E-sports in the Olympic Games? An In-Depth Look Into the World of Competitive Gaming

E-sports in the Olympic Games? An In-Depth Look Into the World of Competitive Gaming

By Anthony Israelstam - Do a Barrel Roll

If you have been following the Olympic headlines lately, you have probably come across reports about the possible inclusion of eSports in the Olympic games. Although this may come as a shock to those who are not so acquainted with the world of competitive video gaming, or video games in general, to others, this may be considered a long-time coming.

However, nothing is set in stone about the induction of eSports in the Olympics. A great deal of discussion needs to occur between the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and heads of eSports organizations (meetings between these groups have already begun). Most importantly, assessments as to whether or not eSports should even qualify as an Olympic sport needs to be given a thorough look.

Quick Facts About eSports

According to Statista:

  • In 2017 the eSports market was worth $493 million (USD), globally

  • Research indicates that last year, worldwide revenue from eSports was valued at $655 million (USD)

  • Revenue is estimated to rise to $1.65 billion (USD) by 2020 with Asia taking the lead in contributed revenue along with North America and Europe

  • Studies have also indicated that Olympic viewership has declined 6% since the Sochi games in 2014. Arguably, the inclusion of eSports in the Olympics could function to help regain the numbers.

Olympic Traction

Recently, the IOC and the GAISF (Global Organization of International Sport Federations) hosted a forum on eSports, in Lausanne Switzerland. This meeting took place in order for both organizations to gain a better understanding of the mechanics of eSports itself, as well as to gain a much deeper acknowledgement of the impact of competitive gaming on its core audience.

However, both the IOC and GAISF made sure to stress that this meeting was not to discuss or make a final decision about eSport’s inclusion in the next Olympic games.

This news comes off the heels of the IOC recently acknowledging eSports as a “sporting activity.” This particular news is indicative of the fact that this hope for inclusion is not just some fantasy –organizations are clearly taking the time to conduct assessments, rather than pushing out a quick dismissal of the idea.

Sports Supporting eSports

Owing to the credibility of eSports as an accepted sporting activity, is the interest by actual sports teams and athletes. Sports leagues such as PSG and Schalke footballs clubs both own League of Legends teams. In fact, Manchester City and West Ham have begun signing eSports players to represent them in tournaments, more specifically, FIFA, a sports simulation game that puts gamers in the shoes of professional soccer players.

ESPN has even begun playing host to a number eSports championships, including games like Overwatch. This allows eSports to reach out through an additional form of media, which also creates an audience for advertising and sponsorship. This thought process is certainly not unfounded, as 10 million people watched the Overwatch league’s opening weekend on Twitch.

Skill, Competition, and Reception

In order for a sport to be inducted into the Olympics, the Olympic committee is responsible for making assessments based on a specific set of standards. Esports would naturally be held to those same standards.

Much like other competitive sporting events, studies show that eSports competitors feel levels of pressure, anxiety, and the hope to positively represent their country.

Professor Ingo Frobose, of the German Sports University, has conducted a series of studies to examine eSports players and motor skills. With his findings he was able to conclude the following:

“The eSports athletes achieve up to 400 movements on the keyboard and the mouse per minute, four times as much as the average person. The whole thing is asymmetrical, because both hands are being moved at the same time and various parts of the brain are also being used at the same time.”

He also speaks to the fact that their eSport players require “a high degree of tactical understanding.”

Differing Viewpoints

Despite the keen interest that athletes of different sports leagues have shown in eSports, this doesn’t change the fact that all Olympians and athletes share the same views.

In an interview with Reuters, Ted Ligety, Alpine Skier, conveys his thoughts about the possible inclusion of eSports into the Olympics: “They are two totally different worlds… The mental side of eSports can be tough I’m guessing for those guys, but the Olympics is where you have to do some sort of a physical exertion.”

Jake Lyon of the Houston Outlaws (Overwatch League) has different thoughts: “The Olympics brings the highest level of competition for sports that maybe don’t have a unifying league, but the way I see it is the Olympics needs eSports more than eSports need the Olympics.”

Benjamin Denis, Marketing Director of the Montreal ESports Academy had this to say on the matter of eSports and the Olympics, “I think the actual question is, will the Olympics be able to survive in the future without eSports The Olympics in the past 4 years have lost viewing ratings – there’s just less and less people watching the Olympics… it just doesn’t attract the younger people…specifically the millennials, those who are 20 to 34 years of agebusiness wise, the Olympics has no choice but to try include eSports content because at the end of the day, the Olympics is an entertainment industry just like normal sports, just like eSports, so you get viewers and sponsorship etc… will they be medalled? I don’t think that really matters…

When getting onto the point of whether he believes eSports to be an actual sport, Benjamin is quite clear on the matter, “the answer is obviously noit does not require the same amount of effort…is it like football or hockey, it’s not exactly the same thing…”

Benjamin does however, emphasize the fact of just how much effort, time, and skill is required to be a top eSports player: “…to be on top of the food chain, you’ve got to practice and show dedication in whatever you do… but whether you’re the best football player in the world or the best League of Legends player in the world, you’re gonna be practising 9-12 hours a day all your life…”

When it comes to the possible induction of eSports into the Olympic games, the most important point to keep in mind, are the gamer’s themselves. It would certainly be an amazing stepping stone seeing eSports making its grand debut in the Olympic games, but at the end of the day, the gaming community is already a very strong one; their competitions sell out stadiums and draw crowds by the thousands. But, overall, they simply have fun doing it.