Is eSport a sport?

Let The eSport Battle Commence!

Quick facts about eSports:

  • The eSport market is valued at more that $1 billion 
  • 45% of gamers in the U.S. are female 
  • By 2020 there’s expected to be more than 495 million fans
  • eSports’ viewers spent 17.9 million hours watching gaming online last year
  • The most popular games to watch are Dota 2, League of Legends and Counter Strike: Global Offensive.

Okay, so we know we’re opening up a can of e-Worms here which may get a salty reaction, but we think it’s worth it. When it comes to eSports, the BIG question that seems to be thrown around is: “Is eSport actually a sport?” 

First, let’s define what eSport/ Electronic Sports are. The dictionary definition is pretty spot on: 

Electronic Sport/ eSport is a multiplayer video game played competitively for spectators, typically by professional gamers.

And it’s growing at an aggro (fast) rate hitting anyone in its AoE (vicinity). Take for example the $30m Fortnite World Cup eSport tournament, where 16 year old Kyle ‘Bugha’ Giersdorf took the crown and $3m (!!!) home with him

It’s evident that eSports is already a well established business which attracts crowds of millions, that cannot be questioned. What we are questioning, however, is whether eSport is actually a sport. Let’s dive in. 

We’re opening up a can of e-Worms here which may get a salty reaction, but we think it’s worth it. The BIG question is: “Is eSport actually a sport?”

The eSport Debate

To kick the debate off, we asked for a few opinions from certain members of the Peak team. Or in gaming terms; the comp. One of which brings the topic up at least once a day… (Here’s your chance Tim from the Marketing team!)

“I find it very difficult to class eSports as actual sports. While the concentration levels and training may be comparable to a traditional sport, there is no proper interaction with the physical world, no major physical exertion and the players do not subject their bodies to a great deal. 

I do not doubt that rising to the top of the eSports world is a major achievement, but I feel as though classing competitive gaming and sports where people risk their bodies and their lives as the same thing devalues the work that customary sportsmen and women do.

In agreement with Tim is this eye-opening article, eSport and the Human Body: foundations for a popular aesthetics by Simon Ferrari from Georgia Institute of Technology. He describes how Steven Connor, a British scholar “uses physical obstruction and exhaustion as a definitional line between game and sport; he targets Chess and videogames, claiming that they couldn’t be sport because they are no different when played in person or over a network.”

However the article goes on to mention Jana Rambusch, cognitive scientist. She argues that “despite all appearances, videogame-play is just as physically involving as a more clearly “athletic” activity.”

We’re opening up a can of e-Worms here which may get a salty reaction, but we think it’s worth it. The BIG question is: “Is eSport actually a sport?”

American game designer David Sirlin analysed the training and tournament schedules of expert gamers. Sirlin found that eSport requires “intense dexterity and physical endurance” when it comes to training, providing evidence to support the argument that eSport is a sport. 

Tash, one of Peak’s Backend Engineers says: 

“Coming from a background of playing sports throughout my life, particularly hockey at University and cricket at County level, I personally see a sport as an activity in which physical exertion is coupled with competing against others.

Sports are played by athletes, who in my eyes are individuals who maintain their physical fitness to a high standard, usually resulting in a better performance in their sport.

A hockey player regularly working on their legs and upper body strength will see their passes and shots improve and a cricket player with speed and agility can improve their batting between wickets and also in the outfield.

An athlete is defined as “a person who is proficient in sports and other forms of physical exercise” by Lexico, a collaboration between and Oxford University Press. To say that an individual that plays eSports is considered an athlete just doesn’t make sense to me.” 

We’re opening up a can of e-Worms here which may get a salty reaction, but we think it’s worth it. The BIG question is: “Is eSport actually a sport?”

eSport Part Of The Curriculum?

One American all-girls school who may disagree with Tash has just become the first to introduce Varsity eSports. Many schools now adopting eSport programs are arguing that the sport could “open doors for students of all genders, especially since video games don’t have the same physical barriers as most traditional sports.”

One student found that it helped her to make friends and another found her voice as an eSport broadcaster. So does eSports carry with it the same positive aspects as sport, such as example team spirit and confidence-building? And does it go beyond that and tear down the walls of exclusion and any physical barriers? Perhaps. It still, however, lacks the physical aspect so many argue makes a sport a sport. 

One of our app iOS Developers, Chris, argues that the physical element of sport is over-promoted: “Sport has a very fragile definition, that often prioritises athletic prowess over all else. To me sport is more about ability – skill that is refined through willpower and rigour.

eSport requires the same dedication to the craft necessary to play the real world counterpart. What they lack is only the means to go professional, which often demands time and investment from a very young age; a luxury that cannot be afforded by all. 

eSports levels the barrier to entry, ensuring a level playing field, but not guaranteeing success unless extraordinary effort is put into training.

Ultimately it’s all just semantics. Neither need to be compared to the other to help with promotion or revenue. However, given what is required to succeed in both streams; both should be regarded equally.”

Motor Skills

In a paper by Ivo Van Hikvoorde, Embodiment and Fundamental Motor Skills in eSports, Hikvoorde argues that it doesn’t make sense to classify digital sports as a non-physical activity. He highlights the motor skills (agility, balance, coordination, power, speed and reaction time) needed in eSports and how it can be argued that some motor skills are a defining characteristic of eSports. 

Perhaps Chris is right and in fact comparing sports with eSports is redundant because they’re not in any way relatable. Or maybe we should see them as equals in their own right. Either way, eSports are getting serious and they’re here to stay. In fact, we should expect to see them in the Paris 2024 Olympics as they could be included as a demonstration sport, which in this writer’s opinion, is kind of cool.

Alternatively, we can choose to be oblivious to gaming, like Katy from Peak, who when asked for comment replied with “What’s East Port?” 

And to finish, let’s look at some of the components of sport to see which we can say apply to eSports.

  • Play – Yep, a lot of play is involved. 
  • Organisation – Yes, organisation in games. 
  • Competition – One of the most competitive leagues in the world. 
  • Skill – Indeed, a lot of skills and training are needed. 
  • Physicality – Hmm, not so much. This is where it falls down a little. 
  • Broad following – With crowds of 500 million? Absolutely. 
  • Institutionalisation – It’s becoming a part of everyday life. 
  • Coordination – Hand-eye coordination is key.

And on that note we’ll FF (finish fast.) 

Tell us what you think about eSports being classified as a sport in the comments below.

Sources Cited:

 Fortnite World Cup: the $30m tournament shows esports’ future is already here

With Viewership and Revenue Booming, Esports Set to Compete …

Playing to Win — Sirlin.Net — Game

Maisie Bygraves

One thought on “Is eSport a sport?

  1. I agree that hand/eye co-ordination and reaction time must be excellent but how would these people get on playing, say, tennis? Would their legs give way through lack of use? For me sport is competing with other real people, having a laugh and chat down the gym with other real people and watching sport? – well I certainly prefer watching athletics/swimming/tennis and all other sports on the TV with real competitors who, as Tash says, where ‘physical exertion is coupled with competing against others.’. Get out there and actually do some physical activity or become a couch potato who loses the ability to use their legs! (reminds me of a film where everyone was driving around in inflatable chairs…..)

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