Esports Doesn't Need The Olympics (We're better than them anyway)

Colin Regan,

September 5, 2018 2:40 PM

After IOC President Thomas Bach's comments regarding his stance on the potential inclusion of esports went public, gamers have been freaking out. While the FGC and other communities deserve legitimacy, does that require it to be in the Olympics?

Yesterday in an interview with the Associated Press, president of the International Olympic Committee said they will not include video games into any event in the Olympic games for the foreseeable future.  President Thomas Bach said “We cannot have in the Olympic program a game which is promoting violence or discrimination. So-called killer games. They, from our point of view, are contradictory to the Olympic values and cannot, therefore, be accepted."

Bach himself is a gold medalist in fencing, an event that uses actual weapons and has very savage roots.  To his credit, he provided a statement relating to events with violent backgrounds, “Of course every combat sport has its origins in a real fight among people. But sport is the civilized expression about this. If you have egames where it’s about killing somebody, this cannot be brought into line with our Olympic values.” Combat sports like Boxing and Judo are violent enough to question Bach's reasoning seeing as how video games don't actually let you kill people.  Games like League of Legends and Paladins are cartoony enough to the point that any violence depicted is no more harmful than watching Tom & Jerry. 

Bach's generalization of all video games being violent shouldn't really surprise anyone.  The video game violence causing real-life violence debate has been brought back up recently in political arenas.  Bach, a 64-year-old man with no apparent interest in games, is more than likely not going to drift from an opinion like that.

Would it be nice if games were embraced by the largest global athletic governing body as a legitimate sport?  Would it be cool to see games like Overwatch or DOTA 2 being recognized as genuine athletic competition?  Sure. 

But is that really needed?  Do we need approval from some snobby old man who willingly ignored a state-sponsored Russian doping scandal until it grew too big to dismiss?

Esports has gained a significant profile in the past decade, with the likes of sporting organizations such as the NBA getting involved in the industry.  The NBA 2kLeague has 17 teams invested into creating a league surrounding virtual non-violent sports games. Other organizations like West Ham United and Manchester City also have signed pros that specialize in the FIFA games.  

You can watch Overwatch matches on ESPN with professional eSports journalists covering the play-by-play, Dragon Ball FighterZ drew 275,805 concurrent viewers to its championship EVO match and became one of the most watched streams for a fighting game in history.

The Arena of Valor tournament held at this Year's Asia Games
The Arena of Valor tournament held at this Year's Asia Games

With all of these major and respected sports organizations showing financial support for video games and the market being there for spectators to be drawn to watching high-level play, esports are an undeniable phenomenon recognized the world over.  

The need to be recognized as a sport by the International Olympic Committee is pointless.  While there are organizations like IeSF and the AESF working to legitimize esports as recognized athletic competition, the industry does not require this validation to be seen as a legitimate sporting event.

Many casual players of these games recognize the talent that comes with being able to anticipate your opponent's next move in a fighting game and countering it with a combo from muscle memory or playing each lane effectively in a game of DOTA.  

There are plenty of sports like American Football, Cricket, MMA, Golf, Rugby, or Baseball aren't Olympic events.  Hell, they've been trying to get Chess in for years. Maybe that last one encourages Clergy on Horse violence, but you get my point.  

Esports has evolved significantly since the old Quake days in both participation and popularity.  Pro gamers like Echo Fox, Hungry Box, and Daigo Umehara are recognized as standout talents and even legends in the fighting game world. 

There's only so much time before their youngest fans become the next Street Fighter and Smash Bros. professionals.  The competitive communities around gaming are getting more expansive.  A with more people striving to be the best they can in these games, it's inevitable the general conversation around this will change.

Folks might be watching Overwatch Finals at BDubs someday or making bets through some semi-legitimate means if they don't already.  Point is, esports might be a bad name really.  I do have to work the hell out of my fingers to get good at DOTA, damn carpal tunnel, but I don't have to run a 4-second thirty-yard dash or move my body in some absurd fashion to the point that I sweat.

Well, that is, unless the Kinect comes back and Dance Central becomes the biggest eSport out of nowhere.  God help us all when that day comes.


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