eSports have grown exponentially in both popularity and scale in the last couple of years. Selling out stadiums, garnering massive amount of news coverage, and introducing otherwise unaffiliated people into the concept of competitive gaming. It has impressively raised itself from the restraints of cult status to a place of global interest, and, unsurprisingly, has begun to face growing skepticism.
A healthy amount of skepticism is always necessary for a growing market, however—and thus some questions eventually have to be answered. If eSports wants to stand out as a viable counterpart to other athletics, it has to be able to back up the “sports” part of its title.
Coincidentally, one of the most common questions facing eSports is if it really should be counted as a sport. By definition, a sport is:
an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.
Let’s break this down, using League of Legends as a case example.
Is it an activity?
Definitely. Any game is an activity.
Does it require physically exertion?
This is one of eSports’s most critiqued aspects. Typing and clicking a mouse are hardly exercise, and the average hour of gaming only burns around 61.8 calories. So, no, it does not.
Does it require skill?
League involves over 120 player controlled heroes, each with their own involved skillset. Alike to any other sport, each hero has a position and each position has its own responsibilities and expectations. Although moves may be controlled by the click of a mouse, they must be correctly timed and executed. These requirements don’t even include “builds”, or ways you must choose to adapt your character. League not only requires skill, but an amount of memorization.
Is it competitive?
Yes. LCS competitions involve dozens of teams, and prize pools can often be humongous. League’s 2014 championship prize added up to $2,130,000. Even more impressive, Dota’s 2014 prize pool was $10,931,103.
Is it fun?
Yes; ok, debatable, but this goes for any sport with any sort of community.
In all, questions like this only answer half the question. Besides its lacking physical aspects, League could easily be considered what English loosely defines as a sport. What is more important to the rest of the world is if it is recognized as such. If games like League of Legends and Dota 2 belong in the world of football, or are more in the realm of a really exciting game of checkers.
It is hard to say where they might end up (and even harder to say whether ESPN will jump on the bandwagon), but one thing is for sure: eSports aren’t just pastimes anymore, rewards are serious–and the players even more so.