Illustration by Ari Libenson
In the last few years, video games have become a tremendous part of American culture. When we were kids, we were told that we should be going outside and playing sports, rather than sitting in front of the TV twiddling our thumbs and rotting our brains. However, nowadays video games are being considered a sport, instead of just a hobby.
They are called Esports, or electronic sports. There are many different versionS, but usually these games involve a multiplayer arena battle where the goal is to be the last one standing. Much like traditional sports, there are tournaments that professional gamers can go to, with the victor often receiving huge amounts of money and fame. The only difference is that instead of competing on a field, these “athletes” are sitting in chairs in a dark room filled with computers.
Surprisingly, Esports are not a new thing. While they are only starting to receive mainstream media attention, the first record of an Esports tournament being held was in October of 1972. The tournament took place at Stanford where 24 of the university’s students decided to sit down, break out their keyboards, and make history by competing in the game “Spacewar.”
The topic of Esports has attracted a lot of attention in the last few years as gamer culture has erupted from a subculture to a major industry and dominant part of America’s free time. However, with that attention comes a lot of controversy: specifically as to whether it should be considered a sport.
Many people have contested that it is as much a sport as any other on account of the mental concentration and strategy that one must have in order to win a tournament. Additionally, you need to have incredible reflexes. And since video games are such a big industry now, it only makes sense that people would find a way to capitalize on the idea of having tournaments.
You could watch your favorite gamer compete through a streaming service, similar to how a Warriors fan would watch Stephen Curry play basketball on the TV. And, similar to traditional sports, there is big money in this, with huge rewards for the winners of these competitions. Over five days in August 2015, the DOTA-2 International tournament reported having $18,429,613 in its winning prize pool, ultimately making it the 4th highest prize pool in sports history. People have even talked about Esports becoming a part of the Olympics.
Personally, I do not consider it a sport. Unlike any other sport, during Esports you are immobile while playing, your physical presence isn’t required to compete, and the rules change depending on what game you’re playing.But in Esports, the objective and rules while playing a racing game are totally different than during a fighting game. That disuniformity is what makes playing video games a hobby, not a sport.