Video games have been around since the dawn of computers. Or almost anyway. Little did anyone know, though, that the pixelated treats will gain such traction as to eventually become a sport. With the International Olympic Committee (IOC) now mulling whether to include esports in the Olympics, we should all realize what a long way games have come.
Enter Electronic Sports
Esports have been an official topic of discussion for hosts of the Asian Games and the IOC. It was in fact IOC president Thomas Bach who first broached the idea of adding games as an official discipline so that the ailing finances of the Olympics would benefit from a fresh jab of cash and viewer interest.
Most recently, the 2018 Asian Games held in Jakarta, Indonesia, prompted Alisports CEO Zhang Dazhong to state for Reuters that for future esports to be adopted readily in the event, they would have to be simulations of mainstream disciplines rather than unique esports titles. However, gamers have little interest in playing virtual tennis, for example, even though electronic sports soccer and basketball have solid esports competitions going.
The unifying point for both Dazhong and Bach is simple – violent titles cannot make the cut and be an official Olympic discipline, meaning that games that demonstrate bloodshed are far from the ones executives have in mind.
An Esports Competition without the Games
However, most of the titles out there rely on pitting opponents against one another and ultimately eliminating the opposing team. If the non-violence criteria stay in place, then we could never see CS:GO make the cut, and the game is truly one of the most-spectated and played esports.
Meanwhile, six esports titles were showed at the 2018 Asian Games, including League of Legends, Hearthstone, StarCraft II, Pro Evolution Soccer, Clash Royale, and Arena of Valor. Having these titles as demonstrations at the event was in fact rather important.
The Asian Games are hosted by the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA), Asian Electronic Sports Federation (AESF), and the Indonesia Asian Games Organizing Committee (INASGOC). Put simply, they are the second-largest event after the Olympics, uniting a fair number of athletes and definitely offering decent exposure for any new product.
On the occasion of the Asian Games in Jakarta, Bach spoke to the Associated press, commenting on the Olympic future of video games,
“we cannot have in the Olympic program a game which is promoting violence or discrimination. So-called killer games. They, from our point of view, are contradictory to the Olympic values and cannot therefore be accepted.”
A Question of Values
Indeed, introducing eSports to the Olympics may be rather disruptive at fist. However, if done right, the fresh flaw of audience and revenue would be substantial. Viewers will be tuning in quicker than ever, with the global esports audience estimated to reach over half a billion by 2020.
Conversely, the creation of so much excitement around Olympic esports may demoralize mainstream athletes and defeat the original purpose of the Olympics, which weren’t conceived as the arena for gamers to square it out. Change is needed, but the question “to what extent” still persists.