Esports finally becomes a medal sport at the SEA Games
Next year’s SEA Games will see esports being included as a medal sport for the very first time. The announcement was made on Wednesday at a special conference in the host nation of the Philippines, and it will mark a significant step up in the global perception of esports.
The South Eastern Games tournament normally only features traditional sports such as athletics, gymnastics, swimming and football. But the governing body’s decision to include competitive gaming in 2019 SEA Games will see gamers from the region flocking to the Philippines to try and take home a medal from one of six selected esports tournaments.
At the moment, it’s just the Mobile Legends: Bang Bang title that has been unveiled as a medal sport at the 2019 SEA Games, but further esports will be revealed in due course. There will be six gold medals for competitive gaming at the sports contest, and with the assistance of the games’ esports partner, Razer, it looks to significantly boost both the popularity and prestige of esports the world over.
Competitive gaming at the 2019 SEA Games
The SEA Games takes place every two years, and it shows off the sporting excellence of athletes in the South East Asia region. Whilst the tournament has been showcasing traditional sports since its inception in 1959, the move to include esports at the next meeting will certainly raise a few eyebrows.
The six gold medals for esports will be split up amongst three different gaming platforms which means that there will be two gold medals for console gaming, two for PC gaming, and two for mobile esports platforms. There is already plenty of speculation about which other esports titles could be revealed alongside the Mobile Legends: Bang Bang game, but they are fairly unlikely to include violent first-person shooters such as Counter Strike Global Offensive.
The final roll-call of esports at the 2019 SEA Games will be unveiled on 15 December, and it could follow on from the kinds of games that were included as demonstration sports at the 2018 Asian Games. This saw sports simulators like Pro Evolution Soccer being played alongside classic battle arena titles like League of Legends and mobile hits such as Clash Royale. In addition to this, the 2018 Asian Games also found space for other esports like Arena of Valor, Hearthstone and StarCraft II.
How will the SEA Games treat esports?
In the past we have seen some fairly ham-fisted attempts by traditional sports organisers to cater to the esports phenomenon. Thankfully, it looks like the SEA Games organisers have made the wise move to partner up with the acclaimed gaming hardware brand, Razer, who will be on hand to make sure that the gamers get all of the high-powered assistance necessary to compete at the top level.
However, the decision to make Mobile Legends: Bang Bang one of the featured esports might cause a little confusion. Whilst this is a perfectly serviceable mobile battle arena title, it hasn’t really made a splash in the competitive gaming realm until now. Plus its release by its makers, Moonton, even saw Riot Games delivering a lawsuit as a result of perceived similarities to the Summoner’s Rift map used in their iconic League of Legends title.
The SEA Games organisers are also in the process of ensuring that the Filipino television network, TV5, gains full broadcasting rights for the tournament. Whilst this will do much to help esports gain a greater acceptance amongst mainstream viewers in the region, it remains to be seen how avid gaming fans on live streaming networks like Twitch or YouTube could follow the live action. Thankfully, TV5 have already had experience in broadcasting the League of Legends World Championship in 2015, so hopefully they should be able to cover the gaming mayhem with a sufficient level of expertise.
What does this mean for esports’ Olympic ambitions?
The move by the SEA Games organisers to include esports as a medal sport will definitely help competitive gaming in its quest to ultimately be included as an Olympic sport in the future. Whilst there has been plenty of opposition to including esports titles like CSGO and LoL as a legitimate sport, we have seen certain sporting simulators starting to gain acceptance in some unlikely places.
From the likes of EA Sports teaming up with the Premier League to create a special ePremier League tournament for FIFA gamers, to the ongoing talks to feature esports as a demonstration sport in the 2024 Paris Olympics, it seems that it’s only a matter of time before competitive gaming finds mainstream sporting acceptance. Whilst video games have frequently been seeing as being too violent, it’s hoped that the SEA Games will help the world see just how exciting the esports gaming phenomenon has become.