eSport is a mass movement. Keyboard warriors battle it out in single or group competitions all over the world. The games are very tactical and the goal is to annihilate the opponent(s). The best of the best have the same celebrity status as professional athletes. But is it real sports?
Is digital football more popular than real football?
Every year, the FIBO takes place in the sport-friendly city of Cologne. This year was the 30th iteration of this fitness and sports institution and it reached a new record with 140.000 visitors. At the same place, only a few months later, the gamescom took place for only the sixth time. Total visitors: 350.000.
The highly professionally marketed Bundesliga generated a revenue of 2.45 billion Euro in 2014. Following the report of the Bundesverband Unterhaltungssoftware e.V. (federal association for entertainment software), German gamers spent about 2.65 billion Euros on games and consoles in the same year. Gaming beats football.
The number games impressively show how important this industry really is. Now, the next step for those responsible for it are trying to make the next step and get this self-proclaimed sport recognized by the offical institutions (IOC) – to make it an olympic event.
What does ‘sport’ actually mean?
Following the root of the word sport we will get to ‘deportare’ (latin for ‘to entertain, to amuse’) which shows us that entertainment is very closely related to sports. Thus, there should be no question, eSports is sports.
If you look at the history of sports in the German area, though, sport has, at some place in time, replaced terms like gymnastics and physical training – all of which are activities defined by an obligatory element of physical activity. So is eSports still a sport? Questionable.
Stress and tactics as characteristics
In a TV report of the magazine program Sport Inside, the German sports professor Ingo Froböse (German Sport University Cologne) was interviewed. Studies have shown that gamers show increased heart rates and cortisol levels during and after events and this was one point they used in the TV report to support their claim that eSports are real sports. Ok. In my view this just proves that gaming produces stress, but is this really a gaining of insight?
The tactical nature of eSports was another point to prove that team gaming is a real sport. Gamers no doubt need a high degree of tactical thinking and cooperation, just like any other team sport, but does that make it a sport? Does a sprinter need a tactic for a 100 m sprint? Is tactic a necessary criteria for a sport? In my opinion, it’s not.
If you dope – you do sports?
Last but not least, they referred to the dark side of professional sports; doping. To fight off weariness and mental fatigue during highspeed gaming, gamers are apparently using energy drinks and even amphetamines.
Should the consumption of banned substances be evidence for eSports being a real sport? According to a study by a German health insurance, more than three million employees resort to performance enhancing drugs to be more efficient and less susceptible to stress in their jobs. So does this qualify the daily work as sport as well? There are other similarities: you sit in front of a display for hours, depending on your boss your cortisol levels can go through the roof… ok, we won’t get anywhere here.
eSports? More like eStress
Don’t get me wrong – I don’t object against videogames per se. I also enjoy a good game and can pull an all-nighter once in a while. But afterwards, I surely have never felt like doing sports. More to the contrary. After long gaming sessions in front of the Playstation I have felt more stressed than before and wanted to clear my head. Hello cortisol!
My only remedy is – you might have guessed it already – a workout session or a game of sports. Fresh air vs. electro smog. Serotonin vs. cortisol.
My conclusion: sport needs movement and the human body must be the main tool for that. Otherwise, we are talking about games of skill, mental exercises or other special forms. For me, eSports is just as much a sport like Formula 1, darts or checkers.
What’s your take on this?