So the news of e-sports as officially a medal event for the 2022 Asian Games has obviously, invited some criticism. The definition of “sport” itself has been turned upside down with e-sports. It took me back to my days as a sport management student. One of my professors, Mr. Cant, himself a basketball and rugby player/coach, always defined sport as something to do with physical activity.
I remember once in our class discussion, he strongly objected to putting chess in the realm of sports. No, it can’t be, he told me. In chess, he said, you just sit in one place and maneuver your moves. It has nothing to do with any physical activity or exertion. As I now wonder, what Mr. Cant would make of e-sports as a medal event in a multisport event, I sit here conjuring up in my mind how e-sports could be combined with physical activity as well, to fit in Mr. Cant’s definition of ‘sport’.
This is how I imagine e-sports event taking placing at the 2022 Asian Games. In a large stadium, in the middle would be a setup where computer consoles would be placed in a circle. These computers would be connected to large screens across the stadium for the spectators to cheer their athletes performance on the consoles. E-sports athletes (athletes? oh well, never mind!) will occupy their seats and go through various heats based on timings. Yeah, just like in the various athletic events. Once they are done on their consoles, they’ll then move on the track and participate in 100m, 200m and 400m races (depending upon their own choice). Combined timings of both the events (on console and on track) would be used and top three finishers would be the medal winners.
The same thing could be applied to other e-sports, like target hitting ones. These e-athletes take part in say, shooting or archery. After they are done shooting on computer screens they move to real shooting ranges or archery fields and hit the targets in real. Computer FIFA players too can follow this pattern. If they already know the game and its rules, it should be easy to put it in practice on the field. Of course, football/soccer being a team sport, the rules and regulations of e-football and field football needs to be worked out. In short, a work in progress.
This model could be applied to all sport across the e-sports spectrum. And some possibly could be mixed and match too. Run on the console and then shoot in the shooting ring. Let the participants have a choice of events. Does it sound complicated? Probably, yes. But once it is all worked out, run as a test event on smaller scale, and later it surely could be fine tuned for bigger stage events. Maybe this could be tried out at the 2017 Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games in Ashgabat, where e-sports is a demonstration sport. Let e-players wrestle on the screen and then wrestle it out on the floor, jump as many hurdles on the screen and then jump the hurdles in the equestrian events or shoot the hoops on screen and then move to the basketball court.
While traditional sports jostle for space in the already crowded multisport events like the Olympics, Asian Games, Pan-American Games and many other events, e-sports has found its entry without any opposition as such. Of course, commercial side of things have a huge role in the fast tracking of e-sports, and yet one cannot but wonder if there is more done to attract youth to sports fields. To make sports more accessible, to clean up the mess most sport federations find themselves in, to deal with drugs, match-fixing, bribery and many such other scandals. In short, to restore faith of the youth in sporting bodies and sports in general. Of course, this is not going to happen, even for the most optimistic person out there.
By the looks of it, e-sports is here to stay. How about we make it work then through combining it with traditional field/on court sports? Maybe that way we would still be able to adhere to the definition of ‘sport’, and satisfy both the traditionalists and as well as help attract the screen-attached, screen-swiping youth generation.
And, oh, by the way, I am still trying to understand why is e-sports even put in the bracket of sports.