Okay, I know it sounds strange to have a non-physical sport in the Olympics, but hear me out. Back in April, The Asian Games announced that they would include eSports in the 2022 games. The titles include DOTA 2, STARCRAFT 2, HEARTHSTONE, and an undecided sports game. For those who are unfamiliar with the Asian Games, they are the second largest multi-sport event in the world.

It’s hosted for countries within the Asian continent and has been a house name since 1951. So when they decide to break the trend, you best believe the world is looking. Their motivation was spurred on by the rapid growth of eSports. These games have a global presence and have a lot of fans among the younger generation. Because of this, the Olympic Committee is heavily considering the inclusion of eSports. So, what’s stopping them?

Are eSports a Sport?

It’s a rather dubious question to ask what defines a sport. Traditionally it favors physicality. eSports differs by being a multiplayer video game that’s played competitively. So you can’t really blame the Olympic committee for questioning if eSports count.“We are not yet 100 percent clear whether eSports is really sport, with regard to physical activity and what it needs to be considered sport” — Thomas Bach, the president of the committee, has been the outspoken member voicing the general complaint.

Part of his job is ensuring that every event is organized so the small mishaps of an event can be corrected swiftly. He continued to say, “We do not see an organization or a structure that will give us confidence, or guarantee, that in this area the Olympic rules and values of sport are respected and in place, and that the implementation of these rules are monitored and secured.”

Rebuttal

I understand their apprehension. One of their biggest concerns is how unorganized eSports events can be. While larger games, such as DOTA 2 and STARCRAFT, have a planned out schedule, smaller games can be questionable. If you’ve ever watched a fighting game tournament, you’d know they generally take place in a hotel or a convention center.

Part of the reason it’s so informal is because there isn’t a huge sponsor behind them. Only recently have companies, such as RedBull and Monster, decided to sponsor eSports teams. With the right funding, events can be conducted on a professional level.

In regards to the values of sports, the only thing I could recommend is actually watching the sport. There’s a lot of criticism thrown at eSports that’s based off of false assumptions. “People don’t have to train to get good at the game,” is a common misconception. Like any sport, a person has to spend hours training and learning about the game.

There are chess masters who spend their lifetime just to be good at the game, and it’s considered an Olympic sport. In fact, using chess as an example, a sport is not required to be totally physically active. As long as a game is well established, has a global presence, and has a code of ethics, it should be fine. If you still feel that eSports aren’t truly a sport, I’d recommend watching “Free to Play,” a DOTA 2 documentary on DOTA 2 teams.

Read: Want a better understanding of the video game industry? Take a look at The Birth of an Industry to learn more!

What Are the Benefits?

Off the top of your head, do you know how many people watched the last Summer Olympics? Probably not, because who keeps up with that? The 2016 Olympics had 26 million viewers. It sounds like a lot, but for a global event, that’s pretty low. The number of viewers for the Olympics has been dropping for some time now, and it’s urgent that they find a way to rectify this.

In contrast, the 2017 DOTA 2 International had over 4.7 million viewers across streaming platforms and the DOTA 2 client. Considering that this is a single game that didn’t have anywhere near the amount of money the Olympics did for advertising, that’s huge. Just by bringing DOTA 2 into the Olympics, they could potentially boost their viewership by 18%. By having varying eSports, they’re not just gaining a new demographic; they’re potentially creating a new one.

Success is Infectious

Should the Asian Games’ choice to include eSports pay off, competitive gaming will flourish. The number of benefits is staggering. Larger companies will attract more sponsors, create new partners, and players will have a stable income. For example, Blizzard has been trying to establish an OVERWATCH league and needs more funding.

Investors have been hesitant because they’re unsure of how impactful the target demographic may be. They want an audience that’s comparable size to that of standard sports. If the Asian Games go well, the league will be established and could be a model for other games. This would also mean that streaming platforms, such as Twitch, will become more prominent and streamers could benefit from its success.

Looking past companies, this success could have a positive impact on the community. Kids in school could actually gain a scholarship for playing a game. As eSports athletes, there’d be less risk on their bodies and could potentially have a longer career. There’d also be a larger pool of candidates since the game isn’t restrictive on physique. Call me optimistic, but I’d like to see a high school eSports team where kids can have fun playing a game and it not be considered a waste of time.

Read: An obscure game genre seems to have been resurrected. Check out the Return Of The Roguelike for more info!

Just Do It

If it hasn’t been made clear, I obviously prefer video games over sports. I understand if my opinion is considered biased, but that doesn’t make it invalid. A whole sports committee gave eSports a chance, and it’s not every day they make a gamble. The trend is growing and not taking advantage of it is crazy. And while we can argue endlessly about what constitutes a sport, it should be noted that the times are changing. It’s plain to see that there are a lot of people who are passionate about eSports and if there’s anything that could bring back viewership to the Olympics, it’s this.

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