Are Esports Athletes Truly Athletes Competing in Sports?

Video games, gaming, esports, athlete.  One of those terms seems the opposite and out of place.  When I think of an athlete, it conjures up thoughts of coordination, agility, and muscular people pushing their bodies in physical activity to their limit.  When I think of gaming and video games, I have images of a dark room with young adults and teens who haven’t slept or showered in a day or so, pale and pasty skin, lots of sodas and junk food, and zero physical activity.  How then are the terms esports and athletes even related?  When did playing a video game become a sport?

Sport is defined as an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.  I understand video games are competitions against the game and/or other people playing the same game.  To say playing video games with a handheld controller that requires zero movement besides a couple of fingers per hand is physical exertion doesn’t equate.  Athlete is defined as a person who is proficient in sports and other forms of physical exercise.  Once again esport athletes are not by definition playing a sport or athletes!

Playing video games or being a gamer is participating in an activity, not a sport.  Yes, hand-eye coordination and quick decision making are skill required to be good at sports and video games.  Any other relation ends there.  In a recent study from Flinders University, the subject of getting enough sleep was undertaken for “esport athletes”.  Guess what, gamers aren’t getting enough sleep!  Is that surprising from all the other research regarding the harmful effects constant gaming and device addiction has?  Hardly.  Esport athlete is a marketing term to make teens and young adults rationalize their behavior and drive billions of dollars to the industry.

The Wii gaming console is the closest video game to be a “sport”.  In all honesty, you can lay on the couch and flick your wrist without any other motion to play the games most people stand and mimic the actual movements of the sport on the screen too.  It is more fun to get physically involved with bowling, baseball, basketball, etc., than laying on the couch.  Does using the Wii fit the definition of sport and athlete?  No.  There are no substitutes for physical exertion and physical activity.  Let’s stop the nonsense making participation trophies the same as a first-place ribbon.  Being an esport athlete is NOT being an athlete in a sport.  Playing video games is an activity that can be enjoyed in moderation by many people, just like everything else.  Have a good time and know when to step away and do something else for a while.

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