By Staff Writer Brendan Viloria, @CrsFriendzone
The Cambridge Dictionary defines a sport as “a game, competition, or similar activity, done for enjoyment or as a job that takes physical effort and skill and is played or done by following particular rules.” With that said, it can be difficult for the popular masses to label eSports as an actual sport. But people need to realize that while video games don’t necessarily use physical strength, they test mental endurance and reflexes.
In 2013, the United States recognized eSports athletes as professional athletes by granting League of Legends players “professional athlete visas.” Although the U.S. may officially view eSports as an actual sport, there are many uninformed people who don’t. Those who lack knowledge of the scene don’t understand the work it takes to reach a high level of skill in video games. The fact of the matter is, eSports is growing every year and I don’t see why it shouldn’t be considered a real sport.
The problem comes from the uninformed media reporting on pro gaming events, which results in their audience--who lack knowledge of eSports--criticizing that competitive gaming is not a sport. HBO featured a Riot Games employee and William “Scarra” Li on their series Real Sports and the host would throw in some insulting, stereotypical phrases in her report by calling pro gamers “nerds” and chastising them for “being in front of their computer screens all day in their fantasy world”.
Recently, ESPN took a chance and broadcasted The International 4 Grand Final Preview show. It mainly catered to people who had knowledge of DOTA 2 and its scene, so in the end, it received tons of negative backlash on social media sites.
Despite the fact a large portion of social media posts came back negative, ESPN was “delighted” by the ratings they received from the DOTA 2 International 4 tournament. A rep for ESPN said “ESPN has seen enough recent successes with eSports and are about to double down. The numbers they hit with The International have only cemented the view that the time is right."
Gamers are often stereotyped as lazy nerds who do nothing but play games on their computer all the time. What is lazy about playing a game that requires great mechanics and focus?
Amateurs in sports see themselves as inferior to professional athletes and often try to emulate them because they recognize their effort and wish to strive to their skill level. Gamers are always trying to become better. I have been to numerous live sporting events, both pro gaming and traditional sports, and the skills of football, tennis, basketball, and gaming athletes put the audience in awe. Especially in bowling, I watch the pros play in tournaments and the amount of revolutions and speed while they bowl, along with their consistency is amazing. Similarly with bowling and video games, I want to reach that high level of skill.
Fans taking in the 2013 LoL World Championship at Staples Center
All professional athletes are masters of their game. There is no difference with their practice regimes other than the different game each athlete plays. They share the same emotions of both winning and losing and they desire to improve themselves even though they are the elite of their game. They both even earn large sums of money depending on their level. For example, The International 4 had a prize pool of over $10 million USD, exceeding the $9 million USD prize pool of the 2014 Golf Masters Tournament.
Professional gaming has reached the level of popularity compared to mainstream sports with its viewers of tournaments and the dedication of the pro gamers. In a Forbes interview of the Blizzard Game Director, Dustin Browder, he was asked what makes pro gamers athletes:
“These guys are athletes. There’s physical and mental conditioning to it. These guys are, in many cases, playing 12 hours a day to prepare for these matches, or even just constantly. These guys are training as hard as a regular athlete would to train for these things. They have to have the dedication and enthusiasm for it, and there’s a lot of coaching that goes on as well. A lot of these guys have coaches and are parts of teams. They create a culture of support around them so they can learn to master the game. What good are you if you can’t practice against somebody who’s great? So these guys create teams of people where they’re all really good, they practice against each other constantly, and they compete against other teams. This allows them to create this sport atmosphere where they work as hard as any regular athlete, and try as hard. They have to have the psychology and mental endurance. You see these guys when they lose a match; they are crushed, just like an Olympic hopeful would be crushed if he didn’t make it. They’ve got to have the endurance to overcome that and say, ‘Yeah, I lost the biggest match of my career, but I’m not done. I’m going to come back and overcome this,’ and sometimes they do. It’s just absolutely amazing the trials, tribulations, and challenges these guys face every day.”
How is this...
Esports has been steadily growing and the popularity now is a sign that its fame will keep rising as more and more gaming companies such as Riot Games and Blizzard work to keep improving their games and the gamers continue their support of both playing and watching the games.
Any different from this?
People have come to say that video games can’t be a sport because the game always changes through different patches and overpowered characters. The same goes with the evolution of mainstream sports; the transition in football from leather helmets to plastic helmets gave comfort and extra protection for the players, which gave them the ability to play more aggressively without worry of injury. The transition in tennis from wooden rackets to composite rackets gave more power and the ability to hit at more extreme angles. If we compared how sports are played in the past and present, you can see different styles and mechanics of the athletes, which is similar to how pro gamers adapt to the changing elements in their games.
My experience with eSports has been similar and even more challenging than more physical sports such as bowling and taekwondo. But, since I’m done kicking ass in taekwondo, I’ve moved onto kicking virtual ass. Right now, I’ve been playing Super Smash Bros. competitively since July and I’m getting wrecked by people who have been playing for years. I don’t take my losses in vain though. The amount of work in any fighting game is to be looked proudly upon, especially with the amount of insane techniques and hitbox and frame knowledge you must know to be good at Smash Bros. But the amount of anticipations and actions needed to play at a top level is amazing; you’re pretty much trying to read your opponents mind, while rapidly inputting actions of yours to react to them.
Similar with StarCraft II, there’s an aspect of the game called APM, which stands for actions per minute. In StarCraft II, players are constantly controlling units and buildings individually in order to build an army to fight their opponents. When I played StarCraft II, my average APM was about 150, while pros usually average 400+. It’s an insane amount of keyboard actions and mouse clicks that is usually learned from a countless amount of muscle memory and practice.
Now look at those two GIFs above. Do you think the average person can do that? How much practice did it take to get to that level of skill? If mainstream athletes practice to perform exceptionally in their sports, look at what these professional gamers can do, all with hand-eye coordination similar to sports.
The rise of eSports and the realization that the popularity of professional gaming matches mainstream sports is what keeps the motivation alive for the companies and gamers. It’s the uniformed that don’t know and prejudge based on stereotypes. I’ve seen comments from people that say “How can Super Mario be a sport?”, “Video games are easy and take no skill.”, and “How is a couch potato an athlete?” Those negative comments are from people who don’t know that there are certain games that are classified as an eSports video games and eSports athletes have been focusing on their physical health along with their mental game to balance their lives out.
Upcoming, we have a new article series coming up by our own Justin Wenzel comparing eSports athletes to mainstream athletes. Justin will be talking to professional athletes and sports journalists and discussing how eSports and sports are similar and are different. His goal is to put to rest that eSports players are nothing more than kids with too much time on their hands.
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