Is sport e-volving?

Is sport e-volving?

I’ve never really been a sports fan. Recently, however, I’ve developed a growing interest in eSports – the term given to organised video game competitions.

I’ve been aware of eSports for a while but never appreciated how big the scene had become until I got involved with a game called League of Legends.

League of Legends (or LoL and it is often referred to) is a team based game with an emphasis on teamwork, strategy and technical ability, all of which make it a perfect game for eSports.

Something that surprised me when I started exploring the eSports side of the game was just how professional it had become. The LoL Season 3 World Championships recently took place in Los Angeles featuring 14 teams from around the world with a prize money pool of $2 million, and $1 million of that going to the winners. The Championship elimination rounds ran from 15th September to 28th September, with the Championship Final taking place in front of 13,000 fans at the sold out Staples Centre on 4th October.

Staples Centre

As a home viewer there was much more entertainment on offer than just watching other people play.  As well as the many different streams available in multiple languages, the Championship final kicked off with an impressive opening ceremony, there was a 5 man analyst desk present before and after each game and the games themselves each had 2 commentators, a set-up similar to any Major League sport.

The LoL Season 3 championship analyst desk.
The LoL Season 3 championship analyst desk.

What Makes A Sport ‘Sport’

This whole experience had me wondering why I have never considered eSports as a ‘sport’ in the traditional sense. Was it just the difference in physical demand? If so, what about sports such as snooker, darts or golf?

Using, sport is defined as:

an athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess and often of a competitive nature, as racing, baseball, tennis, golf, bowling, wrestling, boxing, hunting, fishing, etc

I Imagine this definition fits pretty well with the way most people think of sport – but notice how it says ‘an athletic activity requiring skill OR physical prowess’. Video games certainly require skill. So how about the term athletic?

of or pertaining to athletes; involving the use of physical skills or capabilities, as strength, agility, or stamina: athletic sports; athletic training

Now some people may disagree but I believe that video games, especially competitive ones, require a certain degree of mental stamina. Agility is definitely an interesting point too.

the power of moving quickly and easily; nimbleness: exercises demanding agility – the ability to think and draw conclusions quickly; intellectual acuity.

This, to me, is definitely involved when playing video games.

It may be interesting to note this video of an NFL player discussing his opinions on eSports, as well as the following recent changes in America;

“The official League of Legends eSports tournament League Championship Series has been recognized as a fully professional sport by the U.S. State Department.

For the first time, players from outside the United States can move to the U.S. under specific visas, which are provided for pro sports players coming to America to work. Previously, overseas LCS players had to go through a complicated series of applications to play professionally in the United States.”

Polygon, Competitive gaming recognized in U.S. as a pro sport

What does everyone else think?  What, if anything, differentiates sports and eSports?


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