ‘sport’: physical exertion, skill, competition and entertainment.
The only missing portion from esports is physical exertion, in which case, chess should not be deemed a
sport either. Perhaps in time the definition will
come to encompass ‘physical or mental exertion’, who knows?
So how can we start to compare esports to “real” sports?
Every single sport started out as a game.
Every team started
out as a bunch of friends getting together to pass the time and have a little
fun. It is when that game starts to become competitive and is a competitive
means that it starts to become a recognised sport.
When a team winning a single
tournament in a game called DOTA (Defence of the Ancients) takes home more
money than Andy Murray took home for winning Wimbledon or more money than each
player in the German football team took home for winning the FIFA football World Cup, you need to start asking yourself how and why.
The simple truth is, esports teams are now starting to be
run like sporting teams.
have coaches, dieticians, psychologists, nutritionists and other specialists.
Esports players are starting to behave like sports men and women and are loved as
intensely as some of the most famous traditional sports stars around today.
Brands are starting to associate themselves with esports teams and players as
they do with footballers and NBA stars.
Some of those very clubs are buying
esports organisations and rebranding them to their own brand. Paris Saint
Germain is one of them. Manchester City has also acquired themselves the talents
of a young FIFA esports player.
By now you’re probably thinking, “Fine, perhaps they are ‘acting’ like sports people, but that doesn’t
make them or esports anything even close to being a sport.”
What if I told you that esports athletes are exposed to the
same amount of physical strain as that of any other “normal” athlete?
A gamer’s fine motor skills and capabilities far exceed that
of an average person. They make up to 400 movements on a keyboard and mouse per
minute. That is four times as much as any normal person.
These movements are also asymmetrical because
both hands are being moved at the same time – resulting in an incredible use of
the brain, eye-hand co-ordination, and finger dexterity to mention just a few
The cognitive benefits of playing video games has been
researched by scientists and published in journals.
The science is indicating that games may help
the development of logical, literary, execute and even social skills, with
supporting evidence continuing to mount.
Research demonstrates long-lasting positive effects of video games on
perception, attention, memory and decision-making. If you want more information supporting this,
Google is your friend.
These tests have been done by scientists who are saying that
the level of skill is far higher than any other sports including table-tennis,
which requires a high level of eye-hand coordination. When playing, the amount
of cortisol produced by gamers is of the same levels as a race car driver, and
their pulse sometimes gets to as high as 160 to 180 beats per minute. That is
as high as a marathon runner’s pulse.
All of these stats can be semantics and are ultimately irrelevant
to the hard-core traditional sports fan, but the simple truth of the matter is that
esports is a sport just as chess, table-tennis and car racing is a sport.