Having spent a large part of June and July watching England footballers walking round a football pitch looking like they did not want to be there has made me think about the concept of a sport. To be more precise I’m going to claim right here, right now that playing video games should be considered a sport.
Of course you are thinking that the very idea of millions of gamers suddenly being able to call themselves athletes is ridiculous but leaving emotion out of the argument and purely looking at facts might make you question the age old tradition that as gamers we don’t play enough sports.
What defines a sports? Wikipedia offers this definition “A sport is a physical activity or skill carried out under a publicly agreed set of rules, and with a recreational purpose: for competition, for self-enjoyment, to attain excellence, for the development of skill, or some combination of these. The difference of purpose is what characterises sport, combined with the notion of individual (or team) skill or prowess. In essence, a sport is a competitive game.”
To take the time to dissect each part of that definition and relate it back to video games is not where this article is going next. Instead let’s take a few names of activities currently accepted as sports and compare and contrast them back to playing video games.
Chess: Anyone can play chess but to be the best requires great concentration and logical thinking. It’s a individual game against another opponent. There are countless video games which could be used to match this description and as an example lets use StarCraft. You move your pieces around the board trying to defeat your opponent by killing their ‘king’
Snooker / Pool: The table is a very well maintained, clean surface and the balls are polished and without blemish. The player needs to account for positioning of the balls and the power required to pot the target ball and line up the next shot. It’s all about being able to predict where the balls will finish once your shot is complete. Playing most action video games require some form of forecast anticipation e.g. accurately predicting where the scenery will fall in Battlefield: Bad Company 2 allows you to plan your next move.
Motorsport (F1 racing): There is no doubt that the drivers are skilled drivers but the cars themselves are finely tuned machines that the driver simply has to know how to operate and react to track conditions and positions of their opponents. Any racing game can be used as a direct comparison here as the game is programmed with code to challenge the gamer to adjust their driving according to the weather conditions, the driving surface and the opponents.
Of course, the chosen sports above are not very physical but many gamers will recall a time when then played a very exciting online or even offline match where their heartrate was raised and they maybe only just won by the skin of their teeth. The big outward sigh of relief when you cross the chequered flag in first place, the final kill in a deathmatch, these experiences often leave the gamer with an adrenaline rush similar to that felt during a physical sport.
Professional sports are successful due to the spectators and the best example of spectators watching the sport of video games has to be in Korea where two TV channels are dedicated to StarCraft. Try telling these players and viewers that it’s more important to chase a pigskin ball around a pitch to cross a line or kick it into a net.
Hopefully this article has made you challenge the concept of playing video games being accepted as a sport. The skill and dedication to practice to be the best at a game surely puts it on a par with some of the lesser known sports at least.
As a parting shot I leave you with the names of some other ‘sports’. Darts, Cheese Rolling, Dwarf Tossing, Curling.