eSports at the Olympics

The 2018 Winter Olympics began this week in PyeongChang, South Korea.  There will be 102 Medal Events contested over the next week, but esports will not be one of them.  The 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo will introduce five new medal events including, skateboarding and surfing, but still no esports.  I believe it is only a matter of time before esports will be integrated into the world stage, but which game will be featured?

Last year, IOC president Thomas Bach said that esports would not fit into the Olympics’ goal to “promote non-discrimination, non-violence, and peace. This doesn’t match with video games, which are about violence, explosions and killing.”

Sure video games are often about violence, but they more often focus on self-discovery, exploration, and cooperation.  Violence is merely the catalyst that allows gameplay to be fun and enjoyable.  Even the Olympic games feature guns and weapons within the events of biathlon, rifle shooting, and archery.  I can’t think of a more violent event than fencing, which features two opponents trying to stab each other with swords.

The other problem many people may have with esports are their inherent lack of physical activity.  However, I will argue that video games and physical activity are integral to each other.  Video games are primarily a skill based form of physical activity.  Holding a controller or using a keyboard and mouse accurately and effectively is a learned motor skill that requires hours of practice.  Just like shooting a basketball or kicking a soccer ball requires practice in order to achieve levels of elite competition.

Continuing, video games are also an intense endurance sport.  Certain games can last for hours at a time, and require precise and minute hand and body movements in order to carry out a players intended actions.  This means that proper posture, ergonomic movements, and even proper warm up and cooling down of the find motor muscles in the hands is vital to achieve elite levels of success.

We often think of “gamers” as overweight and clumsy.  And to be honest we often see gamers fill this stereotype at the elite level of play.  However, because the sport is still new we have not yet achieved the pinnacle of performance.  Think about an overweight and arguably alcoholic Babe Ruth compared to a fit and fast Derek Jeter.  Time has changed the expectations of elite baseball athletes.  I believe time will also change the expectations of elite esport athletes.

If I became the head coach of an esports team, daily conditioning and strength training would be integral within my training plan.  Having a good physical level of fitness will allow esport athletes to practice longer, achieve higher levels of focus, and remain healthy in order to extend their careers.

Video games also offer a gender neutral field of competition. Something that the Olympics has been focused on during the last few years.  Both men and women can compete on the same stage, and women win during a significant number of tournaments.  The IEM StarCraft 2 Championship in South Korea was recently won by a Canadian female. Sasha “Scarlett” Hostyn became the first woman to win a premier SC2 tournament, and she did it in PyeongChang against the best players from around the world.

olympic2.jpg

There are still a lot of things to discuss about esports eventual entry into the Olympic stage, and next time I will look at which game the Olympic committee should pick for the medal event.

What do you think about adding esports to the Olympics?

Jake “prettyboyplaid” Fredericks

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