The summer Olympic #Games has ended and the world celebrated the achievements and culture of Brazil; but as the global audience lapped up the 100-meter sprint, the archery, and the Judo, another event took place and it may have been the start of #esports being part of the Olympic Games. Called simply eGames, a small esports tournament – endorsed by the UK government – and run by the new International eGames Committee (IEGC) is took place at the same time as the Olympics proper in Rio. There are only four competing nations in the esports tournament sending ‘eteams’ to the event, Brazil, the USA, Canada and Britain, but the event is proudly advertising itself as an event that only awards medals with no cash prizes in site, in true Olympic fashion.
The esports event was a success, with medals being handed to the American team for Super Smash Brothers and Brazil securing the win for Smite and the organisation is looking to move forward and introduce more games in the next esport tournament.
Is this the right direction for esports?
The next Olympic Games in 2020 is being held in Tokyo and eGames is already planning to put on an even bigger event, to excite esports biggest market, Asia. But should esports be considered a sport? We added the ‘e’ for a reason, didn’t we?
The International Olympic Committee is well known for being vague in its definition of a sport, but events like table tennis and archery are still siblings of the same family as other sports. Esports, on the other hand, is more closely related to Chess and Card Games but these games are all cousins of sport rather than siblings and it is to this family esports belongs.
One reason that makes esports part of the traditional table stop game family is that they’re games of the mind, of strategy and usually very complex rules; I’m not saying sports aren’t, but for the common spectator watching boxing or running, they can probably understand very quickly what the competitors need to do to win. However, do you think this would be true for popular esport League of Legends?
Esports tournaments go on year round, the Dota international took place at the same time as Rio 2016, no player would want to miss out on their chance to win at the international in order to compete with a new team and win a medal. It’s unlikely players, and the esports teams they’re contracted to, would ever give up precious preparation time to compete in the Olympics.
Have you ever asked yourself why you don’t see world-class footballers at the Olympics? Because Fifa doesn't allow it, why risk the Olympics competing with their World Cup? Why risk the Olympics competing with the League of Legends world finals? Riot invests huge amounts of money in its esports, allowing a competitor with nearly unlimited resources to muscle in on their esport territory would only be bad for them; thus they’re unlikely to endorse such a move.
The latest sports to be accepted by the IOC have been climbing, surfing and skateboarding, all brilliant choices that will make the competition more exciting. But if esports was accepted as a sport, which esport would we be talking about? Call of Duty? Hearthstone? Counterstrike? All of them? We don’t know, and that’s because ‘esports’ isn’t a single game but an umbrella name for a whole genre of different competitions and competitors, how would the Olympics decide which games are esports and which aren’t?
However, with all of this in mind, I’m not arguing a complete divide between the two, large sporting media outlets have already begun to encroach into esports and that’s a development I welcome. Gaming is on the up and up, it dominates Youtube and is making in-roads into the big screen. I think there is room for a huge international tournament of all of the biggest esports out there, all separate from their own grand finals; but this event shouldn’t be tied to the Olympics, it shouldn’t be drawn by national lines, it should just be a plain and simple celebration of the beauty of completion. #Olympics2016