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Unpopular Opinion: Is eSports a real Sport?

Words by: Samuel Ephraim Caneja

When you hear the word ‘sports’ the first thing that usually comes in mind would be the word ‘physical’. In relation to that, the term ‘physically fit’ is usually addressed to athletes who would dedicate long hours of training in order to be in top shape. Take Michael Phelps as an example- the most decorated Olympian wouldn’t train for a measly thirty minutes or an hour. He would at least train for five to six hours a day to be the best in what he does. Another example would be an average NBA player. They would also train for three hours or more so that they can develop their individual skills as well as team chemistry with one another.

In this day and age, a new breed of so-called athletes are slowly stepping into the limelight. These athletes don’t necessarily have to be fit, but they have the skill for the sport and train more than the average NBA player! However, their prominent presence today sparks a widely debated issue that has been circling for years now. This is because the sport, or rather the game, that they train long hours for are what they call Electronic Sports (eSports). Electronic Sports in its basic definition is competitive video gaming. It uses video games, to name a few: Dota 2, League of Legends, Halo 5, Call of Duty, Tekken, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS: GO) as a medium to showcase their talents and skills. It is mind boggling why people train for these games and it begs the question, is eSports a real sport?

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(The culmination of every eSports World Championships) (c) flickr

There are a few reasons as to why people would find these eSports a so-called sport. However, before tackling this discussion, a brief definition of the term ‘sport’ must be presented. As defined by Oxford dictionary, it is an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment. The words “physical exertion”, “skill”, and “individual or team competition” would be looked upon.

Like any other regular sport, eSports exert the same amount of effort when playing the game. For purpose of comparison, an athlete from the NBA can be likened to an athlete from eSports. In an interview of Men’s Fitness, former Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant was asked how long he trains in a week. His answer was four hours or so a day; that is about twenty-eight hours a week dedicated to training only. On the other hand, athletes of the team and organization Evil Geniuses (EG), who plays a plethora of games such as Dota 2, Halo 5, and Call of Duty, train for up to twelve hours a day. That’s about eighty-four hours a week!

In basketball, the game has four quarters that can be divided into two parts: first half and second half. For each quarter, twelve minutes are allotted for athletes to play and give their all to win the game. In total, a player would be playing at a maximum of forty-eight minutes, with an additional five minutes if the game goes into overtime (OT). On the other hand, in Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) competitions work differently. There is no allotted time for athletes in a game of Dota 2. The clock would just keep on ticking until one team emerges victorious or the other team concedes. On average, one game lasts for thirty to forty minutes! That is already two or three quarters in a basketball game! Not to mention, eSports athletes have to play two to three matches in order to win a game. On average, the total playing minutes would be around sixty to one hundred and twenty minutes!

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(A broken-hearted player after losing the final game)  (c)flickr

Like any traditional sport athletes, eSports would require athletes to have certain skills in order for them to compete. In the NBA, athletes would have at least have the basic skill of the game. This includes passing, dribbling, guarding, blocking, and shooting the ball in order for them to compete. For eSports athletes, the set of skills that they need to possess are hand-eye coordination, analytical skill, team coordination, and critical thinking. All these traits are obtained and refined through long hours of training and through their victories and defeats. It is very important for them to have these skills because the flow of the game that they are playing can change in an instant; the other team may use  different tactics that may change the course of the game, for example. Athletes must learn to adapt to these and they must be quick about it in order to win. Without any of these skills, players would have a hard time competing; or worse, they will not be permitted by their team to even compete.

Both traditional sport and eSports are individual and team based competitions. In a traditional sport organization such as the NBA, players are hired by a company which they play for, and are handled by coaches and managers. They are also being sponsored by different companies or businesses. For example, Kyrie Irving plays for the NBA team Boston Celtics. Coaching him is Brad Stevens, and their sponsors, to name a few, are Adidas, Gatorade and Dunkin Donuts. In a similar way, eSports functions the same way as NBA, wherein there is a company, a coach, and sponsors. One such example is Sumail Hassan, who plays for the eSports organization called Evil Geniuses (EG). His coach is Avery Silverman, and his team’s sponsors are Monster Energy and Steelseries.

These two sports enter tournaments to compete with other teams. The end of these tournaments is to determine the best team in the league. In the NBA, there are about thirty teams in the organization, which is split into two conferences: East and West. They play against each other for a whole season, which happens from October to April. The end of the season culminates into the playoffs. This is where teams would compete to find out who the champion from each conference is. After knowing the champion from each conference, the two teams will face off to determine the best team overall in the conference.

ESports tends to function differently. Dota 2 for example has a system called the Major and Minor tournaments. Each region (USA, EU, SEA) would have these two types of tournaments, which teams may qualify for. The end of these tournaments is not just the prize pool money but also for qualifying points. These points are substantial in order for teams to qualify for the International, the culminating tournament of the year where teams compete with one another to find out who the best team in the world is.

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(Team Liquid winning The International 7 with a perfect run of 3-0) (c) flickr

Despite the similarities, many traditional sports fans would consider that eSports is not a real sport. They would rather see two teams physically competing against each other in a court or field instead of two teams sitting around competing in a virtual arena. On the other hand, people would agree that it is a sport and it deserves the same amount of respect as traditional sports would get. In retrospect, eSports can be considered as a sport.

Traditional sports teaches a person three basic things: perseverance, discipline, and determination. These are basic because these three are essentially what an athlete should have in order to excel in his sport. An athlete must be determined in his/her goal to be the best. That is why an athlete must persevere despite the challenges that awaits him/her. They must also be disciplined as to not falter in what he/she is doing.

These three basic can be seen as well in the athletes of eSports. They have the determination to be the best at what they, the discipline of training every day, and the perseverance to keep doing what they’re doing. Even though they have failed or lost so many times in the past, they bounce back from that and were able to learn from it. Some were able to bounce back so high that they became champions. Take Kuro Takhasomi, better known as Kuroky of Team Liquid in Dota 2, as an example- he has been competing for six consecutive years in Dota 2’s grandest competition, The International. Winning the International would signify that the person and his team are the best in the world. Six times that title has eluded poor Kuro. However, August twelve of this year, he finally won The International on its seventh year and he along with his teammates were crowned world champions for 2017.

There is also one thing that encompasses both traditional sports and eSports, and that is the act of sportsmanship. It is the act of fairness and generous behavior towards others in a competition. These two sports show true sportsmanship through their players whenever they would have a match. They would always pay their respects to whoever they are up against and would even go so far as to congratulate the winning team despite having lost themselves.

At the end of the day, it does not matter how traditional sports and eSports are alike or how eSports is better than traditional sports. This is because people would have a plethora of their own opinions and arguments about the topic and a never ending debate would be ensued. What really matters is how a person would play the game, eSports, and how it can bring out the best in him/her. That is how people can make eSports a real sport.

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(Winning the World Championships is every eSports athlete’s dream) (c) Flickr