Is Esports a Sport? Breaking Down the Definition of the Debate

As esports continues to enjoy a meteoric rise in popularity and value, many are left asking a solid and thought-provoking question: ‘Is esports a sport?’ It typically comes down to the sheer dictionary definitions of the words, but everyone has their opinion on the matter. It’s an argument that could go either way, but should esports be considered a sport? After all, there are tournaments, prize pools, intense training regimens, fan clubs, and even performance gear like jerseys and specialised equipment.

Are those elements enough to consider esports a sport? If not, what’s the difference between esports and sports that determines they’re not in the same category? In this breakdown, we’re comparing the two industries – traditional sports and esports – and attempting to align them where possible to sway this debate one way or the other.

Is esports a sport? Let’s find out.

Is esports a sport?


Gaining Recognition

Everywhere in the world, the concept of the esports tournament is becoming increasingly commonplace. We’re seeing tens of millions of dollars poured into the esports ecosystem, with some of the most popular esports tournaments attracting immense crowds that sell out arenas worldwide – just like traditional sporting events. In some countries, esports is a phenomenon, and stadiums are being built with the infrastructure to support the growing industry and the rising number of esports games making it to the market.

Once upon a time, esports was a stigmatised concept, mocked by many and believed to be a waste of time. Today, young people are finessing their in-game talents to become millionaires overnight, and some of the most prolific esports stars in the world, such as Lee ‘Faker’ Sang-hyeok, are becoming rockstars, chased down by fans and paparazzi alike. That’s the recognition element in the bag, and it’s partly why the debate of esports vs. sports is a thing in the first place.

Some countries have already recognised esports as a sport, such as China, South Korea, Italy, and Denmark. Over time, more nations are opening their doors to the concept of esports being regarded as a sport. In the two or three decades of recent esports history, the idea of competitive gaming has never been more solid or respected worldwide.

Difference Between Esports and Sports

If we go by dictionary definition alone, we can see the foundation of the debate, ‘Is esports a sport?’

Esports:multiplayer video game played competitively for spectators, typically by professional gamers.

Sports: An activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.

In that alone, we can gauge our response to the argument. In terms of the definition, ‘sports’ includes skill-based activities where a team competes against another for entertainment. That’s the core principle of the esports industry – it’s typically two teams competing against one another for a cash prize, bragging rights, or some other reward. It can’t even be argued that esports isn’t physically demanding, as some competitors will take to a stage for hours on end to win a tournament. That’s a tiring effort, for sure.

Sports athletes train for hours a day, maintain strict diets, and are constantly trying to improve their skills. They’ll have sports psychiatrists helping them with their mental development and resiliency, and there will also be physical therapists in their camp. They’ll source sponsorship deals to earn more money, they’ll wear jerseys emblazoned with their team’s logo, and they’ll attend press conferences, and training sessions in a special facility, and they’ll be hounded by their fans.

Now, replace the term ‘sports athletes’ with ‘esports athletes’ and that last paragraph doesn’t change one bit.

It has been said that even if esports ‘athletes’ aren’t physically on the same level as sports athletes, they’re in the same place mentally, as being an athlete is a mentality just as much as it is a physical thing.

Country where esports officially recognized


To The Future of Esports

Is esports a sport?

The core question still exists, even if we can perfectly define the debate and weigh in quite heavily. But where do we go from here, and how does the future influence that question?

As we’ve outlined, some countries are flexing their coffers and constructing huge stadiums dedicated to esports. In Saudi Arabia, an entire ‘city’ is being built that’s going to be dedicated to gaming and esports. Over time, the investments that are being made are swelling, and some esports organisations are being valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars. That alone is enough to compare these companies to the top-tier sporting agencies worldwide.

Typically, young gamers are starting to identify their pathway to a professional circuit very early on. More commonly, we’re seeing fitter, healthier players make their way into the most lucrative levels of the esports industry. With development coaches and talent agents being on hand to recommend diet plans, training plans, and gym routines, now more than ever, esports athletes are starting to resemble traditional sports athletes.

The future of the esports industry is bright, and even if millions of people don’t see esports as a sport, the fact remains that the two are getting much closer. Some of the world’s biggest sporting brands, such as football clubs, have founded esports teams or have invested in the industry in many ways. There’s a grand conjunction taking place, and one day, we’ll see sports and esports hand-in-hand at some of the biggest events on Earth.

We’ve already got the Esports Olympics, but what’s next?