Gaming: Is it a sport?
Editorial
Written by Raphael2040   
Sunday, 26 August 2007 14:11
There have been many-a-discussion about whether competitive video gaming can be defined a sport. Journalists oppose the very thought of it, whilst the vast majority of competitive video gamers do actually believe that their hobby is what can be called an ‘e-sport’. Debates about such topic have been long and short, widespread across all corners of the globe, with everyone wanting to have their say in it. We have the non-gaming journalists, who believe that it would be simply ludicrous to call it a sport, and the competitive and professional gamers who put in hours upon hours of practice and training in their respective games, aiming to win cash prizes in tournaments, who do believe that it should be considered a sport. We have the middle (wo)men; the people who game casually or socially - Recreational gamers who see gaming as nothing more than a way to spend a couple of hours on a rainy Saturday afternoon. And then we have me; a hardcore, semi-professional, competitive gamer who, amongst many, many others, is trying to get himself and the rest of his team to the top. And the following article will give you my point of view about this debate. Most people, if not all, are fully aware of what a sport is, and can give you clear examples of them. But what is the true definition of a sport? Wikipedia states that;

Sport is an activity that is governed by a set of rules or customs and often engaged in competitively. Sports commonly refer to activities where the physical capabilities of the competitor are the sole or primary determiner of the outcome (winning or losing).

Reading the above definition, it is quite easy to see that competitive gaming can be defined as a sport. There are many, many leagues that are created for competitive gaming, like TeamWarfare, or the CyberAthlete Amateur/Professional League, in which the Professional version of the league includes cash prizes and sponsorships. Like other sports, matches are won, lost or drawn. Teams (or individuals) train for many hours a week, working on their skills, their weaknesses, as well as creating new tactics. Community bases grow, fans for teams are created, and sponsorship deals are becoming more and more common in this industry. The similarities between video gaming and a sport (for example football/soccer) are many, and I’m sure you, as a reader, can pinpoint many, many other similarities. Allow me to demonstrate my point with a short flashback.

As a 10 year old child, I used to play in a Sunday Football League. Prior to the start of season, our manager would go out and hold training sessions to find new players to add to our squad. Once the squad was compromised, it was time for pre-season training. Each player would dedicate several hours a week to attend training, working on their fitness and skill, as well as teamwork. Once the season had started, players would be informed to attend matches every Sunday, whilst still attending training sessions mid-week. The league was a lot of fun, and I made a lot of new friends with my teammates.

This football fiesta would lead me up to the age of 15. After 5 years, the majority of the squad was the same, with new ones being added to the squad in the years we played. Once our fifth season was over, players had a choice; they could either stay with the club, or move along to other clubs. The training over the years had meant that a lot of the players had become of a much higher standard than the club, and were ready to move on to better clubs. Some stayed, some went. I stayed because of the sheer dedication to my team.

Allow me to compare this with my clan at 17 years of age. Again, prior to the start of a league, me and a few others would go recruiting players on public servers, or hold recruiting sessions on our own server. Once we had a team, it was time for the players to get to know each other. We’d play several times a week with each other, working on each other’s skills and weaknesses. Match time came, and players would attend them weekly. Just like my football team, playing with each other was a lot of fun and gave us a lot of experience. The improvements meant that at the end of the league, our members would either stay with the clan or go out looking for other clans to improve with. Again, the training over the season meant that many players had vastly improved. So a lot of them would leave. They come as boys, but leave as men. Or something.

But the similarities are evident. What provides the problem here, however, is the fact that there is minimal physical activity involved. Apart from operating a mouse and a keyboard, or a controller, no other physical activity is really necessary. And the definition clearly states that;

Sports commonly refer to activities where the physical capabilities of the competitor are the sole or primary determiner of the outcome (winning or losing).

This means that a person can be physically unfit, but still be a very good competitor and player. So what can be done to assist gaming to become a sport? Well, make it an e-Sport, of course!

The term ‘e-sport’ is pretty self-explanatory, but there is still some conflict as to whether such a thing can exist or not. E-sports, alongside E-mail and E-commerce, basically allow the use of real life activities to occur in the virtual world. But can the term ‘sport’ still be applied to video gaming online? Well, let’s look at the facts.

Competition:

Check: Competitive video gaming; speaks for itself. Video gaming can get very competitive, without discriminating the players by height, weight, sex, religion, culture or disabilities, unlike a lot of other sports.

Money/Sponsorships:

Check: The CyberAthlete Professional League and Major League Gaming both offer cash prizes as a result of topping their leagues or winning their tournaments. There are also many renown clans and individuals who have been sponsored by businesses and organisations. For example, Fatal1ty, the world number one Quake 4 player, has been sponsored by Zalman, and clans like Reason Gaming and 4Kings have also been sponsored by large computing organisations, like Intel and Nvidia respectively.

Fans:

Check: Take a look around the internet. Many individuals and many clans have fans to support them. And, as expected, many have rival fans to oppose them and their favoured clans.

Contracts/Transfer fees:

Check: Though this is not as common as the above three, contracts and transfer fees DO exist amongst some of the higher rated clans. These contracts, much like sporting contracts, legally bind a player to a clan. Transfer fees, then, allows players to leave clans for others for money, which usually goes to the clan funds or agent [if the player has one].

Managers/Agents:

Check: Many professional players and clans have overlooking managers to help deal with all the formalities for the player(s). For example, they’d organise interviews, transport to attend professional tournaments, etc. Agents are not common, but they do exist. They, like sporting agents, are responsible for all the legal contracts, etc, that the player signs.

Publicity:

Half-check: There are several set channels in the UK and America which show professional gamers in tournaments and leagues. Though there is not enough for many people to recognise it as a sport, but more so a hobby.

The only thing that I, personally, feel that cannot be checked out is the ‘physical’ side to things. If the definition of sport remains as it is, then professional video gaming cannot be classed as a sport. At least, not in the Western World. The South Koreans beg to differ. They have classed professional gaming as a sport in their country. In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s the countries national sport. The game in question, as many of us already know, is Starcraft. Surely, if they have managed to class it as a sport, then there is hope for the Western world yet.


I’m sure there are many of you reading this who will feel that it should become a sport; that video gaming should be more widely publicised and acknowledged. Instead, it will be stereotyped in society as nothing more than a recreational activity – a time pass. But perhaps that will change. Maybe not now, maybe not tomorrow; only time will tell.

Expect a follow up to this article soon.

Raphael out.

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