Let’s settle this once and for all. Yes, eSports is a sport.

The worldwide market for eSports is flourishing. Thousands of fans fill up arenas to watch their heroes battle it out on their favourite video games. In South Korea, football stadiums that were previously used to host the 2002 FIFA World Cup are now being transformed into live venues, expanding the world of competitive gaming.

eSports has everything you would expect from a sporting event: teams or individuals competing on a professional level, mass audiences, commentators who bring the action to life and trophies for the winners. If golf, darts, snooker or even chess are considered sports, why not gaming?  

There is no single definition of sport. The closest international agreement is of the Global Association of International Sports Federations. They state that sport should include some element of competition, not rely on luck or on equipment by a single supplier, not be harmful to living creatures and should not pose risk to the health of competitors. eSports fits all of that. They also identify five primary categories of sport: physical, mind, motorized, coordination and animal-supported. eSports certainly qualifies under both mind and coordination.

Sure, when thinking of sport, gaming is not the first thing that comes to  mind. Football, basketball or ice hockey are rooted into our culture and we see them every day. Gaming definitely has its differences from mainstream sports and the typical associations of the sporting athlete. That’s obvious. Yet this does not mean that it can’t have its own distinct category within sport.

Professional gamers train no less than athletes, with some of them playing as much as 12 to 14 hours a day. They play matches, discuss strategies with their coach and try to consistently improve their performance.  Some games like League of Legends or Starcraft are highly strategic and get updates constantly, requiring players to continuously learn and adapt. Video games are evolving all the time.

Anyone who has seen professional gamers play will be impressed by their reaction time and coordination. In Starcraft, professionals famously reach APMs (actions per minute) of as high  as 600. That translates into hitting a key or clicking ten times per second. Even in games that do not rely so much on strategy like Call of Duty or FIFA, gamers need to practice consistently to get that match-winning aim or master that one crucial skill move. Huge live audiences and  prize money reaching the millions mean that the pressure is always intense.

eSports is expected to generate more than £1 billion as an industry and reach more than 600 million people by 2020. Big sports clubs like Paris St. Germain are establishing their own eSports branches and signing top players to spread their influence. While it doesn’t fit our expectations of traditional sports, gaming already is one, and will become even bigger in the future.

Photo credit: Overwatch League ©2018 BLIZZARD ENTERTAINMENT

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