Esports Shouldn’t be Included in the Olympics
The Olympics are in full swing. Admittedly, an international competition taking place every four years sounds like something better fit for a JRPG right before the main villain makes his big entrance. It also means you get articles bringing up the question whether or not esports should be included in the games. The short answer is no, esports simply don’t belong at the Olympics. With that said, it’s not because they aren’t sports, they are. However, esports would be better off their own E-Games because they don’t fit the Olympic model.
Yes, they are sports
I didn’t want to include this, but there’s always that one particular group of people who are still in denial. Sports is already a vague term with varying physical activity. Football and boxing are much more physically taxing than poker and chess. What defines a sport is an activity played between different people or groups that requires skill.
Yes, video games will be on the lower end of the physical spectrum of a sport, but it does take a considerable amount of skill to be a professional. Esports competitors are considered athletes in the U.S. and there’s even a section dedicated to them on ESPN. Players need to spend countless hours practicing to keep their skills as sharp as possible. Even if it’s not the most physical competition, that’s no reason to deny that it’s a sport. If anything, it’s more physical than curling and that’s already in the Olympics.
OK, let’s bring up the first problem, assuming esports would be included in the Summer Olympics, which games would be included? Esports is an incredibly broad term. Each game is basically a different sport with most athletes competing in only one. This isn’t like swimming, where swimmers can participate in different strokes or distances. But for the sake of argument, each game would be an event because there won’t be an international organization representing each game.
If the International e-Sports Federation (something the IeSF is trying to do) received approval from the International Olympics Committee (IOC), how soon would they need to decide on which games show up at the Olympics? The competitive esports scene is fluid and borderline chaotic with all the new releases that happen every year. Countries need qualified athletes to represent, which takes time. Using 2016 as an example, chances are Overwatch wouldn’t have enough time to make it in the Olympics with it’s May 24 release date, so competitive players would be required to wait four more years.
Even then, the IOC gets the final say in which events will be included, so mature games might not even have a shot, considering the Olympic Games are supposed to be family-friendly. For the record, Mortal Kombat X, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Call of Duty are all rated M. If there was a major esports competition, it wouldn’t be the same without these titles (although COD being missed is still up for debate).
It’s also worth considering how progressive esports can be. I’m hoping there wouldn’t be events separating men and women because that would be a step backwards. But looking at the current Olympics, that would be the case. Remember curling? Even that sport segregates the sexes and it’d be difficult to argue there’s a major gap between them.
Finally, there’s the question of broadcasting rights for the games. If there’s a major tournament, chances are most gamers turn to Twitch, but I doubt NBC would allow that to happen. That company dropped billions of dollars to broadcast in just the U.S. And there are other companies.
Better off with an E-Olympics or E-Games
Esports could fit into the current Olympic model. Skateboarding is already in this year’s Games and surfing will be official in 2020. Both sports are popular with millennials and esports is no exception in that regard. However, it wouldn’t be the best fit. Rather than conform to the current Olympic model, it’d be ideal if there was a tournament built around esports.
There’s already a competition happening alongside the Olympics in Rio de Jeneiro called eGames. It isn’t an official part of the Olympics, but they are offering medals, national pride and whatnot (no cash prizes though). They only have SMITE and Smash 4, but it’s a start. This would be the ideal route for an e-Olympics. Have it every two years alongside the Olympics. It won’t have the immediate clout and backing of the Olympics, but it’s a better idea in the long run.