Is E-sports really starting to become a sport?

Over the last few years, it’s clear that video games in terms of its popularity are on the up. With video games now being the biggest form of media entertainment to date and with Grand theft auto five being the biggest product that has ever been made in terms of profit, it would hard to argue against video games being an industry that is a firm part of our culture today. However, the idea that it could be taken towards a level of competitiveness to the extent of it being a sport is something that hasn’t come easily, although as I point out in this blog, that is likely to change in the coming years. For a long time, video games were nothing more than a hobby due to its lack of physical activity involved when categorising something as a sport. The idea that sport has to be physical and tests your bodily abilities to the maximum is a traditional aspect of sport that many individuals in society firmly believe today, although that is not necessarily the case. Take the example of darts and snooker for example.

When it comes to looking at what sport actually is in terms of how to define a sport, it’s clear that the attitudes of what is and isn’t a sport changes over time. This flexible use of the term is what allows new activities to be sports, especially in today’s society. The example on BBC’s website regarding Mr Warwood and his comments of snowboarding gives a good indication of changing attitudes. The former UK champion mentioned how when he was younger snowboarding was not considered a real sport but as his passion grew for it, so did the idea of it becoming a sport and was soon a sport within the X games. However, back to the present, a new sport came into the X games, E-sports.  Mr Warwood was confused and bewildered by it because of its lack of physical activity “When I was a kid, sport was all about getting outside, getting wet, muddy, out of breath – you’re not going to get out of breath smashing your thumbs on a controller. I just think it’s a bit weird really – but maybe I’m just getting old” His mention of him “getting old” is perhaps a link towards the more common assumption of traditional sport which heavily focuses on aspects not associated with E-sports such as strength, size, physical speed, when this is not necessarily the case in sports not just today, but also in the past long before snowboarding. one example would be snooker, which has been at the centre of sport for well over one hundred years. What is also interesting is that sport is not a universal and solid concept. Certain cultures, values and places at a certain time can all determine in their own societies whether something is or isn’t a sport, this I believe is key in what makes e-sports a sport today. For example, in Switzerland recreational walking is considered a sport that can be taken very seriously whereas, in British society, that isn’t the case and is seen as a leisurely stroll by comparison. The same idea can be used for e-sports, in countries that have video games as a form of media entertainment it is more likely to be considered a sport compared to a country that does not have the same opportunities, values or interests as cultures that do use video games on a wide basis. In layman terms, anything that society (and arguably the mass media) considers a sport is a sport. There is no fixed definition of what a sport is because of constant changes in every societies tastes and preference over time.


Can video games only ever be a hobby?


Focusing back to E-sports, whenever an event with e-sports takes place, it has clear conventions and iconography that are common in many other sporting spectacles such as football and boxing. Sponsorship such as “Monster energy drink”, merchandise of your favourite team, an arena packed full of fans rooting for a team/ player they feel most connected to, and a team that plays for a business such as Manchester city, Lyon, Roma just to name a few. But it isn’t just inside the areas that give it all the makings of a sport, the mass media has also played a part in which I believe has allowed society to make E-sports finally be taken seriously as a sport, this is especially the case of prize money ranging from 50K for winners of the FIFA series to millions of pounds on more popular titles such as DOTA 2 (Defence of the Ancients 2). Adding to this point, it is now easier than ever for people to watch it at home with the introduction of live coverage of E-sports on BBC 3 and Ginx TV, the first 24-hour channel fully dedicated to E-sports. Even sky sports shared the draw for the FIFA interactive world cup live on their Facebook page (for some this is enough to consider it a sport as some people consider something a sport if it is seen on sky sports. When I asked people if fishing is a sport the most common response was “it’s on sky sports so it must be!”). Another argument about why E-sports may now be considered a sport is also that you are now able to bet on who will win on bookies websites such as BET365. As a result, it gives the same feelings of passion and supporting nature of a team as betting on a football team.

When actually playing the games competitively, there are also many aspects similar to popular sports today that is similar to E-sports. Most competitions have qualifiers from all around the world whereby the finalist are invited to arena’s to participate in a tournament style competition which creates a spectacle for both those playing and watching (something that I believe is key to sports today, all sports must have a “play” and “spectacle” element). When games commence, extreme mental skill and timing is key to E-sports, with knowledge of the map, enemy traits, enemy position, opponents strengths/ weaknesses and lots of other strategies needed to even have a chance of competing (and of course, as with all sports, a bit of luck).

In this ever changing environment that we surround ourselves in, I believe it is becoming more and more evident that E-sports is joining the flexible world of “sport”. The accessibility of E-sports allows more and more people to be involved and gain interest within E-sports and as some would argue, it could be classed as a sport simply because it is now being seen on popular sports channels social media such as sky sports. (Again showing how the power of the media can shift societies attitudes…)



Mr Warwood’s opinion on E-sports-


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