Olympic Medals for Video Gaming: Will This Be a Reality?

Now 'eSports' are gaining momentum — there's heated debate over whether they belong beside other top athletics

by Chris Woodward | Updated 08 Feb 2018 at 11:42 AM

For years, people have argued about what makes a sport an actual sport.

Two intensely debated areas that come to mind are cheerleading and fishing — but now an effort is underway to get eSports into future Olympics. Intel is already at work in South Korea, the nation hosting the 2018 Winter Olympics, and Reuters reports the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is keeping an open mind, even though eSports are still a long way from becoming a formal part of the Olympic games.

Said a recent Reuters piece on the subject: “This week, players huddled before screens in a wedding hall in Gangneung, wearing shirts branded with the Olympic rings and competing for a $150,000 prize. [That is] more than most gold medalist Olympians will earn in bonuses from their home nations.”

What are “sports”? Merriam-Webster says the word “sports” can mean a lot of things, including a physical activity engaged in for pleasure. The word is also defined as a particular activity such as an athletic game — “athletic” meaning of or relating to sports, games or exercises. That’s important to keep in mind, as eSports are multiplayer competitions featuring so-called gamers “battling” it out for spectators.

“I’ve been incredibly fascinated by the idea of eSports in the Olympics since its inception,” said Michael Borkey, producer for “Head to Head” radio, a sports talk show on SuperTalk Mississippi. “It’s obviously creating this great debate about what actually is a ‘sport,’ which is valid, but remember this is the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that removed wrestling from its lineup, and later returned it due to backlash — while adding golf. Which one is more physically demanding?”

That’s not to say Borkey is not a fan of golf. He told LifeZette he is a big fan and an avid player.

“And I’m glad the IOC corrected their wrestling mistake, but that move showed that ‘sports’ are not just competitions among the most physically dominant,” he said. “There are other things that are taken into consideration.”

For example, Borkey said rhythmic gymnastics, equestrian, archery, and curling are Olympic sports.

“All of those are competitions that are not won by those who possess physical dominance, but rather a special skill or talent,” he stressed. “It may be hard to believe, but eSports [operate] the same way, because not every person can just pick up a controller and be good at video games.”

When one considers the intricacies of modern video games, Borkey said players have to have superior hand-eye coordination and strategy.

"You'd truly be amazed at the amount of practice and planning that comes with professional video game players," he added.

Based on that, the significant training and unique skill makes eSports at least sound like a sport, one that has a growing following many people not may be aware of as of yet.

"You have eSports events across the country that sell out basketball arenas and winning payouts that eclipse $1 million," said Borkey. "Further, hundreds of thousands of people consume eSports via live-stream daily, so this would open up the Olympics to an entirely new viewing audience that they otherwise would not receive organically."

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OK, but where does it stop? If eSports are added to the Olympics, does that leave the door open for other so-called non-athletic events to be considered?

"Absolutely, and I'd be just as open and willing to consume those as I have been with eSports," answered Borkey. "Just because something isn't for everybody, or doesn't have 'mass appeal,' does not mean we should ignore that 'sport' or its followers."

A strong second opinion. Tom Joyce, a freelance sports writer based in Massachusetts, does not believe eSports should ever be allowed in the Olympics.

"Playing video games is not a real sport," said Joyce. "I play Xbox on occasion as a stress reliever, but that is because it requires no physical exertion. If that were the case, people would be doing it in place of weight training and running."

Joyce admitted that online live streams for "so-called eSports" do well, so they might get some ratings for the Olympics. Still, he does not feel it would fit the vibe to go from gymnastics, to basketball, to rowing — to watching people play video games.

"Or for the winter Olympics, hockey to bobsledding to video games," he said.

Playing video games is more in line with watching TV than it is perfecting a split leap on the balance beam, noted one sports writer.

Joyce noted that playing video games is more in line with watching TV than it is perfecting a split leap on the balance beam.

"Having a world championship for eSports is certainly something that could catch ratings, but to think some guy who is only good at video games could be one day carrying the Olympic torch is amusing," Joyce said. "We're just getting baseball and softball back into the Olympics in 2020, so let's try to get football or lacrosse next."

Joyce may not get his wish. The Olympic Council of Asia has already announced its intentions of making eSports a medal sport in 2022. Moreover, the Paris Olympic Committee is also reportedly open to eSports being in the 2024 Summer Olympics.

Chris Woodward is a reporter for American Family News and OneNewsNow.com and is based in Mississippi.

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