Emaan Bangash
Managing Editor

Why competitive gaming is a sport

Esports, short for “electronic sports,” has taken the world by storm with its lavish tournaments, millions of fans and expanding library of esports games. It’s a $1.5 billion industry, according to PC Gamer, and is growing tenfold. Even though “sports” is in the name, esports still isn’t taken as seriously as other traditional sports. In an ever-changing world, we need to give esports a chance, and that starts with recognizing them as a sport. 

The Oxford Dictionary defines sports as an activity that requires physical exertion, skill and individuals or teams must compete against one another either for competition or entertainment. One could argue that not all sports completely fit this definition. For example, golf is widely considered a sport, but requires very little physical exertion other than swinging a club and walking from hole to hole. It can be played by the elderly, overweight or non-athletic. Additionally, darts are defined as a sport. BBC Sports reports on darts just like any other sport, but what physical exertion is required to toss a dart? If sports are going to be defined by how rigorous they are, golf and darts definitely shouldn’t be considered sports. However, they are, and because the physical exertion part of the definition can be applied to many different games and sports, from varying degrees of rigor, it doesn’t seem fair to dismiss esports as not a sport. 

But what physical exertion is required in esports besides clicking a mouse and some keyboard keys? Beyond these movements, esports requires a capacity to sit for hours in extreme concentration and engage in continuous mental exertion in a potentially stressful environment. Professional esports players often practice for 10 hours straight a day, and it’s no joke. According to scientists at the German Sport University, esports players produce the same amount of cortisol as race car drivers, and their pulses are often at 160-180 beats per minute. Like many sports, it requires fast reflexes, quick thinking, high quality hand-eye coordination and competitive spirit.

Skills, training and teamplay, all of which encompass what is sports, are present in esports as well. These games are a lot more difficult than you might think when in a competitive setting. Esports players often have to think on their feet, whether it’s making sure a teammate is healed up enough during team-fights or making that perfect skill-shot that kills off the enemy team’s strongest player. 

Most esports games require intense teamplay, where all players have to be thinking about the consequences of their actions as well as their teammates. In the game “League of Legends” for example, teams are made up of five players and must take care of their own side of the map as well as constantly being aware of others invading or ambushing them. Professional esports players beat out thousands of the best players in the world to get into the positions they’re in, which requires ample dedication, mental capacity and a willingness to practice continuously (like any other person playing a sport). It’s a high-stakes environment with almost as much competition, teamplay and rigor as more physically exertive sports.

One might argue that esports promotes poor fitness. It’s not healthy to play in front of a screen for hours, yes, but don’t be quick to equate esports to the guy playing video games all day in his basement. Professional esports players now have gym trainings, nutritionists and coaches to maintain their physical fitness. According to MensHealth.com, professional “Heroes of the Storm” player and eighth best in the world in 2018 Mike “Glaurung” Fisk tries to include a daily workout regime after his practice, which consists of 100 sit-ups, 100 push-ups and 10 pistol squats. 

While in the past, professional esports players often disregarded their health in favor of training for hours and hours, esports companies are starting to recognize that a healthy body equals a healthy mind. According to Independent.co, in 2018 European esports company Rfrsh Entertainment hired physical trainers, a doctor, a massage therapist, a sports psychologist and a nutritionist to ensure players in their “League of Legends” and “Counter Strike: Global Offensive” teams would perform better than when they lived their sedentary lifestyles, and the numbers clearly show this was the case. For example, in 2018, their “Counter Strike: Global Offensive” team Astralis won competitions and earned $3.7 million prize money compared to their previous sedentary and unhealthy lifestyle in the year 2017 that won them comparatively little. Even UTD’s head esports coach Greg Adler said the esports teams will require mandatory gym hours starting in the upcoming semester. With esports players physically training like athletes would, esports doesn’t promote obesity and unhealthy lifestyles, and therefore should be considered on-par to other sports. 

Esports can be considered sports because they are challenging and demanding both physically and mentally, require as many skills and competition and require more than just a sedentary average player. The trouble with not treating esports as a sport is that it’s often written off as just people gathering together playing video games. Players aren’t taken as seriously as players of other sports, which is a shame considering the amount of effort, dedication and time professional players put into improving their craft. Traditional sports have been around for forever, but why can’t new sports step into the spotlight? Take a second to recognize that there is more to esports players than just people sitting behind a screen for hours playing their favorite video games. Support your own teams at UTD. The world is changing so rapidly, and it would do people some good to be more accepting of new, cool things they may not understand.