Time to give esports the recognition they deserve

The 2020 Fortnite Gaming Tournament at Margaret Court Arena in Melbourne, Austraila. Are esports real sports?

Creative Commons Image through Flickr by philip.mallis

The 2020 Fortnite Gaming Tournament at Margaret Court Arena in Melbourne, Austraila. Esports should be considered real sports.

The debate on whether esports should be considered a sport has raged for a long time. In fact, esports and traditional sports share way more similarities than people think. The resolution to this debate is yes, esports should definitely be considered a sport.

One of the biggest arguments against esports is that they are not athletic. However, Professor Ingo Froböse performed a study showing that the cortisol produced by a professional esports athlete during a game is equal to the level produced by a race car driver.  On top of that, they have a high pulse, sometimes as high as 160 to 180 beats per minute which is the equivalent of a very fast run, almost a marathon. They achieve up to 400 movements on the keyboard and the mouse per minute which is four times as much as the average person.

While many people might not see esports as physical exertion, actual esports events require long spans of highly focused activity. Many would say that NASCAR drivers aren’t athletes either — a similar amount of exertion. But athletes in both activities physically train to improve their performance in competition,” founder and CEO of Wombo Sports Bob Molhoek said.

Their motor skills and capabilities are extremely impressive. The time invested in skill development by esports athletes is just as much as, if not more than, traditional athletes. Bob Molhoek started an esports team based in Minnesota that was disbanded in 2020 due to money running low. 

Molhoek said the team’s main focus wasn’t winning but more on “fun and brand integration.”  He said the hours of training and practice between traditional sports and esports were very analogous. 

While many people might not see esports as physical exertion, actual esports events require long spans of highly focused activity. Many would say that NASCAR drivers aren’t athletes either — a similar amount of exertion. But athletes in both activities physically train to improve their performance in competition.”

— Bob Molhoek

Although esports is not yet recognized as an “Olympic sport”, it seems they are getting much closer to that status. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said that the 2024 Summer Olympic Games is “premature” to include esports, but the door is open for the 2028 Summer Olympic Games hosted in Los Angeles.  Even the United States seems to recognize esports as a sport. In the United States, professional gamers are able to obtain P-1 visas that are usually given to professional athletes. According to NEA news, since 2018, when the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) first recognized esports as a sport, more than 8,600 high schools have started video-gaming teams. There are even more than 30 United States colleges and universities that offer esports scholarships.

“I mean, it’s physical activity. It’s not cardio by any means, which is not necessarily the definition, but that kind of makes it to me. I wouldn’t really consider playing video games using like exertion, which is kind of how I think of sports,” science teacher Christopher Yauch said. 

Many people think esports are just video games, but they are much more than that. Being part of a sport teaches many life lessons. Just like traditional sports, the benefits of an esports team include character development, community building, teamwork, leadership, strategic thinking, communication, sportsmanship and many more important life skills. Turning an isolated activity into a social experience definitely has benefits. Learning how to be a team player is an important life skill that all kids should be exposed to. Gaming is usually frowned upon as a waste of time, especially in a high school setting. Not all kids are the athletic type and they may not fit in on a football or basketball team. Creating a collaborative setting for non-traditional sports gives kids who do not fit into the athletic stereotype a chance to feel like they belong.

“It’s just a very competitive scene, where mostly two teams or parties compete against each other, and I’m pretty sure that is a whole part of the whole definition of what a sport is. It’s just a really amazing thing that even though we’re not physically like running or you know, doing things that would be considered athletic. I think that it’s just as competitive, maybe even more competitive as a lot of other things that you would consider sports,” junior Hunter Vang said.

The audience esports accumulated over the years is absolutely mind-blowing. In 2018, the League of Legends World Championship had more viewers than the Super Bowl. Obviously, watching esports is not for everyone, but most people really enjoy it, which proves that the entertainment value is extremely high. Esports is growing exponentially with 400 million fans worldwide. Not to mention, there is also big money in esports. Revenue is projected to hit almost $2 billion in 2022. As of 2020, one of the biggest esports teams valued around $410 million with an estimated revenue of $45 million. 

“Professional sports require audiences, media and sponsors to be able to afford to pay professional athletes. Esports is successful because it has all three,” Molhoek said.

There are numerous arguments that could be made against esports. For example, they are not athletic or gamers do not physically exert themselves. Typically when competing in esports, the athlete sits in a chair the entire time and the only body parts moving are their hands and eyes. This is not the ideal image of a professional athlete.

In reality, the people against esports probably just do not understand it, and because it is not like traditional sports, it can not possibly be a real sport. It is not the definition of sports that is the problem, it is the understanding of that definition. It is time for a new perspective.