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With the popularity of competitive gaming growing throughout the world, there has been a push for more visibility in the public arena. Where negative stigma used to incur quite a bit of push back, we’re actually starting to see change in positive directions. One context in which the discussion is taking place is in relation to the Olympic games.
There has been talk of video games being part of the Olympics for several years, stemming from the occurrence of massive gaming competitions. While some aren’t so sure that e-sports qualify as sports, there was a trial run before the PyeongChang 2018 games in which competitive e-sports were streamed on the Olympic Channel.
Of course, gaming has proven time and time again to not be the lazy waste of time previous generations argued it was. But the issue goes a bit deeper than that, and has to be examined with more in mind than just “some people don’t like video games” or “video games aren’t validated by the general public.” Rather, it’s a concept of what makes something Olympic-worthy in the first place.
A Physical Conundrum
There are two barriers to entry in this issue. One is the accessibility of video games. For instance, some countries are too poor to adequately compete on this level due to lack of widespread internet and gaming. To include video games in the Olympic games would be to push less wealthy countries out of the competition.
But it goes beyond money, as consistency here is a huge factor. “Mind games” have never before been accepted in the Olympic games. If the International Olympics Committee (also known as the IOC) was to allow video games to be accepted as a means for Olympic competition, they may have to adjust their previous rejections of games like chess.
The Olympics have always been a matter of physical strength and ability. While strategy is no doubt involved in sports, the mind has never been all that’s necessary. At this point, the biggest push back to video gaming being validated as an Olympic sport is the lack of physical strength involved.
One of the biggest arguments for the inclusion of competitive video games in the Olympic games is its similar audience behavior. Games like League Of Legends and Star Wars: The Old Republic are known for their pristine designs, and this kind of quality brings massive contests and competitions across the world. Video games bring viewers together in a similar way the Olympics do, even if it’s in a different form.
Massive multiplayer online role-playing games (commonly known in the gaming community as MMORPGs) are now worldwide sensations, and a huge part of that is the collaborative potential. Within these games, players work together on literal teams to accomplish their success. Surprising to those outside of gaming communities, these games have drawn incredible crowds.
Suggested Reading: The Beautiful Game: E-Sports and the Gaming Industry.
And why shouldn’t they? E-sports have given the gift of friendly competition for fans to gawk over to those who never had that solace or outlet in sports. Many of us weren’t jocks, didn’t play sports, or fit in with that crowd, so this is how we can have the same kind of community involvement. The way some people rallied around the Rams or the Patriots, many of us rallied around Method Orange and the Gosu Crew.
What The Future May Hold
While the physical-aspect requirement may seem like a barrier to e-sports joining the Olympics, don’t lose hope yet. Video games are actually getting more recognition from the sports viewership world than you might think. For instance, major sports television network ESPN streamed The Overwatch League inaugural championships last year (to the displeasure of gamers and sports fans alike).
Interestingly enough, the talk of the inclusion of e-sports in the Olympics has been more than just talk. The IOC has met with figureheads from the gaming community to discuss the matter of putting video games in the Olympic games, and while it’s not looking like it will happen by 2024, the initial steps of conversation have begun. One of the greatest arguments for this inclusion is the strength we have in numbers.
Numbers of about 4 million online spectators have been known to watch both the summer and the winter olympics, according to an infographic put together by the New Jersey Institute of Technology. Proponents of the merger argue that e-sports would only increase these numbers, especially with live streaming on platforms like YouTube and Twitch, which gamers are known to participate as viewers through. Only time will tell, but last year’s trial run in PyeongChang is making the future look pretty good, even if it’s a ways out.