Is Esports a Sport? Countries where Esports is considered a sport
It’s an old debate – are esports really sports? Many say no, since there is no running, or fighting, or other strenuous physical activity. Others point to the accepted ‘sport’ of chess, and point out that much of what we love about sports can also be found in esports.
What’s that you ask? Well, teamwork, strategy, skill and of course competition – everything we also love about, say football. There are more parallels in the esports vs sports debate – teams, drafts, betting, fantasy leagues and more. The esports industry is quite clear on this point: esports is a sport.
Recognition around the world
The positions that different countries take vary a lot. Countries where esports are popular like South Korea do recognize esports as a sport, many other countries don’t officially recognise esports. Germany, for example, has a lot of very vocal opposition to esports being considered sports.
The US treats esports athletes like any other athletes. They even offer athlete visas to visiting esports players. Some other countries also offer that sort of help for esports pros, but many still struggle to compete internationally due to visa issues. Arslan Ash, one of the world’s best Tekken players was kept from the international scene for years because of visa issues that stopped the Pakistani player from competing internationally.
In esports history, things have already changed considerably – as recently as 2014, the president of ESPN declared that esports are not sports. Since then, his very TV network has secured several extremely lucrative broadcasting deals with major esports leagues.
Similarly, several German Olympic officials compared esports to knitting and said it didn’t even deserve the name of esports games. They suggested e-gaming instead, however little sense that makes. As a counterpoint to that, Germany is one of the bigger esports locations within Europe. The nation has even produced some of the top talent in games like Counter-Strike, League of Legends and Dota 2. In other words, there is a pretty big gap between the country itself and decision-makers at the top.
Counties that recognize esport as a sport
The Korean Esports Federation has been especially active in trying to get the official recognition of esports from nations around the world. It’s no secret that South Korea is one of the biggest esports markets in the world. They used this position to actively support other nations’ esports movements.
By now, countries such as the US, Finland, and even the somewhat reticent Germany have acknowledged esports as a sport.
The very first few nations (along with South Korea) to recognise esports as a sport were China and South Africa. Russia, Italy, Denmark, and Nepal have also joined. The most recent country to recognize esports as a sport was Ukraine. The country officially recognized esports as a sport in September of 2020.
With the ongoing progress of esports, there is even a lively debate going on about whether or not esports has a place in the Olympics. While there hasn’t been any sort of inclusion in the official Summer Games yet, there have been esports competitions in other Olympic events, such as the Asian Games, where esports have featured more than once already.
The future of esports is…?
Since their very beginning, esports have been written off by critics as a fad, a minor trend, a flash in the pan. By now it’s safe to say they were all very, very wrong. Esports has grown to be a billion-dollar industry, with millions of fans and athletes around the world. In many places, younger generations’ esports fans actually outnumber sports fans, and recent trends show this gap is only widening.
So, despite what cynics like to claim, esports aren’t dying at all. They haven’t even peaked yet. Economic predictions show that over the next few years, the esports industry is likely to grow even bigger – though esports aren’t without their challenges either.
Some of the biggest is the health and mental related ones. specifically, the health of the esports athletes that participate in pro tournaments. Due to their often-unique status as ‘non-athletic athletes’, they occasionally suffer from pretty awful conditions. Between exploitative contracts and unsuitable working conditions, esports athletes can be under similar stress as regular athletes. Esports athlete burnout is another challenge the industry is yet to tackle.
In fact, many pro players have similar training schedules with more than ten hours per day of training, scheduled meals, and more. That doesn’t so much apply to casual gamers, but even for them, staying healthy while gaming is very important.
While most fans (and even some critics) agree that esports are in fact to be considered sports, there are still plenty of people who don’t think so. The main argument against esports being a sport, is that esports doesn’t involve physical exertion and doesn’t really require much in the way of fitness either. Some argue that physical fitness is part of esports, but not involved directly into the competition. Athletes do stay fit especially when it comes to strengthening their backs and brachioradialis, palmaris longus and arm flexors muscle groups.
While reflexes to react quickly in games are needed, no running, jumping, or ball games are involved. Another argument is the fairness and the scoring. In many esports games, updates and balance/meta changes actively affect how a game is played and scored, and can even give players an “unfair” advantage. Then there are the rules themselves. It is rare for the rules for a sport to change, once it’s an official sport in some way. In esports rules change more often and new rules are implemented constantly.
There is no conclusive answer to the question of whether or not esports is a sport. They are only two sides to the same coin. There are even esports fans that argue that esports don’t need sports and shouldn’t be considered as such purely because they are better and more modern than traditional sports.
Their argument is based on the fact that most sports actually have an esports counterpart, such as FIFA for football, or NBA2K and basketball. As such, esports offer an anytime available competitive sports-alternative that can be played by anyone.