Should eSports be considered a sport?

October 23, 2019 — by Justin Guo

In recent years, eSports, a form of competition revolving around video games, have rapidly grown from a relatively untouched niche to an influential billion-dollar industry. Viewership has been on a steady rise: In 2012 there were an estimated total of 134 million viewers. In 2019 that number has jumped to 454 million and is projected to break over 600 million by 2022.

Marketability and economics aside, should eSports be considered a sport?

The essence of this question lies within the definition of a sport. The long-standing and most common understanding is that a sport requires competition and physical exertion from the athlete.

So, the basketball player in me scoffs at the mere idea that competitive video gaming could ever be considered a sport. And yes, the physical energy exercised by sitting at a desk and operating a keyboard and mouse doesn’t even come close to how tiring traditional sports such as basketball or football can be — but no one is arguing that it does.

Proponents of eSports being a sport concede that eSports involves limited physical motion but point to other mind-based activities that were deemed sports long ago — such as chess and poker — as proof that the definition of sports isn’t strictly confined to physical engagement.

And I’d have to agree with them.

It seems silly to me to think of sports only in the physical sense when there is so much that goes on behind the scenes, especially mentally; in fact, I’d argue that how athletes deal with stress and the heavy emotions constantly present in the upper echelons of sports is just as important as how well they can handle the physical side of things.

Furthermore, at the higher and more competitive eSports levels, players sign with teams, and these large organizations, like Cloud 9 or Team Solo Mid, usually hire physical trainers to help their players stay in shape by engaging in daily exercise regimens and making sure that they’re eating well. This practice is common in chess and poker too, where professionals have to constantly put in physical work to ensure that they can function optimally during long, physically and mentally draining matches.

The meaning of a sport should not be strictly determined by whether or not its participants sweat. I mean, if we’re going to call golf, where the skill comes in the form of hand-eye coordination, a sport, then why not eSports?

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