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The development of the personal computer marked the emergence of a new genre of competitive games referred to as “eSports.” The popularity of eSports has led to a greater focus on the controversial issue of whether video games should be considered a sport or not. Video games share numerous similarities with conventional sporting events such as massive audiences, high earnings, and the application of rigorous strategy and skills. Proponents of video games present the aforementioned similarities to support the argument of classification as a sport. However, the similarities are not good enough reasons to promote competitive games to a sport. Video games should not be considered a sport because they do not involve any physical exertion or the application of athletic ability that conventional sports require.
Definition, Background, and History
A Sport is a contest in which people participate in a physical activity, compete against each other, and follow certain rules (Brookey & Oates, 2015). A recent study conducted by Baronowski et al. (2012) found out that providing active video games to children does not provide any health benefit to children because it does not additional physical activity when compared to passive video games. In the spring of 2015, a cable and satellite television channel (ESPN) aired a tournament of college students competing in a video game known as “Heroes of the Storm.” The broadcast was criticised by individuals who were opposed to the classification of video games as a sport.
Opponents of video games argue that television networks that are devoted to sports should only broadcast tournaments that involve physical activity (Borg, 2015). One of the features of conventional sports is organisation. Sports are organised into leagues that are differentiated by the levels of expertise possessed by players. In contrast, video game tournaments are poorly-organised (Borg, 2015). The main weakness of video game leagues is the lack of a proper strategy to manage players. The only strategy used is the imposition of fines. Moreover, players can play independently or participate in international competitions without joining any league (Borg, 2015). This essay will argue that video games should not be considered a sport because of the lack of physical exertion, which encourages sedentary lifestyles that are non-existent in conventional sports.
Playing video games is not a sport but a hobby. It is a pastime activity that people engage in when they are bored or when they want to relax. The difference between a sport and a competitive hobby is the amount of physical exertion involved (Cashmore, 2010). Many people choose video games as hobbies because they do not involve physical movement. According to the World Health Organisation, one of the challenges that young people face is the negative health effect of embracing sedentary lifestyles because they encourage the development of conditions such as obesity and diseases such as diabetes. The organisation recommends participation in sports as one of the strategies to reduce the incidence of diabetes and obesity among children and young people. Video games are not recommended because they encourage sedentary lifestyles that numb people to the world around them. Prior to the emergence of the personal computer, sports were primarily defined by the amount of physical and mental strength required to master an activity and gain excellence (Cashmore, 2010). In contemporary society, international tournaments only include events that involve physical contests of strength and stamina. After the emergence of the personal computer, the term “eSports’ was coined to refer to games played through the aid of electronic devices (Newman, 2008).
Lack of Physical Activity
Video games should not be considered a sport because they do not involve physical activity (Brookey & Oates, 2015). Online multiplayer games require significant amount of training, skill, and strategy. However, mental exertion cannot be compared to physical exertion. Video games require mental exertion only while conventional sports require both mental and physical exertion (Berger, 2002). The lack of physical exertion in video games denies them the opportunity to be considered a sport. Video games are gradually becoming the most common pastime activity among young people and some adults (Vorderer & Bryant, 2012).
They should not be considered a sport because even though they have similarities with conventional sports, they do not involve physical movement (Consalvo, Mitgutsch, & Stein, 2013). Sports are beneficial because they enhance physical fitness, aid in weight loss, strengthen the body, and encourage the development of healthy eating habits. None of these benefits can be enjoyed from playing video games. Researchers have argued that video games players do not become physically stronger or healthier because of the lack of physical exertion (Baronowski et al., 2012). Conventional sports and video games require significant amount of training, strategy, commitment, and mental acuity (Berger, 2002). However, the lack of physical activity disqualifies video games from receiving the sport status. Mastering a sport like basketball or football takes time, energy, and effort (Brookey & Oates, 2015).
