One thing that’s been making waves in the video game world is the possibility that eSports will be entering the sporting world of the actual Olympics. For gamers all over the world, this is big news. The mere chance of playing video games may net you a medal in the Olympics is pretty mind blowing. This may legitimize eSports for mainstream audiences as it may prove that there is some physical and mental aptitude involved if the Olympic board approves this. This may also may get more people to watch the actual Olympics as well because worldwide viewership of video game tournaments have now exceeded the viewership numbers of even some sporting events. If it does happen, it does seem like a good thing, right?
It does seem like it but looks can be deceiving. As much as I would love to turn on the Olympics and see people playing some really intense games of League of Legends, Counter Strike and Street Fighter, in the long run, I don’t believe the world of eSports need to mix with the Olympics.
Us gamers know playing video games competitively is actually an arduous task. Just ask anyone who’s played a fighting game like Street Fighter or a first person shooter like Counter Strike and they’ll tell you there’s a huge skill gap between someone who knows how to play the game for enjoyment versus someone who plays everyday to be the best. The same thing can also be said for games that involve a lot of teamwork and communication like League of Legends. There’s a whole mess of training involved just to make sure you can bust out that super heavy damaging combo consistently, sniping that opponent from far away while bunny hopping or just having a well oiled team ganking an unsuspecting champion to oblivion before he knows what’s happening.
Now, while we know this because we play video games, this fact isn’t all that evident to the rest of the world. They just think playing video games competitively can’t be all that difficult. They can’t fathom that getting good at video games takes a whole lot of work and how stressful playing to win can be. To them, there’s no way video games can be anything than a childish pastime and they definitely won’t accept it being in the realm of the Olympics.
So, with this in mind, do we really need the controversy? eSports has an incredibly good thing going by itself. It’s become the huge thing it’s become because of all the passionate gamers all over the world despite all of the haters. You know there’s going to be a lot of pushback if they do make gaming a medal event and I don’t think the world of gaming needs to deal with it. In fact, I don’t think we’ll deal with the negative criticism the mainstream media will be doling out on the decision if it does pass.
More importantly, do we really need mainstream recognition that being in the Olympics may provide? I would think one of the biggest reasons why eSports may be coming to the Olympics is because it will draw in viewers, particularly the younger demographic. Most non-gamers still think eSports is still small potatoes because, one, they think that traditional TV broadcasting is still the way to watch stuff without even realizing that the Internet has slowly been becoming the way young people consume their TV and, two, they cannot comprehend that people will be interested in watching other people play video games. They really have no idea that watching people playing video games routinely gets millions of viewers from all over the world via platforms like Twitch.
It actually feels more like the Olympics needs eSports more than eSports needs the Olympics. To the Olympic committee, they probably look at the burgeoning numbers that eSports bring in and think that would translate to ratings if they did show games like League of Legends and Counter-Strike like they were regular events. Now, if they did do this, I don’t think it’ll help bring up their viewership numbers on TV, however. Most gamers who do regularly watch eSports are still attuned to watching events on Twitch. We have flirted with trying to watch gaming events on regular TV like this year’s EVO Street Fighter V and Smash Bros. Finals on ESPN2 and Disney XD and they have pulled in impressive numbers. However, I still think the preferred method of most gamers would be Twitch and the like just because we’ve gotten so accustomed to it. I’m not saying that’s not going to change in the future. I just think it won’t bring in the people to watching the Olympics as they think it would.
There’s also a possibility that their choice of what games to be in the Olympics may upset some gamers. Most eSports have dedicated fanbases and they may not take it all that well if the game that the support will not be included.It’s a foregone conclusion that League of Legends will be their first choice, but what about the other games? Will League of Legends be in but Defense of the Ancients out? Will you have Counter-Strike but not Call of Duty? How about Street Fighter, Injustice, Tekken on Smash Bros? There’s only a limited number of games they can include and that won’t sit well with some.
In a weird way, I would rather that eSports, instead of joining the Olympics, create their own version of the sporting event, wherein there are different games where you can win medals. And it doesn’t have to be all competitive games. There could be events like speedruns on specific games or which country can get the highest score in others. But, as much as I would want the “eOlympics” to happen, it’ll take a massive concerted effort from organizers to actually get the word out. I mean, did anyone know that there was something called the eGames during the Rio Olympics last year?
Now, I’m not saying that I’m totally against eSports becoming actual events in the Olympics in the future. I just think the time isn’t right yet. They still have to get all their ducks in a row to make sure that they can actually pull it off well. They can’t go in haphazardly, dazzled by the numbers eSports viewership pulls in. They will have to take it much more seriously than they think because, if they don’t execute it well, it’s going alienate both non-gaming and gaming audiences. They will need to find a way for mainstream media to cover them with all the solemness as the older events. They’ll also need to make sure that the eSports don’t lose the spirit that made eSports big in the first place. It’s a delicate balance and I don’t think anyone’s really ready for it.
Do you think it’s a good idea to let eSports in the Olympics? Let me know in the comments section below!