I have never been much of a gamer, but I have played a lot of sport throughout my lifetime. Nevertheless, I feel confident enough to say that e-sports are not sports, for the following reasons:
Firstly, to me a sport is an activity that requires strenuous physical exertion, like running, swimming, cycling, track and field, skiing, and a range of team sports. In contrast, sitting in front of a computer monitor manipulating characters on a screen using your fingers and thumbs on a game controller is not physical exertion. You may develop a hand cramp as a result of playing too many games for too long, but it simply isn’t comparable to genuine physical exertion in any shape or form.
Secondly, a sport is an activity that requires mental and physical skills to perform successfully. Top professional athletes have improved their skills through hard physical training from a young age. They dedicate hours in the gym, on the track, on the slopes, on the field, in the pool, etc. in order to become the best of the best. Playing video games, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to require physical or mental skills in the same way as sports. I wouldn’t question that it takes skill to become a good video game player, because it requires sharp reflexes, a memory, and a perfect strategy to make progress in video games. However, I still wouldn’t consider a top video game player to be a top athlete in any sense. They may have become highly proficient at playing certain games, but it would be completely misguided to claim that they are an athlete in the same sense as Usain Bolt or Roger Federer. A top athlete is a different type of person from a top gamer.
Thirdly, a sport is an activity that can be viewed by spectators at a venue or on television. We can experience the electricity of the crowd when Tiger Woods chips in a miracle shot in a golf major, the heartbreak of Belgium coming from behind to knock Japan out of the football World Cup, and the happiness from Naomi Osaka claiming her first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open. In contrast, gaming is hardly a spectator-friendly activity. I would go as far as to say that anybody who is watching someone else play a video game would much prefer to be playing the game themselves. It is difficult to have any emotional investment in the outcome of someone playing a video game, even if it’s a two-player game. For example, if two gamers were taking each other on at a basketball video game, there is an overwhelming feeling that they should hit the court and play a real game of basketball instead.
For the reasons presented in this essay, I don’t think that video games are sports in any sense of the word. Furthermore, even if video games become more physically interactive through the rise of virtual reality technology, there will always be a fundamental difference between video games and sports.
strenuous (adjective) – requiring you to use a lot of effort, energy or strength
exertion (noun) – great physical or mental effort
proficient (adjective) – to be very skilful at something that you have learned
interactive (adjective) – reacting directly to the information and instructions given; allowing direct communication between the device and the user