Thousands of eager fans fill stadiums to see their favorite teams and players battle it out for the coveted title of “Best in the World.”
No, I’m not talking about football, soccer or basketball. I’m talking about “E-Sports.”
Current and popular video game franchises, such as “League of Legends,” “Call of Duty” and “Starcraft” are the draw of skilled players and rabid fans. The winnings include a substantially large purse, usually in the millions of dollars for the dominating team.
These fans admire the players for their skill, being players of the games themselves. Just as a high school football running back may admire Marshawn Lynch for his “Beast Mode” running capabilities.
Yet, it must be understood that there is a distinction that should be made between athletes and gamers. Athletes use their whole body to compete with others. Although they use their knowledge of the chosen sport, their body is the main component in the competition. These are the Michael Jordans, Peyton Mannings and Usain Bolts of the world.
Gamers, as they should only be called, primarily use their strategic and tactical abilities in their choice of competition. Little physical ability is demanded of these players. I’m not discrediting their skills. I wish I had a fraction of what some gamers can do.
Professional video game players need to be grouped in with the likes of Phil Hellmuth, thirteen-time World Series of Poker bracelet holder and with the likes of Bobby Fischer, Chess Grandmaster. Even games like Darts and Pool tend to lean on the side of games rather than sports.
An opposing argument can be made that some so-called athletes don’t have to give such physical effort. Many can point to NASCAR drivers. Dale Earnhardt only has to move his arms and his feet. What’s the difference?
Admittedly, it’s not a physically exhausting exercise. Although the glory goes to the driver, at the end of the day it is a team effort. The pit crew puts considerable amount of physical and skillful effort in order to get the machine on the track again in its peak condition.
This is in no way taking away the skills it takes to excel in these games. It takes time and dedication to get to the point where these players can be globally recognized as one of the world’s greatest. E-Sport apologists need to come back down to earth and understand that there are tiers of physical competitiveness, and they are not on the same ranks as traditional sports.
By definition, a sport is “an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.” By this definition, it takes the subjective “sports” off the table like figure skating, diving, dancing and cheerleading.
Sports require several different elements of offense, defense, physicality and strategy into their gameplay. This would also rule out golf, bowling, darts and pool because they lack the one-on-one nature of a game. Essentially, they all could be done in separate states and nothing would be changed. It only undermines the true nature of competition.
Don’t get me wrong. The popularization of E-Sports is great. Who knew that watching someone play a video game could be entertaining before the Internet rolled around? But just because they are competing doesn’t make them athletes and just because there is a prize doesn’t make it a sport.
In any case, whether you call these activities “sports” or not, they are fun for the viewers and give pride, glory, bragging rights and money for the players.