The incomparable Jessica Conditt, senior reporter at Engadget, recently put up an article about eSports, and their merit as sports. This has been a debate that’s raged on since the dawn of eSports, and everyone seems to have an opinion. In her article, Jessica likens hockey to a real-life game of League of Legends, with players all having designated positions and performing their role in order to make the team work well. With this comparison, she lines up sports and eSports, saying that eSports ought to fit the mold. The problem with this, however, isn’t that eSports don’t deserve to be called sports: it’s that they just don’t need to.
Industry icon TotalBiscuit recently released a video about this subject, and I think he hits the nail on the head. Chess has been described as a sport by the Olympic committee, and eSports (games that are usually infinitely more complicated than chess has the potential to be) have no reason to be kept out of this category beyond the failure of channel surfers (a dying breed in our new on-demand culture) to understand it.
Calling a competition a “sport” is an arbitrary title, and the only reason that we as a community are fighting for that label is because we want to be known as legitimate. Jessica’s article cites ESPN president John Skipper’s ignorant tirade against eSports where he claimed “If I am ever forced to cover guys playing video games, I will retire,” claiming that this sort of mindset needs to be fought against, and proves that eSports need to be recognized as sports by the public. While it stings to see people with large followings being ignorant towards eSports, in my humble opinion, it just doesn’t matter. The only thing that’s truly relevant in the end is the fact that League of Legends, DotA 2, Heroes of the Storm, and so many other eSports platforms are garnering huge amounts of views with a much smaller budget than physical sporting events.
Like it or not, people like John Skipper are going to have to adapt to the industry or fall out of it. Go ahead and retire, John. Somebody who’s more accepting of solid, exciting competition in all of its forms is going to be happy to take your place, and your network will be all the better for it. For us to be so adamant about getting the title of “sport” labeled onto the eSports community just isn’t worth our time – arguably, it would be a downgrade. In the near future, the pro gaming scene is going to be too big to ignore, and culture is going to evolve with it. If John Skipper wants ESPN to lose out on the obscene amounts of money, quality content, and passionate fans that eSports are willing to offer, then that’s fine by me.