Opinion Staff Writer
When fans hear the word “sports” it is usually associated with activities including basketball, baseball and football, but not video games.
As Electronic Sports, or eSports, gains increasing recognition, the argument of classifying video gaming as a professional sport brings with it a polarizing debate. Dedicated viewers of ESPN were outraged when they gave eSports its own section because they do not acknowledge it as a “legitimate” sport.
It requires increased physical effort to be a professional athlete over a professional gamer. Professional gamers sit in front of screens to learn about mechanics and techniques within games and train themselves mentally. Athletes train their bodies every day and undergo rigorous physical training to perform their best.
A point of debate is the idea eSports athletes exercise their minds to the same extent as an athlete’s physical body. While true it does not mean professional athletes rely solely on physical upkeep, a strenuous mental aspect comes with it as well. Reading and understanding a football play or learning how to move around a boxing ring rely on the athlete’s mental state being in as peak condition as their physique.
Watching professional pingpong players glide across courts and baseball players knock out home runs impress us because of someone physically performing them. People respect the dedication it took for the athlete to execute such a feat. This appreciation of human ability sets athletes apart from others.
In eSports a person controls in-game characters or objects to utilize them and accomplish tremendous feats. While the person guides and controls the every action inside the video game no physical input exists outside of moving their fingers and speaking into a headset, making the two different. Yet since 2010 eSport’s viewership has risen to numbers as large as 36 million for a single tournament.
Stadiums fill with people who come to watch eSports athletes compete and I am awestruck. The fact people pay to watch others play video games baffles me, yet being fully immersed in a football game does not come easy to me either. However, I still respect the effort being put in by the athletes. When I hear about an eSports team winning a tournament I refrain from rolling my eyes. They get treated like heroes who have accomplished so much and revered by others within the gaming community and the recognition feels undeserved.
This accessibility attracts a larger and extremely diverse audience. Consequently it means more people can be exposed to games and more people have a chance to become an eSports athlete.
Not to say peak physical performance and a career in professional sports are mutually exclusive, I would never make it through any form of professional sports training. The requirements to be considered an eSports athlete are not as intense to ones necessary to become a professional athlete. Anyone can get involved with sports as well, but making a career out of it requires a different level of commitment.
I am in no way a sports enthusiast, I have never once made it through an entire game without being overwhelmed by boredom and video games compose a major part of my childhood. Yet the people of eSports manage to ruin something I enjoy by taking video games way too seriously.
Video games bring people together through a recreational outlet while creating ways to compete with friends and people all over the world online. Professional sports do the same by bringing in athletes from all over the world together, the Olympics being a prime example. Each hope to encourage friendly competition, but like all competitive activities everyone wants to win.
The toxicity as a result of over-competitiveness ruins the experience. I have a disdain for sports because of how worked up people get and the same goes for eSports. It gets tiring hearing about who scored the most goals in what year and who got the most kills in an online match. The swelled egos get in the way of the camaraderie.
Despite their negative resemblances, eSports and professional sports are not on the same spectrum. It is merely painting itself as such to generate more headlines and profit for advertisers and game companies so they can continue to pump out bland and uninteresting video games and reap the benefits. If eSports continue to stay professional the perpetual cycle of bland gaming and toxic communities will persist.
We live in an ever-changing society and eSports already possess a legitimate place in the realm of professional sports. Athletes dedicate their lives to their sport and to be considered professional, a certain ability outside the digital realm must exist.