E-sports look for recognition from sporting world
E-SPORTS ARE A community based around the competitive play of video games, most notably League of Legends and Starcraft 2. This does not preclude the involvement of fans, as live streaming has made sharing the experience a globally accessible phenomenon, wherever Internet can be found.
The title of e-sports strongly indicates that the community wants to identify itself as a sport. Without a centralized association to foster its infrastructure, the e-sports community has to rely on the endorsement of gaming companies and free tools available to them like online streaming to maintain itself. In fact, this is how most professional gamers sustain themselves and transition into competitive play, via long hours of live streaming and by receiving the vital support of fans.
“For me, a sport necessitates some kind of physical activity,” says fourth-year U of O biology student Azad Sadr (translated from French). “Whereas with video games, notwithstanding the competitive aspect which exists in both video games and sports, you’re still playing with a controller or mouse.”
A sport is traditionally defined as being rooted in a physical activity, whereupon rules are created to allow for a competition in which individuals or teams display their talents.
The Olympics are the epitome of this definition; the world is brought together by international competition for gold, silver, and bronze keepsakes. And also for bragging rights—what else would promote equity more?
The Paralympics promote a even playing field for people with physical disabilities, but they don’t promote a competition that accommodates disabilities. A physical disability can be defined as a physical ineptitude, at least in reference to a normative definition of able-bodied people. This definition accommodates the idea of able-bodied physical activity as the premise for sports.
“I consider a sport to be something in which you test your skills against someone else’s,” says Logan Lewis, a third-year civil engineer. “It’s hard to define, because I don’t feel like the definition of sports is a physical activity.”
Alternatively, it can also be defined without the unnecessary implied value judgment of normalcy—in other words, without the expectation that people with physical disabilities need accommodated sports, as they currently exist in order to legitimately compete.
“Ultimately, when you’re playing a sport, you’re playing to win,” says Lewis. “Victory would be based on whatever rules are established.”
These aspects are crisply maintained in both aforementioned video games, as expressed in tiers—bronze, silver, gold, platinum, etc.—abiding by a more complex version of the ELO ranking developed for chess. In fact, the ELO ranking system works so well it is even used in certain sporting communities.
Rankings imply competition. And by their very definition, video games are essentially a set of rules.
“I’ve played football in the past, rugby, and a couple of other sports,” says Lewis. “You need to practice and prepare—when you get into competitive video games, everything is also there.”
Competing in front of thousands, if not millions of fans and playing a game that requires an inordinate amount of precision and timing comes with a certain amount of stress.
This is a similar kind of stress that Olympic athletes feel when they line up at the starting line. The mental challenge is there. And as much as maintaining a diet, routine and conditioning is crucial for optimal physical performance, it is also essential to maintain a strong mental health.
“At the speed you play at,” says Lewis, “it’s actually very tiring. Video gaming is still physical, even when playing with a mouse or keyboard.”
“Your timing has to be very precise. There are times when many things are happening at once, and you have to respond quickly,” he says. “You can’t just pick up a mouse and suddenly have pinpoint millisecond precision. It takes a lot of practice to get to that point.
In a three-hour best of five, where each game is played to its full 40-minute potential, there is a required kind of endurance—a war of attrition. That’s the same kind of endurance that brings an athlete to best their competitor—the extra time spent practicing, preparing and warring against the idea that they cannot do. f