July 30, 2018
Issue 8 2018
On the Line

The Rise of Esports

When you think of Olympic athletes you probably don’t picture gamers. And you probably wouldn’t call League of Legends, Call of Duty, or Fortnite “sports”. But competitive video gaming or eSports is a billion-dollar industry that’s only getting bigger. 

In April it was announced eSports will be a medal event at the 2022 Asian Games. It is even now being considered as a demonstrative sport for the 2024 Olympics in Paris.

An eSports competition looks a little bit like a international netball match. You enter an arena with tiered seating but instead of there being a court, there are a row of computers and desk chairs sitting on a stage, and towering over those are huge LED screens. The atmosphere is similar to a concert or stage show. Lights, camera and a whole lot of action.

Video game journalist Baz Macdonald explains if you understand eSports, and the level of skill involved at a professional level, it makes sense that it could be considered for the Olympics.

“When you strip away all the fantasy and mayhem of an eSport, there are the same types of rules and strategy as you find with any sport” he says.

Sure, gamers don’t spend hours at the gym, or have a strict nutritional plan. But, they do require extremely fast reactions and the ability to strategise on the go. Some professional players practise for 14 hours a day.

One Massey student knows all about this lifestyle.

Communication Student Murphy Cater competes at eSports tournaments every Sunday.

“Gaming is what I do most in my life outside of uni, it’s become the equivalent of a sport for me,” he says.

Murphy recently competed in Crush Counter Capital in Wellington run by his sponsor and owner of Expansion New Zealand, Jackson Bradly. Earlier this year he also travelled to Melbourne for the Battle Arena Melbourne tournament.

He believes the introduction of eSports to the Olympics is well overdue considering how big the industry is becoming.

“Everyone either plays or has played a video game so promiting eSports as a potential career is fantastic and I can’t wait to see how it’s recieved at the Olympic games” he says.

However, some aren’t convinced.

“I don’t know much about it, but how can people sitting on thier butts, moving their thumbs possibly be at the same event as the world’s greatest sprinters, swimmers, and gymnasts,” one Massey student said.

Macdonald agrees that the general population may not be ready for eSports to be part of the Olympics.

“My concern is that the inclusion could result in a backlash against the medium which could further engender this gamer versus non-gamer mentality.”

Esports is only set to be a demonstrative sport at the games meaning it is not yet an official Olympic sport. The International Olympic Comittee want to promote the trend and showcase that they are in touch with the modern world. They have already included surfing and skateboarding as official sports and in doing so, will attract a different audience.

The Olympics exhibit fair play and inclusion so its fair that these evolving sports are promoted at the world’s largest sporting event. But whether or not eSports is in fact a ‘sport’ is still up for debate.

In an interview on Radio New Zealand earlier this month Sport New Zealand Ceo Pete Miskimin summed it up when he said, “if you’d had said to me five to 10 years ago was skateboarding a sport, there’d be a lot of people saying no it’s not and yet now it’s at the Olympic games. And I think we are in that phenomenon with eSports”.

Pass or play: Skateboarding

Like snowboarding many view it as a hobby as opposed to a sport. But skateboarding is taking the world by storm. Now officially an Olympic sport, more people are hitting the streets and giving skateboarding a go.

Competitive skateboarding has many spheres including freestyle skating, downhill skating, and vert/transition skating (skating in a half-pipe).

There aren’t many official skateboarding clubs in New Zealand and instead it’s a community formed on the streets and at skate parks. Most skaters meet at New Zealand’s biggest skating competitions including Bowlzilla- a half-pipe skating competition in Wellington which attracts skaters from all over the world.

Ponder that:

Football fans said it had been 28 years since England qualified for the world cup quarter finals, but it has actually only been three. It’s just been 28 years since the men made it in.