Magazine Opinions Volume 69, Issue 2

Are Video Games Sports?

Depending on the definition used, the word “sport” can apply to almost any physical activity in which people compete, even those that do not involve much movement, such as archery and marksmanship. These sports require physical exertion, however, in order to build up the needed muscle and skill. Esports professionals have already been recognized as athletes, which makes sense given the fact that video game tournaments meet the requirements to be defined as sports competitions. Skill, strategy, and muscle memory are essential to succeed in these events, and while the majority of games do not involve an abundance of physical activity, many consider the practice hours extremely strenuous. Games such as Dance Dance Revolution, Just Dance, and Beat Saber should easily qualify, because of their required physical excerption, so it’s unclear where the line is drawn.

Especially as of reccently, esports competitions are relatively normal in mainstream media. Although it isn’t as deeply embedded in American culture as traditional sports, the esports industry has been experiencing rapid growth. This is in part due to the popularity of online games such as League of Legends, Fortnite, PUBG, Dota 2, Overwatch, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Competitions are often live streamed via Youtube, but it’s mainly thanks to Twitch and its avid users that League of Legends, Fortnite, and many other games have become so well known. Twitch sponsors professional gamers and esports teams.

Companies, like Twitch, hold esports championships that almost always include cash prizes for the winners, and thousands of people travel across the world just to watch or participate in them. Arenas have been built for the sole purpose of hosting gaming tournaments as well. Many colleges offer scholarships for esports, too. University of Utah, University of California-Irvine, and Miami University are some of the best in this field. These schools, among many others, are members of the National Association of Collegiate Esports— they provide inter-collegiate varsity esports programs and treat their teams as they would any traditional varsity sport teams.

Esports can definitely be considered sport competitions, but to categorize video games in general as such may not be logical. For example, the majority of visual novels do not include competing against anyone. In these games, players tend to rely more heavily on analysis and decision making rather than needing to develop skill. They usually involve less mental exertion that affects the body as well— while competitive gaming and physical sports share many similarities, when it comes to mental activity, visual novels prove to not be nearly as strenuous. The variety of video games available today seems to resemble that of hobbies outside of the virtual world— so much so that it seems unfair to lump them all together. Perhaps, just as people typically see chess, playing music, and sports as completely different and unique activities, it would benefit them to explore the world of video games with the same mindset. There are a multitude of circumstances that can motivate someone to invest themselves in gaming. People who lack the means to take part in sports safely, or in general, may find interest in gaming. Esports provides a medium of interest for those who prefer not to participate in sports in general as well. If esports become more mainstream and celebrated, people who find happiness in gaming will have more opportunities to make a living from their passion. Also, the gaming community’s visibility will increase the visibility of those who work for the developer industry.