Every rose has its thorn, and every sport has its detractors. Whether it’s rugby union or rugby league supporters calling the other game inferior, or fans of any sport suggesting football is boring, or ESPN presenters suggesting they would quite before they would cover eSports. So with recent comments from the president of the International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach indicating that eSports cant be an Olympic event while they are just too darn violent, the question I come back to is, who cares?
Now to be fair, the IOC has taken the consideration of eSports in the Olympics seriously, and done investigations into its inclusion, so they haven’t just laughed it off derisively like some of us may have thought. That doesn’t make Mr Bach’s comments the other day any less daft, of which I’ll pop the relevant quotes below so you can see for yourself.
“We cannot have in the Olympic program a game which is promoting violence or discrimination,” he told the AP. “So-called killer games. They, from our point of view, are contradictory to the Olympic values and cannot therefore be accepted.”
“Of course every combat sport has its origins in a real fight among people,” he said. “But sport is the civilized expression about this. If you have games where it’s about killing somebody, this cannot be brought into line with our Olympic values.”
Now, we can all see the obviously hypocrisy in the comments. Basically, violent sports like fencing are fine, because they aren’t actually killing anyone like they used to. To paraphrase, it is only simulating killing people, but eSports are too violent because the simulate killing people. This of course ignore all the eSports that don’t simulate killing people, but by using the worst-case example that Mr Bach could be referring to, it’s clear how inane his comment is.
But let’s step back for a moment from the stupidity of old farts deciding where and when Vidya games should or shouldn’t be played, why do we insist on them being played everywhere ourselves? Why do eSports seem to continuously hold themselves up against these sporting yard sticks like it’s required to validate itself?
Now I’m not suggesting there should be less eSports, or it should stop growing. eSports aren’t my cup of tea, like many sports/events, but it’s great that they are growing, with competitions and professional teams popping up, and soooo much prize money. Enough money to make this nerd sad that he has spent so many years playing games, but struggles to win a casual Overwatch match.
It really seems that the bulk of the mainstream news stories around eSports is either a massive prize on offer, or some traditional sports outlet/body throwing shade at eSports, specifically because it’s asked.
eSports don’t need to validate themselves; they are already valid. Millions tune in to watch their teams kick ass, buy their merch, and the top competitors make mega bucks kicking ass for their fans. eSports is already a thing, a massive thing, and it’s going to keep evolving as a juggernaut in pop culture. Who cares if it is in the Olympics or not?
Rugby League is a sport with over one hundred years of history, professional competitions have come and gone, had their battles within the sport, and outside of it. Millions of passionate fans watch up to 4 days of it a week, 7 months a year, buy the merch, and face their detractors. It’s a big sport that isn’t going anywhere, and it’s not in the Olympics. It’s status as a sport, doesn’t hinge on the IOC’s stance, or which ESPN channels do or don’t show it, or what some sports personality thinks of it.
eSports may not have the history yet, but it’s as valid as it ever will be already. If you want to help it remain valid, join in your favourite competitions forums, watch your favourite team every chance you get, win or lose, follow your favourite players Twitter, and share your favourite highlights. eSports will continue to be as valid as it can be, as long as it has passionate fans sharing their love for it, it’s as simple as that.