Are esports really sports?
Competitive games have long been around on the PC with professional Starcraft leagues or tournaments for games like Quake and Counter-Strike. The Xbox 360 has made competitive gaming much more popular in recent years with the Major League Gaming professional console league, or MLG for short, and many gamers have started to classify it as a sport. Even sports news coverage like ESPN has bought into this new fad called E-Sports and now covers MLG games on their website and even mentions it on Sportscenter sometimes. But is this attention justified? Are E-Sports Really Sports? The answer is no and here are reasons why this is so.
Lack of a wide innate skill gap
I thought I would start with this reason so that any gamer who thinks this is the only reason for this article can be solved right away. I’m not saying I can beat a Halo 3 player like Tsquared. He is better than me. The lack of an innate skills gap means that, with dedication, almost any player can become a pro in the game they want to compete in. This is not true for everyone and here is an example. When playing SOCOM II, a friend had more than 2000 hours connected to the game online. He had less than 50 hours, but he was a much better player than him. I think that no matter how much he played, it would always have been better. But on the other hand, there are a lot of gamers like me who are naturally good at video games. I have a 2.5K / D ratio in Halo 3, but I rarely play and I don’t take it seriously. I don’t even like it. However, I have a feeling that if I played 8 hours a day or more with the intention of taking it very seriously, I could probably compete at the MLG level. I have a feeling that most Halo 3 players who are into it could compete at the MLG level.
This is not so with sports like hockey, basketball, baseball, even golf or tennis. I used to play hockey as a kid, but no matter how much I played, there is a 99.999% chance that I will never make it to the NHL. I think the same can be said for thousands, maybe even millions of athletes in major sports. But not the games. You have a very good chance of being able to compete in the field of video games simply by training and staying dedicated to it.
He might never be able to beat TSquared, but because the games don’t involve physique, the difference between us would be just dedication. He is much more dedicated than I am, and has been for a long time. The video game professional plays video games like his life. I chose a different career. Just as he wouldn’t be as good a forensic investigator as someone with 20 years of experience, he wouldn’t be as good a player as TSquared if he competed against him right now.
There is no scouting combo
In most major sports leagues like NBA, NHL, NFL, and MLB, there are minor leagues or college-level games. This is how players get to the majors, play in college and then get drafted into a team or play in the minors, prove themselves, and get called up. In E-Sports, there are no minors. You don’t have to prove yourself to compete, you just pay to participate in an event. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched a sports game on TV to hear an announcer say something like ‘You’re in the majors, you should be able to make that play’ or something similar. There is no prestige to being an MLG player, it doesn’t make sense. Anyone can become one at any time. Now you might get beaten a lot if you’re not good, but it’s because you’re competing at a level where you shouldn’t be. There’s a reason Major League Baseball players in MLB are sent to the minors on a rehab assignment or something they dominate or that a player who could dominate in triple-A or AHL hockey could suck in NHL or MLB , it’s completely different level of play.
Esports don’t have game levels like this (there sure are CALs and CPLs, but they don’t work the same way). Either you are competing or not. I think to be considered a sport, MLG should remedy this by incorporating a minor league in which players are cultivated to compete in the majors. This would be the only way to enter the majors is to be invited, not simply to register and pay a fee.
Lack of unity or organization.
There are many game leagues out there. There are MLG, CAL, CPL, GGL, Gamebattles (actually an offshoot of MLG), Starleagues, and many others, some more legitimate or popular than others. Sure, there are different sports leagues, but I don’t think anyone is going to say that in America there is a more legitimate or popular soccer league than the NFL or a more legitimate and popular hockey league than the NHL. Why don’t the games have a legitimate league? Why is it so fragmented? If it were a true sport, it should have a unity of organization. Instead, leagues are privately owned and operated, leading to so many different ones. Are MLG players better than CPL players? Who knows, they are different leagues with different games. I can confidently say that NHL players are better than those in a European League.
This brings me to another point, the E-Sports organization is nothing like a sport. There is no regular season, there are only events and ladders. Even leagues that claim to have seasons are only running ladders for a specific period of time and call it season. Stairs don’t work like stations because you can join or leave a staircase at any time. If you go 0-5 in Gamebattles, erase your team and remake and you erase your bad start. Teams don’t have the same number of games played. You can challenge other teams at will so you never have to face a team that you know could beat you unless you make the playoffs. Real sports are not like that. There aren’t just a handful of tournament-style events during the season.
Making it more sporty
In general, esports leagues seem to be trying to make games look like a sport without actually making it one. Like the addition of trainers in MLG games like Gears of War and Halo. That seems like a completely ridiculous addition to professional games and it doesn’t even make it more sport-like. Why does a player need a coach?
To turn the game into a sport, they must make organizational changes. Let’s keep using MLG as an example. A Halo 3 team in MLG must be sponsored by a corporation or person. A sponsor doesn’t just pay for trips to the Meadowlands and gives you great gaming rigs. That person must own the team and make the changes to the roster. If Ogre 1 and Ogre 2 don’t like Walshy anymore, too bad. They have no voice, the sponsor does. Teams shouldn’t just be a group of friends who got together one day and have played together ever since. They should be solid foundations that will exist in a few years, without our current roster of players.
They should implement a regular season. Instead of going to a handful of tournaments or competing on some online ladder, the teams involved in the season are established at the beginning of the season. Teams can no longer join or withdraw once the season has started. Thus, schedules are established for each team. If you’re scheduled to play on a team, go to that location and play against them. Real sports teams and players travel a lot. It seems that the players are feeling at home training for the next event. Train during the offseason in a sport and play during the season. Why would competitive gaming take place online when you have network issues, potential cheating, and lag? Has no sense. So there is no reason why they shouldn’t travel across the country to face their next scheduled opponent.
Each team would have the same number of games played. Once the season is over, the playoffs will be seeded and played in tournament-style events like Meadowlands. This should be how the playoffs are made. At this moment it seems that they have no relevance other than earning money and points.
There should also be a scouting combo. You can’t just join an MLG competition one day. You will have to enter a separate league and compete there until the team owner invites you to join an MLG team. That would give the league legitimacy and it would probably also eliminate many aspiring posers and posers because they are not going to want to compete and travel a lot.
Another idea he had for American professional games was to hold state tournaments that recognized the best players living in each state. These players would then be eligible to compete on the MLG main or professional circuit. I think something like this would be more feasible than the minor leagues for games. And come on, who doesn’t like to say things like when I went to the states in 2009?
Physicality doesn’t matter
Many people say that video games are not a sport because they are not physical. I am not saying this because it is debatable whether or not sports require physical activity. After all, NASCAR is considered a sport by some and the driver just sits there. Bowling is also considered a sport and that involves very little physical activity. It’s also debatable whether games don’t have physicality in the first place. Games require reaction time and motor skills, as well as critical and analytical thinking, just like real sports. I think the real reasons people say video games are not a sport are due to those described above. It just seems more like a hobby and does not behave in a professional or sporty manner.