Ladies and gentlemen, we're getting there. Though it's still enduring plenty of ridicule here in the Western part of the world in spite of its numbers, eSports is becoming a real, serious sport in the East.
The Asian Olympic Council has recently decided that competitive video games, aka eSports, is going to be on the official roster for the 2022 Asian Games in China.
The games, which are still five years off, will serve as a preliminary testing ground for #esport's possible inclusion in the worldwide Olympics. These things apparently take time and probably for good reason. After all, we're not even sure if eSports belong in the Olympic Games!
Olympic eSports: Testing Set To Begin This Year
The Asian Olympic Council is going to great lengths to warm people to the idea of eSports being on the Olympic roster. At this year's Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games, FIFA 2017, an unspecified MOBA (we presume either League of Legends or Dota 2) and an unnamed RTS (Starcraft 2?) will be played competitively as a preview of what's to come.
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And at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta and Palembang in Indonesia, an eSports demonstration event will be held as part of a run-up to the inclusion of video games in 2022.
An Inclusion Sponsored By Alibaba
Along with eSports’ admission into the Asian Games, the Olympic Council of Asia announced a partnership with the sports company Alisports—a subsidiary of Alibaba, which is basically the eBay of China.
Alisports will sponsor the events leading up to eSports' inclusion. Which is no surprise, as the company just invested $150 million in the International eSports Federation following the organization's submission—a sign that the company might aim to become the FIFA of the future international world of competitive video games. But the question still remains...
Does eSports Belong In The Olympics?
So, it seems that Asian officials have categorized eSports as an Olympic game. However, we'll have to wait a couple of years to see whether or not the International Olympic Committee agrees and permits professional players to compete in shooters and MOBAs alongside the Usain Bolts of the future.
There have been a few national and regional tournaments held in the East, but they've mostly been for the lulz. It's safe to assume that if a national team wants to win the Olympics, they'd have to consistently train together. This could complicate matters what with each player belonging to different sponsors. However, it's not entirely different from how it works in other club-focused sports like cycling, but it would mean that eSports has to change—some would say mature—quite a bit.
Competing In A Game Owned By Someone
While eSports has many things in common with a lot of other sports, there is one thing that sets competitive gaming apart from the rest of the olympic roster. Because at the end of the day, you're, as a professional athlete, competing through the medium of some corporation's product.
Blizzard, Riot or Valve own all the rights to whatever game you're competing in, which calls into play a whole series of conflicting interests that you don't see in basketball or soccer. Sure, FIFA is a powerful, international soccer organization, but they don't own the game. They can't copyright a soccer net or ball.
But the game companies can. They own the games, all of their intellectual property and can change the rules whenever they want. Which is very different from any other sport in the Olympics.
eSports Is Just Different
That's most likely something the International Olympics Committee will take into consideration when they, in some five to ten years, decide whether or not eSports is going to become a part of the Olympic Games.
The world of competitive video games might look very different at that time. We might have a free-to-play, non-profit, interest-free competitive video game that nullifies all of the issues above. Or eSports might be so widely recognized as a sport, it would just be weird not to include it like we saw with skateboarding and climbing.
In any case, we'll have to hold our horses for a little while longer as we look to Asia and how eSports are received there during both the 2018 and 2022 Asian Games.
Do you think eSports belong in the Olympics?