History in the making – Esports are debuting at the SEA Games

It’s been a long fight – fans and players alike have wanted to see esports included in the Olympics for years, but it hasn’t been going too well. Under significant protest from various Olympics officials, it seemed unlikely to happen anytime soon.

Indeed, it’s still a long path to the main Summer Games, but progress is happening either way – like the milestone that’s taking place this week in the Philippines. Specifically, in Manila, where the Southeast Asian Games are happening.

SEA Games Philippines 2019

© Tristan Tamayo | INQ

Although not part of the main Summer/Winter Games, the SEA Games are still very much an Olympic event, and this year’s iteration of it is featuring quite the esports line-up. In total, 9 teams are vying for gold in several different games.

The Philippines themselves are favoured to win gold as it stands, with competitions happening in:

  • Dota 2
  • StarCraft II
  • Hearthstone
  • Tekken 7
  • Arena of Valor
  • Mobile Legends: Bang Bang.

In other words, the chosen games are ones popular in the Southeast Asian area, and they span across PC, consoles and mobile titles, as far as platforms go.

SEA Games give hope for the future

Most Olympic events have been suffering a little from dwindling attention and viewership numbers – the inclusion of esports in some events are expected to strongly counteract this. It’s an ideal stage too – although the Philippines are by no means a leader in the international market, gaming is a popular hobby there, and plenty of fans are wanting to view the events.

SEA Games Organiser, the PHISGOC is planning on going beyond the 655-million population of the region – Jarie Osias, the spokesman for the PHISGOC mentioned that it was their ‘grand plan’ to expand past their region, and by quite a bit – this year’s SEA Games are supposed to be the biggest and most-watched ones ever hosted by the Philippines.

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Not quite smooth sailing

Despite all of these plans though, there have been some issues – specifically, with regards to corruption and incomplete facilities. Compared to traditional sporting events, esports ones have quite different requirements when it comes to things like equipment and security options, and the Philippines weren’t quite ready for everything, despite the event only being days away now.

As for the corruption issue – while no concrete accusations were made, House Speaker Cayetano who is also serving as PHISGOC chairman has said he plans on launching a congressional inquiry into these issues. With over 8000 athletes attending the overall games, and participants from 11 countries, there is a lot of potential problems here.

Given that esports has traditionally always had some issues with corruption, it wouldn’t be surprising to find that there are problems here as well, but the fact that the official organisers are taking the potential problems seriously and are actively working against anything being compromised is great news and sets a very positive example for both esports and traditional sports (where investigations into cheating, corruption, and doping are long since common) alike.

Read also: Esports finally becomes a medal sport at the SEA Games