Lack of Athletic Ability
Not only do people fail to understand that video games cannot be considered a sport because of lack of physical exertion, but also lack the application of athletic ability. Players do not need to possess any athletic ability in order to participate in tournaments. Conventional sports such as football, basketball, tennis, swimming, and cycling entail great commitment and training (Cashmore, 2010). Great athletic ability is attained through intensive physical training and mental conditioning. Any person can become great at playing video games because it does not require any athletic ability (Berger, 2002). The only physical movement involved in playing video games is the movement of fingers when pressing buttons on the controller. The skills needed to play video games are developed mentally and not physically (Vorderer & Bryant, 2012). Athletic prowess is achieved by undergoing brutal sessions of physical and mental conditioning for a certain period of time (Cashmore, 2010). Athletes regularly test the limits of their abilities by enduring the pain of suffering life-threatening injuries. Moreover, the exhaustion experienced in conventional sport comes from physical and mental exertion and has numerous health benefits (Cashmore, 2010).
Video games should not be considered a sport because they neither involve physical exertion nor the application of athletic ability. However, many people feel that the amount of training, strategy, and mental exertion required to play video games are similar to those involved in conventional sports (Young, 2016). Some researchers argue that just like conventional sports, video games attract massive audiences, are highly competitive, earn professional players a lot of money, and have become a major part of mainstream cable television networks’ programming (Consalvo et al., 2013). For example, the 2013 League of Legends Championship attracted more than 32 million fans and generated millions in revenue.
The increased popularity of eSports is an indication video games will eventually be a critical component of people’s daily lives. More people are embracing video games and as a result, spending time and effort improving their skills. Gaining mastery in video games requires the same level of training and specialisation that is applied in conventional sport (Newman, 2008). In that regard, video games should be considered a sport because they share several similarities with conventional sports. Some researchers may argue that active video games enable players to engage in moderate and vigorous physical activity, and a result, enjoy the benefits of physical activity (Consalvo et al., 2013). They argue that unlike passive video games, active video games involve physical exertion.
The evidence above may be convincing but if we examine it deeper we will see that no matter how evolved or advanced video games become, they will never involve physical exertion or application of athletic ability. Whilst many people may feel that active video games involve varying degrees of moderate and vigorous physical activity, current research illustrates the opposite. For example, a study conducted by Baronowski et al. (2012) did not find any relationship between physical activity and active video games. As mentioned earlier, one of the main characteristics of a sport is physical activity. Video games are gaining more popularity as technology advances and as eSports become a source of income (Young, 2016). However, it is highly unlikely that video games will be played at any international event involving conventional sports.
The issue of classifying video games as a sport or not is highly controversial. Video games tournaments have rules, people compete against each other, and excellence requires significant amounts of training, skills, strategy, and coordination. Although the mastery of video games requires great amounts of mental exertion, dedication, and training, the little physical activity involved disqualifies them from receiving the sport status. The main findings of my research were; active and passive video games do not involve any physical exertion and athletic ability is not a requirement. Therefore, Video games should not be considered a sport because they do not involve any physical exertion or the application of athletic ability that conventional sports require.
Berger, A. A. (2002). Video games: a popular culture phenomenon. New York, NY: Transaction Publishers.
Baronowski, T., Abdelsamad, D., Baronowski, J., O’Connor, T. M., Thompson, D., Barnett, A.,…Chen, T-A. (2012). Impact of an active video game on healthy children’s physical activity. Paediatrics, 129(3), 636-642.
Borg, O. J. (2015). Is computer gaming really sport? Web.
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Brookey, R. A., & Oates, T. P. (2015). Playing to win: sports, video games, and the culture of play. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.
Cashmore, E. (2010). Making sense of sports. New York, NY: Taylor & Francis.
Consalvo, M., Mitgutsch, K., & Stein, A. (2013). Sports videogames. New York, NY: Routledge.
Newman, J. (2008). Playing with videogames. New York, NY: Routledge.
Vorderer, P., & Bryant, J. (2012). Playing video games: motives, responses, and consequences. New York, NY: Routledge.
Young, H. (2016). Seven-figure salaries, sold-out stadiums: is pro video gaming a sport? Web.