Esports at the Olympic Games? The debate is one to keep an eye on
It’s a question that is bubbling under the surface, and will most certainly rise to the top at some point very soon: should esports be included in the Olympic Games?
As the Mail Online’s esports journalist Jack Stewart wrote this week, there have been more comments on the matter in recent weeks and not all have come from a place of understanding and acceptance.
It was always going to be that way. You would expect a certain reticence from some older, established members of the industry, but you get the feeling that there are plenty who will question whether or not we should be thinking of the sector in the same category as sport in the first place. Gaming as a non-competitive pastime will already have connotations to certain kinds of people already.
What stands out from Stewart’s article (an interesting read for those who would like to get a feel for the issues at stake in this debate) is the fact that there appear to be pros and cons from the point of view of esports and from the point of view of the Olympic Games themselves.
On the one hand, you have those among the established order who are against admitting esports for the reasons you’d expect. That’s straightforward enough. There are always people who fear change or upheaval: the Church used to excommunicate members of the new-fangled profession of acting.
There are also those who feel as though the Olympics needs to broaden its horizons to attract a younger audience, and who worry that over the years interest in traditional sports will decline.
But there are pros and cons amongst those on the esports side of things, too. Stewart’s own argument is that being an Olympic sport raises the profile of esports which is still a growing industry and can do with the boost. Indeed, whatever media or public backlash suffered because of the controversy of its inclusion will only serve to shine the spotlight on esports – by then it won’t be niche anymore as everyone will have heard of it. Having gold medals up for grabs probably do that, too.
Perhaps the most interesting take of the lot, however, comes from esports commentator Paul Chaloner, who is quoted as saying, “the Olympics need us more than we need them, I think there’s limited benefit for esports.” It’s perhaps a point of view that not too many casual onlookers in the sports industry, who are interested in the rise of esports but are on the outside looking in, would have considered. But it’s worth questioning whether tying esports so firmly with traditional sports – and no event is as traditional as the Summer Games – is actually beneficial for esports.
Undoubtedly this is a question which will rumble on over the next few years. More arguments will advance, opinions will change, and so too may the most popular games. From the perspective of interested onlookers within the sports industry, this is definitely a debate to keep an eye on.
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