Los Angeles High School of the Arts

Are eSports considered real sports?

Usually, a traditional sport requires physical activity such as running, swimming or catching, but a sport such as hand chess does not require physical activity at all. So why is chess a sport? What makes football, soccer and volleyball a sport and if chess is a sport, therefore can eSports be a sport too?

According to Australian Sports Commission, a sport is “a human activity capable of achieving a result requiring physical exertion and/or physical skill, which by its nature and organization, is competitive and is generally accepted as being a sport.” Football, soccer and volleyball are sports because they require tons of physical exertion and physical skill. Furthermore, these sports are highly competitive. Although, chess doesn’t require any physical exertion, the mental aspect of the game is demanding as players need to think one or more steps ahead of their opponents which makes it very competitive.

It may seem that chess is far from a sport like football since there is no physical exertion involved, however, if the physical aspect of football was disregarded, one can see the similarities between chess and football.

Sports don’t necessarily need physical exertion or physical skill to be considered a sport. Which begs the question, could video games be considered a sport?

The first video game ever created dates back as far as 1947, games were made to entertain people but technology back then limited what game developers could make so games ended up being 2-dimensional, repetitive and simple. However as time passed, technology became better. Powerful gaming consoles were invented that could handle new and demanding games. Competitive gaming started as early as Pong; games like pong enabled people to have a friendly yet competitive match against each other without breaking a sweat.

Games started becoming more and more competitive, however people could only compete locally since there was no way for people to actually play against a complete stranger who lives far away. The creation of the internet changed all this, it revolutionized the way people played games. People could now compare high scores globally and play games with anyone across the globe with access to the internet. Soon enough, games like StarCraft (released 1998) were so interesting and competitive that it was broadcasted on Korean television. This was the origin of eSports.

eSports is a form of competition that is facilitated by electronic systems, particularly video games. When video game tournaments and competitions started 20 years ago, they were no way near as popular as basketball. eSports is a sport because in a way it’s like chess or any other sport. One of the big arguments people use is that eSports is not a sport because no physical exertion is involved. If this were true, chess then wouldn’t be a considered a sport. Yet many people still consider chess as a sport.

eSports is very similar to chess because no physical movement is involved although it requires a great deal of mental skill and patience. One of the most popular eSports games, League of Legends, which gathered about 27 million viewers at the 2014 World Championship games (the Super Bowl of League of Legends), puts teams of five people from all over the world to compete against each other for a prize pool of $2.13 million.

The level of competitiveness in eSports is the reason why it is so popular and why so many people enjoy watching them. eSports athletes practice to sharpen their reflexes and game knowledge in order to become better for whatever game they are playing similar to an athlete practicing and working out for whatever sport they are playing. Just because physical exertion is not involved does not automatically make it not a sport. eSports is a sport because it is competitive and requires a lot of mental skill just like chess or any other traditional sport.

According to CNN, Sam Matthews, the founder of Fnatic, a professional eSports organization headquartered in England, defines eSports “as competition augmented by technology.”  It is a sport, but technology is utilized to create a new age of sports. eSports athletes, just like traditional sport athletes, try their best to perform well, so they spend countless hours practicing. For instance, Yellowstar, an eSports athlete, states, “If you perform, you are going to receive a lot of praise,” he explains. “If you were to miss or fail an action, you can bring your team down, affect your team’s performance and get a lot of blame.”

eSports athletes experience pressure and understand the things they need to do in order to do well in their profession. Although many people think that eSports being a sport is a joke, the rising popularity of eSports and its potential to be as big as football will make people realize how similar it is to a traditional sport.