Are Video Games a Sport?
Should video games be considered a sport? We explore this much-debated topic below by looking at how eSports like video games compare to traditional sports, their similarities and differences, and how the two are perceived culturally. Read on to learn our six reasons why video games should be considered a sport.
So, are video games a sport? Depending on who you ask, opinions might be for, against, or somewhere in-between. It’s a heated debate. Sports and video games may seem fairly different, but with a closer look they overlap considerably — both involve rules and etiquette, teamwork, competitive tournaments with large cash prizes, hours of practice, and a distinct set of skills. For people looking to refine these skills, summer camps and eSports training for kids are available much like athletic camps for athletes.
Rising steadily in popularity since their inception in the late 1970s, video games continue to evolve and draw diverse audiences from all around the world. To get a more thorough understanding of this argument of whether video games are a sport, first, we need to define some terms.
So, what exactly is a sport?
Is gaming a sport? When you hear the word “sport” you might think of something like basketball, baseball, soccer, and maybe even hot dog eating or chess. According to Dictionary.com, sports are “an athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess and often a competitive nature.” While the parameters of these activities vary, sporting events are often broadcast on channels such as ESPN, as well as online or through streaming services where fans watch for entertainment and root for their favorite teams or players.
With this in mind, we can generally conclude that a sport should meet several of the following criteria:
1. Development of useful skills and techniques relevant to the sport. These can involve skills such as physical coordination, the ability to cooperate on a team and be a leader, and/or quick thinking.
2. Physical prowess, fitness, or ability on the part of the athlete.
3. Competition or the spirit of competition.
4. Matchups and games result in clear winners and losers, with a reward or accolade given to the winners.
5. Athletes must practice on a consistent basis to compete in their sport.
6. Talented athletes are commonly awarded scholarships or sponsorships.
7. Sports also gather fans and provide entertainment to those watching the competition or matchup.
6 Reasons why video games should be considered a sport
Many traditionalists dislike the idea of video games being shelved under the “sport” category, especially since the level of physical exertion an athlete typically undergoes in a soccer match, for example, is much higher than the physical exertion of playing a video game. But is this enough of a reason for answering “no” to our question of “are video games a sport?”
Video games (especially on a professional level) involve more physical effort than one may initially realize. Let’s compare the defining features of sports with video games and see how the two overlap.
Reason #1: Physically demanding
Physically demanding activities may conjure images of muscular superiority and running speed, though coordination and the dexterity of timing are equally important and relevant. Timing is a vital factor across sports, from the mechanics of a golf swing to landing a punch in boxing. In video gaming, players actually demonstrate remarkably similar athletic abilities to athletes in their timing — competitive gamers interact with their mouse an average of 400 times per minute with incredible precision, aptly maneuvering in-game virtual characters and timing their movements.
Video games also require accurate coordination so players can properly sync their movements with what’s appearing on screen, in reaction to other players or in response to the environment. This becomes especially true with the advent of Virtual Reality (VR) and motion-based games like the Wii. Gamers, then, have extremely refined motor skills similar to athletes. The application may be different, but both are highly refined and the product of countless hours spent practicing.
Competing in video game tournaments, like athletic tournaments, demands significant stamina and heightened focus both physical and mental. Oftentimes tournaments may conclude because one opponent simply outlasted another. One study found that a gamer’s heart rate can reach 160 to 180 beats per minute in competitions, a level similar to that of a marathon runner.
Reason #2: Competition involving wins and losses
At the core of every sport is competition and the desire to win, whether on a team or individual level. ESports, (multiplayer video game competitions played for spectators), have competitiveness encoded into their fundamental setup. Even when players are by themselves, they can still compete against the computer, against a simulated opponent, or by trying to beat a puzzle-like level or round.
Reason #3: Development of useful skills
Video games, despite the stereotyped association with laziness and couch potatoes, have many benefits for players. Some of these benefits include helping improve hand-eye coordination, sharpening fine motor skills, training muscle and mental memory, and learning to think quickly on the spot in the heat of the moment.
Video game players will also learn how to either act as a leader in team competitions or to work as a team to solve in-game problems in order to beat the opponent. In solo games, players can learn vital puzzle-solving skills and how to navigate ambiguity.
Reason #4: Practice is necessary
To compete at a high level, video game players have to practice and train constantly. Beyond this discipline, video games also require a degree of natural talent similar to what you find in athletes contending for sports championships. Training and daily practice, coaching, mentorship, and multi-faceted studying are all integral to mastering skills necessary to becoming a professional gamer.
Reason #5: Fans are present and entertainment is provided
Just like the packed stadiums at basketball games and other sporting events, eSports tournaments can fill huge stadiums for championship matchups. While smaller video game tournaments are primarily streamed online on platforms like Twitch, many high-stakes competitions take place at premier venues around the world such as the Wembley Arena, Staples Center, and even the Royal Opera House. In addition to the thousands of fans packed into these stadiums, millions more watch live online as their favorite gamers compete in a variety of eSports competitions.
Reason #6: Scholarships are offered
In recent years, universities have begun forming their own competitive eSports teams. In fact, there are more than 100 U.S. colleges now that have teams of some kind related to competitive video games. The majority of these schools offer scholarships to top gamers (or should we say, athletes).
Why shouldn’t video games be considered a sport
We’ve examined six compelling reasons arguing for video games as a sport, though there are some contrary arguments to make as well. As mentioned above, the primary distinction comes from the lesser physical demand video games require compared to sports. One of the aspects of sports, too, is that people play a sport in order to exercise and stay healthy. Video games may call upon refined motor skills and other aspects of coordination, but with the exception of movement-based games such as Wii or those in Virtual Reality, very little physical movement is required. Along the same lines, people argue that if video games are considered a sport then why aren’t spelling bees, cooking competitions, or talent and singing contests?
Though video games lack the usual elements found in sports, they still contain the primary defining features mentioned in the sections above. It’s true that video games can result in a child becoming more sedentary, though not without certain benefits to cognitive development and communication among other skills. It’s worth pointing out that video games are more inclusive than physical sports, as children with disabilities or difficulty with mobile activities find it easier to participate. Plus, kids who play video games can lean into their fascination by learning to code and design their own games, using programs such as Roblox or Scratch to become creators.
Get your child into eSports
Encourage your child to learn more about eSports or to join others who share their passions. Video game training classes offer the chance for your child to meet potential friends interested in similar topics and also to have a hands-on learning experience with the aid of knowledgeable teachers. These camps are offered in-person and online, throughout the year or as a summer camp, meaning it should be easy to find one to work with your schedule. For children who learn better in a one-on-one environment, look for private online classes with options for a customized curriculum and an emphasis on personal connection.