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Is eSports really a sport?

Competitive gaming is finding itself in the lime light, as events throughout the gaming industry have increasingly been spread into the public domain with coverage from popular local news and radio stations such as SABC3 and 5FM. The eSports industry is growing rapidly, with regard to spectators and participants, as is the case Riot's League of Legends (an online multiplayer online battle arena video game) that has seen phenomenal growth in spectatorship over the past 2 years. 

One of the biggest questions that is slowly but surely arising out of the frowing success of the eSports industry has been: "Is eSports really a Sport?". 

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As with most unanswered questions, we head to the dictionary definition in attempts to find the purist base meaning of a word or concept. Here are the dictionary definitions. 

  • Sport- "a physical recreational activity, done simultaneously against an opponent, that includes animated movement and positional movement that involves physical exertion. ."
  • E-Sport- "'Electronic Sports', abbreviated e-Sports is used as a general term to describe the play of video games competitively."

The biggest separation between the two terms comes down to one factor and that is 'physical exertion'. This is the one element that will keep e-sports out of the sports bracket. To be telling yourself that e-sports (by definition) is a sport, would unfortunately be a lie, due to the fact that there is little to no physical exertion whilst gaming. Now before the barrage of hate mail comes in my direction, let me be the first to say that I believe the classification of what is a sport and what isn't a sport has been transformed over decades if not hundreds of years. With 'sports' like golf, bowls and curling being classified into the sports bracket, when they clearly (by definition) shouldn't be.

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With that being said we are only talking about the dictionary definition, and not what sports is assumed to be by the general populous. So I asked  some people, most of which are non-gamers, exactly what their definition of sports was:

"A recreational activity where-by a person partakes as an individual or a team to play / compete against an opposition, in a battle of skill, speed, strength, strategy and tactics "-Devon Stanton

"Activities that have little purpose other than for pleasure"-Sam Rolland 

"A game played between 2 opponents/ teams that compete for victory"- Mark Jones

"Sports are the culmination of being able to be highly competitive and within a defined structure. This structure as well as competition should be easily identifiable with spectators. Skill needs to be the decisive factor when it comes to deciding on a winner. It must be able to promote respect, sportsmanship and fairness." -Ashley Sloley

"An engagement of people trying to do there best to achieve an ultimate goal. May it be it be an award or just for pride"- Cuyler Meyer

Sport is a religion. Sport entails pushing the boundaries on the belief within yourself to compete and win. Without sport every day life would be morbid, but with sport we can join hands and combine people from different cultures, religions and racial groups to cross borders that would not normally be crossed. Sport allows for society to be unified. - Justin Grundlingh

As you may be able to tell, many of the public definitions regarding sports are not as restrictive as the dictionary definition. Rather the definitions are more personal, and more open to interpretation. Which leads me to yet another question as to whether sports be classified as to what it is defined as or should it rather be classified by what it has become? Personally I believe the latter. 

Sports is evolving and constantly changing, we have seen countless introductions of new ideas, new ways of playing and an even more inclusive mindset regarding sports within the last 30 years. This has been no more so apparent than in the Olympics, where we have seen a wide span of new sports and competitive events that have been included in the Olympic games. Such events include solo synchronized swimming, race walking and even trampoline gymnastics. 

It would seem that eSports is still sitting on the edge of becoming recognized as a sport. As the attention has shifted towards the competitive gaming industry given its recent and seemingly on-going success, with event like the MLG circuit attracting more spectators and participants year on year. 

More so than ever, I believe eSports has become the Trojan horse of the sporting industry. As it has completely redefined the way people spectate, communicate and play with one another. In many ways e-sports, regardless of whether it is classified as a sport or not, has still set the standard for the new generation of sports. The ease of access via streaming has allowed for an interactive,unregulated and unified audience. I believe these are going to be the core factors that will allow sports as a whole to grow to a new level. 

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So once again if it came down to the question of trying to answer: Is e-sports a sport? I'd say yes, so much so that it is actually paving the way for other sports to follow. 

Do you think e-Sports classifies as a sport? Let us know by commenting below or hitting us up on Twitter or Facebook. 

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Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not MWEB Connect (Pty) Ltd

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