Are E-Sports A Real Sport?


Updated: 2013-03-29

A poster in a Chinese college reads

 “The better you play games, the longer you beg for food”.

When we talk about sports, the things that come to our mind are football, soccer, or basketball. So what about electronic sports, when players gather to compete in video games?

The General Administration of Sport of China announced the final lineup for the Asian Indoor-Martial Arts Games to be held this late June in South Korea.Notably, the 17-person national electronic sports team will play in League of Legends, Star Craft 2, FIFA 13 and Need for Speed.

The little-known team, however, gained public attention this year, though they entered the E-Sports competition as early as in 2009. And the competition has set off a new battle over the relationship between sports and gaming, and the debate has become a stark illustration of the vastly different attitudes toward video games in the country.

Some people are vocal in questioning whether game-playing can be categorized as a sport.

"Game-playing can be called sports? Since playing games can help you become an internationally renowned winner, it is a great pity that we have worked so hard on our Olympic events. So, better to play games now," said He Cao, winner of the 2007 World Junior Diving Championships, on his Weibo account.

"The purpose of sports is to improve physical ability, so what about electronic sports? All it can give you is various diseases, " user  闫涛 said.

For many Chinese parents, online games have long been an evil creature that induces their sons and daughters to drift from the family, and eventually leads them astray. They express their concern that since authorities have given official recognition of electronic sports, or the importance of video games in athletics to some extent, their children may pour more time into video games, which complicates the already serious problem of gaming addiction among young people.

"If electronic sports are scaled across the country as a regular event, how many children will end up in Internet cafes? I am not against establishing our national E-Sports teams, and I am not against training professional players either. The question is what if the kids get even crazier with games, under the pretext that they are finding ways to join the national team to fight for national honor?" 璐过的青春 said.

The dissenting side, however, argues that when it comes to electronic sports. China has already fallen behind other countries. In South Korea, for example, electronic sports and events are regularly televised by dedicated TV channels. In the United States, gaming is seen on a variety of channels too.

Still, just like normal sports, E-Sports require the players to dedicate lots of time into practicing and honing their skills in order to play competitively, they say.

"Why not classify E-Sports as normal sports? It displays athleticism and fair play as well," said freedom-star.

"The General Administration of Sport of China formed the national E-Sports team, and sparked a heated debate online. Gaming calls for teamwork and should be called sports. Maybe it is the most popular national sport now, but we should be careful not to slide into a national obsession,” said 斗焱 Victor.

According to Techweb, the Chinese games industry in 2012 grew 35.1 percent year-on-year to reach a total estimated revenue of $9.7 billion. Online gaming accounted for 90 percent of total revenue - around $9.1 billion. On the other hand, mobile gaming is still in its nascent stages in China, generating just $520 million in revenue in 2012.

Also, with 120 million online PC gamers and 160 million mobile gamers, China ranks as the world's largest gaming market and accounts for the largest number of gamers.

Contact the author of this article or email with further questions, comments or tips.