Are eSports Really Sports?

The industry of eSports is growing at a rapid rate. eSports are essentially video game competitions where gamers play video games against each other for fans to watch and cheer. There are eSport organizations that function the same way as “traditional sport” organizations. There are gamers that represent athletes, leagues, endorsements, fans, and massive investors. Some components of eSports would lead to a consideration of them as being sports, however do they fit into the definition of sport? Sports are defined as physical, skillful, institutionalized, competitive, and motivated by internal and external rewards. While eSports are institutionalized, skillful, competitive, and most likely motivated by internal and external rewards, they are NOT physical. If eSports are considered sports, that is omitting the important component of the physical nature behind sport. This omission of the physical attributes can arguably devalue the physicality and importance of physical activity within the realm of sport. While the physicality of sport is important to many athletes, the status quo is changing with the growing eSport industry.

“According to the numbers and the seemingly unstoppable cultural momentum, eSports will continue to grow as an industry — and a pastime — for the foreseeable future.” – AJ Willingham, CNN

eSports are not going anywhere at this rate, and so the common debate over who plays sports and under what conditions continues. Perhaps eSports are simply another condition in which people play sports. An article by Jenny et. al., argues that:

“Proponents of gaming believe that eSports mimic central features of sport, such as interpersonal competition, skill training and development, adherence to rules, goal attainment, and some involvement of coordination and agility.”

The definition of sport seems to be changing, and what are the important values of sport are evolving. The same question debated for years remains for who’s sport counts, and what is considered a sport is challenged by the new and growing eSports phenomenon.

Featured image: One of the largest eSports tournaments in the world, the 2017 ESL One in Hamburg.


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