Following a huge jump in popularity related to the recent suspension of traditional sports events, the world of competitive video gaming is continuing to make great strides in the right direction. The eSports industry that initially provided niche entertainment for a community of true gaming fans has quickly turned into a worldwide phenomenon, involved in major events and competitions ran at a massive scale.
With eSports as a whole quickly becoming more and more mainstream, both fans and large organizations are now beginning to wonder if we could see eSports becoming introduced into the Olympics anytime soon. While some positive statements have already been made by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), it is evident that there is still some way to go before gamers get the chance to watch their countries compete against each other in major eSports titles at the Olympics.
eSports vs Traditional Sports
It could be hard to draw parallels between Olympics soccer athletes and professional eSports players upon first impressions, but there are actually many ways in which eSports could be related to any current Olympic sport.
Most wouldn’t consider virtual sports athletes to have nearly as much skill and conditioning as Olympic athletes of any sport, but this doesn’t have to be true. eSports athletes contending in big competitions can often experience heartbeats of up to 180bpm, along with cortisol levels equivalent to that of racecar drivers. These gamers must remain extremely focused to come out on top of their competitors, often for longer periods of time than basketball, soccer, or baseball players would have to. g
While playing video games is not anywhere as physically strenuous as playing a full game of basketball, eSports athletes may from a broader perspective actually work harder and tax their minds more than a physical team sports player. In preparation for a competition, League of Legends players might perform more focused practice than Olympic athletes, often spending up to 12 hours a day playing the game, while also being on demonstration to viewers online.
How could eSports benefit the Olympics?
Introducing eSport events into the Olympics could benefit the IOC in a number of ways. Video game competition broadcasting is continuing to see a rise in viewership, and the Olympics realize the opportunity to capitalize off of this. While some concerns have been raised about how introducing video game titles into the event would coincide with Olympic values, the possibility is not completely counted out. While certain titles involving violence are unlikely to be featured anytime soon, other versions of eSports like sports simulations could be a possibility in the near future.
By introducing eSports into the Olympics, the IOC would also be targeting a new, younger demographic that is possibly not as involved in the event as other generations. The eSports community shows massive support to their favorite teams and players, and this type of engagement is something that the Olympics could benefit from greatly.
Other events such as the 2022 Asian Games have already announced competitive video games as an official medal event, leading the way for other organizations. While a lot of work will have to be done before something similar can happen with the Olympics, any development like this is a step in the right direction.
Where are eSports going in the future?
The IOC’s most recent statements regarding eSports in the Olympics tell us that if we are to see video games in the Olympics, they will more than likely be simulations of actual sports already demonstrated in the summer or winter event. World Sailing is one organization that has come forward with a proposal, and is suggesting to make their Virtual Regatta eSports game an official competitive sport.
Current eSports events are already massive, and are only going to continue growing. 495 million viewers tuned in to watch various eSports games and competitions in 2020, a number that establishes the industry as a mainstream form of entertainment. As well as this, live stream viewership doubled from 2019 to 2020, reaching a total of 3.94 trillion hours, which is also very closely related to the popularity of eSports, as livestreams are the most common form of online media used to watch eSports events.
With video games attracting more and more attention across various online media, it is very hard to imagine eSports suddenly halting its growth and becoming forgotten about. While the reality of seeing your favorite YouTuber win Olympic medals for a Fortnite Victory Royale may still be far-fetched, the potential held in eSports is big enough to make anything possible given enough time.