Asia’s biggest sporting event, the Asian Games, will include video game competitions alongside swimming and track-and-field for the first time.
According to Bloomberg, contestants from Saudia Arabia to Japan will battle it out across six titles in games such as League of Legends and StarCraft II.
This decision continues to spark the controversial question: Is video gaming an actual sport? Some athletes and fans don’t agree and believe medals should not be awarded for “what’s essentially skillful consumption of a corporate product.”
Its really a shift away from the Olympic ethos, Scott McGrory, 48, an Australian gold medalist in cycling and a sports broadcaster told Bloomberg. Its like saying, lets have a competition with the best accountants on the planet.
Critics view the inclusion of video gaming as a greedy tactic, a way for the organization to bend rules for the purpose of welcoming in a billion dollar video game industry and making the Olympic viewership demographic younger. Ironic considering the Olympic Charter historically said that mental or mechanical-driven activities were not permitted as sports.
Are gamers athletes too? For the first time, the #AsianGames will include #eSports alongside swimming and track-and-field. @ynakamura56 explains https://t.co/Eu8GyHuBUS #tictocnews https://t.co/8WYh0sNRWh
Theyve got Olympic ideals and they use all these slogans, but at the end of the day this is a big money-making machine, Mathew Jessep, a sports and esports lawyer said. If the Olympics want to continue making the sort of money theyve been making, they need to supplement the content. From a content play, esports is a definitive opportunity.”
This scenario becomes a bit tricky since Olympic organizers historically work with non-profit sports groups but video games are usually owned by for-profit businesses. Whether they choose a game from Electronic Arts Inc. or another company, that business will directly profit off of the large-scale visibility.
Asian Games organizer so far has no detailed explanation for how this year’s six titles will be chosen. The Asian Electronic Sports Federation, which oversaw the selection process, said it will be on a “stringent criteria,” according to a statement in May.
Debates on esports and whether it should be included in athletic competitions has been a tough conversation. This industry is exponentially growing, tournaments are becoming more popular and organizations are just trying to adjust along the way. But, will the adjustments make sense in the long run or is this simply a quick money grab?