Esports – SPORT or NOT

We can’t really say that this is an ancient dilemma since of the obvious reasons. But, in the past years it’s an intriguing topic. Or as we look at, it started to be an intriguing topic when Esports industry started its growth in popularity. Every growth in popularity (and income) comes with some consequences, and for Esports it was the wake up of “traditional sports” advocates.

What is Esports?

A lot of people that aren’t a part of gaming community still aren’t that sure what is esports/electronic sports? Maybe best description is that it is a form of competition using video games which uses multiplayer games and professional players to compete each other. Competitive video gaming would not be known so much without its spectatorship. Thousands of fans gather themselves in arenas, while literally millions watch it online. Not to forget that Esports is a billion $ industry, and gaming industry gains more profit then music & film industry together.

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Conflicting sides; PRO & CON Esports

So we have two sides, the one that is supporting the idea of Esport being a sport, and the other, more “traditional” side that feels just putting video games & sport in the same sentence is thought provoking enough.

Who is right? Are there any right/wrong sides in this debate? What is gonna be the final verdict? And finally, who will be the judge of that? Not us, for sure.

What makes sport a sport? 

This question for sure is very delicate. Maybe the most used complaint of “traditional sports” advocates is that there is nothing physical about playing video games. This argument sticks up to a certain point cause some sports require other types of “physical”; like physical dexterity and skill, quick reflexes and physical stamina. Similar to some other sports, snooker or billiard for instance (more recognized as sports). On the other side, chess, is recognized by International Olympic Committee (one of the highest governing bodies in sport) as a sport. Chess was introduced in Sydney 2000. as exhibition sport, but never entered in official program.

So, the lines are really thin sometimes, and different governing bodies have their own interpretation for what is needed to call it a sport.

The other big argument is that Esports are a game and not a sport. A debate even more philosophical then the first one. We won’t even go into that.

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What criteria does Esports have to be called a sport? 

Esport industry is putting upfront:

  • Physical athleticism and/or physical dexterity and skill

Esports requires dexterity, quick reflexes, and physical stamina.

  • Structure

There are numerous leagues and tournaments. Both recreational and professional and governing organizations.

  • Standardized/agreed upon rules

Yes.

  • Competition between two or more individuals or teams

Yes

  • Scorekeeping or other assessment to determine a winner

Esports games, leagues, and tournaments track performance and honor the victors, and in most popular games, players are world stars making millions in salary & sponsorship.

  • Providing entertainment for spectators

Millions worldwide watch Esports for entertainment. Massive media networks like ESPN, along with online media like Twitch provide broadcast, streamed and live-viewing of esports for spectators.

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Sport psychology in Esports

From the point of view of Sport Psychologist, looking at these players (or athletes, whatever you wanna call them), practice or play (again, whatever you wanna call that what they do :) We can go on & on like this…trying to be politically correct, not to offend anybody’s opinion but it starts to be silly real fast.

The question that interests me most is:
1. Can these athletes benefit from working on their mental preparation? YES!

2. Can a Sport & Performance Psychologist be someone who is helping them achieve these goals? YES!

3. Is it becoming a common thing in the world of Esports to hire a sport psychologist? YES!

More and more teams understand how mental side is important for their performance. Similar to traditional sports, some recognize it’s importance and have assets to invest, and some don’t.

So, again we are not picking sides, PRO esports or PRO traditional sports. We only see human beings wanting to be better at things they do, love and live for. Human beings interested in their growth. And that is what is needed for us to start working with them.

And how do we do it, what exactly do we do?
In a next blog, coming in a couple of days…

Luka Škrinjarić

Luka Škrinjarić, sport psychologist

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