The 2018 Asian Games finished just a few weeks ago. With the event came a lot of buzz and headlines – from Jokowi’s stuntman and Jonathan Christie’s abs to Indonesia’s national record for number of medals earned.
But there was one thing that might have flown under the radar: e-sports (electronic sports), an event that was added as a demonstration sport at the Games.
The inclusion marked the first time e-sports were showcased at an international sporting event. Before the 2018 Games, e-sports relied on creating their own competitions, such as the PES League for the Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) game series, the League of Legends World Championship for League of Legends and the StarCraft II World Championship for StarCraft II.
Since the Asian Games constitute a sporting event, a question can be raised. Are e-sports part of sports?
A lot of people think that e-sports and gaming are one in the same, but they are actually not. E-sports are a professional endeavor while gaming is a recreational activity; e-sports live in the realm of competition, just like any other sport. The players also represent a team or a nation.
Just like other sports, there are associations for e-sports at the national, regional and international levels. In Indonesia, there is the Indonesia e-Sports Association (IeSPA), in Asia there is the Asian Electronic Sports Federation (AESF) and, on the international level, there is the International e-Sports Federation (IeSF).
What makes e-sports and gaming different is also the purpose of the activity. In the former, competitive spirit, fair play, competition and pride are emphasized. These are not the defining factors of recreational gaming. Citing esportsnesia.com, e-sports are sports that use video games as a medium for competitive activity, as played by professionals.
Analogous to the difference between F1 or MotoGP and street racing, F1 and MotoGP are racing sports, but street racing is not considered a sport.
Conventional sports and e-sports are also sometimes related to each other. Take a look at PES players or FIFA players; they actually have to understand real soccer, they have to understand strategy and formations, such as 4-3-3, 4-4-2 or 4-3-1-2. They also have to understand play styles, such as defensive, attacking, short passing and possession.
It is impossible to be a professional PES or FIFA athlete if all you know about soccer is Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Speaking about skills and training systems, IeSPA chairman Eddy Limin said at a press conference initiated by KONAMI on Aug. 24 that, in addition to requiring strategic and logical thinking when competing, e-sports competitors also needed to be physically fit. Doing so better allows the players to analyze their previous matches and stay sharp.
E-sports competitions are now broadcast through many platforms. The growth of them can be seen through its inclusion as a demonstration sport at this year’s Asian Games, where six titles were played: Arena of Valor, Clash Royale, Hearthstone, League of Legends, Pro Evolution Soccer and StarCraft II.
News has also circulated about the possible inclusion of e-sports at the 2019 Southeast Asian Games, the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo and the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou. But, as of now, there has not been any confirmation from the official hosts.
Others might have their own opinion regarding the status of e-sports. The existence of e-sports associations, the use of uniforms in matches and the training regime of the e-sports players do not mean that e-sports are definitely part of sports. But, of course, the inclusion of e-sports at the 2018 Asian Games can affect its status, because the Asian Games are officially a sporting event.
Regardless of where e-sports stand, it can be believed that e-sports players uphold the same values as sportsmen, which are fair play, competitive spirit and rivalries.
This article previously has been published on thejakartapost.com