E-sports are a growing industry. This type of entertainment is enjoyed by fans of all ages and does not depend upon your physical dominance. There are individuals on social media who have learned to make a living recording themselves playing these sports. Sports channels carry leagues and tournaments of e-sports. It is impossible to deny their growth, but the question remains, “Are e-sports a real sport?”
A sport is traditionally an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another for entertainment. E-sports’s defining quality that sets it apart from other sports is the element of video, which is a stark contrast to the physical exertion required to fit the bill of a traditional sport. With that in mind, no, I do not consider e-sports to be realistically comparable to the act of physically playing a game. In some respects, sports vs. e-sports isn’t too far removed from reality vs. virtual reality. While e-sports do require a certain set of skills, not the least of which being critical thinking and fine motor development, it is possible to be a star e-athlete and still lack the ability to connect real live bat to ball, ball to net, or run those 100 yards. This is not to devalue the credibility of e-sports as entertainment or the talent involved in participating, but an e-sport is fundamentally different than a sport.
Plenty of people are sports enthusiasts who, for any variety of reasons, can’t or don’t participate in playing the game they love. It could be lack of physical ability, lack of talent, lack of time, etc., that gets in the way of them physically engaging in sports. E-sports provides these fans a way in which to be a part of the game in a different way, often under the moniker of their favorite teams and players. Additionally, many e-sports fans don’t necessarily enjoy watching or playing sports, but do like playing the video game equivalent. Of course, there are inherent benefits to doing something you enjoy. Like sports, e-sports can involve teams, rivals, fans, and friends, creating an atmosphere of camaraderie and building relationships that may not otherwise have been formed. Additionally, the games engage hand-eye coordination, as well as challenge the mind to make quick decisions and form strategic plans. That said, like most things, moderation would have to be exercised as video gaming provides no such exercise for the body and can lead to certain health disadvantages, such as weight gain, eye strain, and even sleep disorders.
A couple decades ago, the WWF (now known as the WWE) raised a similar question between their world of “pro-wrestling” and the sport of amateur wrestling. Pro-wrestling did require physical prowess, though the main goal was to entertain arenas through an exaggerated caricature depiction of wrestling moves. Scripted dramas played out in the form of over-the-top monologues and soap opera-style disputes between the wrestlers. Many argued that, despite the strength and agility required to pull off the moves, there was no future in a “fake” version of a real sport. This was in spite of the fact “fake” wrestling had been going on for a long time at fairs and traveling side-shows. As evidenced by the multi-million dollar industry the WWE came to be, however, it obviously filled a void for fans, just as e-sports are appealing, not only to the same fans who are sports enthusiasts, but to those who are only drawn in by the video game element. To these people, whether or not e-sports are “real” sports doesn’t matter as much as the entertainment factor. They enjoy what they’re doing and I think this market will only grow as technology continues to advance, providing realistic graphics, as well as interactive opportunities to feel connected to a larger audience all over the world.