NOTE: The views expressed in this EDITORIAL do not necessarily reflect the views of Detroit Sports Nation or a majority of its writers and should not be misconstrued as such. The views contained within are the views of the author and the author alone.
Video games are a very large part of the cultural pantheon of modern day America.
There is a variety of video gaming titles and series that have garnered as much praise and reaction as movies and other forms of media over recent years. Games like the ‘Grand Theft Auto’ series, ‘Bioshock’ series, ‘Fallout’ series, and The Last of Us are just a few that can be viewed as a poster child to represent the utmost staying power and quality of video games.
The competitive side of video games has rode the coattails of these adored pieces of art into the forefront as well. MOBAs (multiple online battle arena) in particular have created a whole new subsection of the video game world.
MOBAs have groups of gamers pair up into teams to battle toward a common objective. Teamwork and strategy are particularly important as each team must utilize battle tactics and complementary gameplay in order to defeat equally-skilled players, by capturing objectives and destroying enemy-owned structures.
MOBA games such as ‘Smite’, ‘Defense of the Ancients’, and ‘League of Legends’ have spawned tournaments through a collective category aptly labeled eSports. Teams from around the world have been formed of players who excel and champion in the aforementioned games.
These eSports tournaments have grown exponentially and at times had as many viewers as some major American sporting events. The eSports scene has even brought in team sponsors to promote product and give teams an extra gear, just like American athletes. The eSports enivronment is also worldwide, lending to a multi-cultural fanbase that is equally as diverse as sports fans.
This giant boom in the cultural relevance and financial growth of eSports has prompted ESPN to create a section of their website to be dedicated to covering eSports.
This brings up the question for all sports fans out there: Should eSports be embraced and accepted by sports fans as part of the pantheon of American athletics?
My answer to this inquiry is simple: not as an athletic sport.
I personally believe that while the physical skills needed to excel at an eSports game are admirable and impressive, they simply do not match the level of physicality when compared to athletes playing any of the five major sports in this country. The type of physical activity and skill seen in hockey, soccer, football, basketball, and baseball are far and away more physically straining/challenging to those who participate.
Anyone who has had two-a-days, ran the bases multiple times, done court suicides, or ran a six-minute mile know the pain and dedication put into doing those feats. eSports individuals put hours and hours of their time into mastering their craft, but they simply don’t know the struggle and the pain that athletes of the major sports have.
While they are not recognized as athletes in the same sense as the American population has grown to accustomed to, eSports is a product with an emerging fan base capable of bringing in ratings and money. The marketing and the sponsors are present to make eSports more relevant in not just the United States, but around the world.
The issue I have with ESPN and others adopting eSports into the rest of the sports community is comparing apples to oranges.
eSports are important, their fans are as fierce and passionate as any fan of the Detroit Lions or the Chicago Cubs. However, they are not what I would consider a true sport.
And that is fine, because I feel the proper way to respect and admire the phenomenon of eSports is to compare it to nothing and let it grow into its own identity without pressure from “peers” it is being grouped with.