“Esports isn’t a sport” is an accusation that you’ll often hear from people who want to devalue the effort it takes to participate in electronic sports. After all, sitting for hours in front of the computer has nothing to do with the physical effort you need to put in, say, a gym or a training room…. right?
According to researchers and sports theorists, eSports meets all the criteria and requirements needed to call a given activity a sport. So even though electronic sports differ from classic sports in details, they fit perfectly into the definition of the sport itself.
Core Attributes of Sports
Okay, but so what are these criteria that are required to call an activity a sport? We can refer here to such research papers like Guttmann, 2004 or Allender, Cowburn, Foster, 2006, works written several years before eSports’ popularity rise.
According to sports researchers, for an activity to be considered a sport, it must meet criteria such as:
- Be based on specific skills
- Include some element of competition
- Have an audience
- Be entertaining
- Have institutional stability (clubs/teams)
Does eSports Measure Up to These Attributes?
All the above assumptions take place in eSports, so it is safe to call it a full-fledged sport. Today, eSports has an audience of 500 million and is the most-watched sport by those aged 13-18. No one should question the existence of a form of competition either, especially if we are talking about games like Counter-Strike or League of Legends. The whole gameplay is about competing and beating the opposing team, which even casual players can experience. So if you have trouble calling eSports a sport, install one of these two games (both are free-to-play) and try playing for just a week. You’ll find that it’s more than just mindlessly playing computer games and replicating patterns; it is hours of analysis, practice, and playing with constant focus.
You’ve undoubtedly heard of eSports teams, too. It may seem like a parody of sports teams on the surface, but once you get into it, it stops being so grotesque. Even organizations such as FC Barcelona, FC Bayern München, and Ajax Amsterdam have invested in their own eSports team. Moreover, they are playing games that have nothing to do with soccer or other popular classic sports. Do you think such large organizations would invest vast amounts of money in paying players for doing something that is a caricature of the sport? Or maybe they take a more serious approach to it and see its potential to become a top form of competition to watch in the future?
How did eSports Become Real Sports?
The history of eSports begins in October 1972 at Stanford University. It was then that Steward Brand organized the first eSports (although at the time, that term didn’t even exist) tournament in the old-school game called Spacewar. After the whole event, he wrote that “[…] (tournament participants’) brains and their fingers were fully engaged. There was an athletic exuberance to their joyous mutual slaying”.
The most significant breakthrough for eSports happened in the 1990s, when titles like Quake and Counter-Strike first appeared, where competing against the other team was an absolute staple. There were also the first “professional gamers,” people who wanted to earn money by competing in computer games. Back then, it seemed abstract, but today? Not only are there people who make a living this way, but there are more and more enthusiasts who want to watch this form of competition.
If you want to know more about how eSports got to where it is today, we invite you to read our article, where we’ve covered the history of this unique form of competition.
Arguments Against — Why eSports is Not a Sport?
Alright, we’ve been talking about why eSports should be considered a sport all the time; now, let’s give arguments against this thesis and ask ourselves, “why eSports is not a sport?”.
Despite everything we have mentioned in this article, many people believe that electronic sports have nothing to do with classic sports. Why? Well, the main problem lies in the very definition of eSports.
So, what are eSports in the first place? It’s a form of competition in which the competitive medium is video games. And this is a significant reason why eSports is not a sport for many people! We are used to the fact that our body needs to play the leading role in sports, and physical fitness is crucial. And well, this is not present in eSports. We know players who, despite their extreme obesity, won the most important tournaments.
Besides, people question the difficulty of such a form of competition. After all, no one seems to need the motivation to get up in the morning and play video games, but the situation is different when you have to do your workout and run miles in the same morning. And this argument also seems reasonable, except that it’s not so easy once you reach the top level. You have to play the game and do your practice session even when you don’t feel like it. You have to take care of your muscle memory, just like in regular sports.
Will eSports be in the Olympics?
Well, according to a four-time Olympic medalist in ice hockey, Angela Ruggiero, it’s only a matter of time. However, the biggest problem is that some games involve “killing” another human being, and that could be the main problem why we will still have to wait for eSports in the Olympics.
So, are eSports real sports? Well, in our opinion it is a different form of sport from the one we know from the Olympic Games but…. it’s still a sport! It’s a fantastic form of competition that grows every year. And just like in classic sports, we already know the stories of young players such as Ludwig “Zai” Wåhlberg, a 23-year-old Dota 2 pro, who has repeatedly said that his eSports adventure is a life-changing experience.