OPINION: Checkmate, IOC. It’s time for eSports to become a sanctioned event.

by | Apr 8, 2019 | Opinion

Jared Dodds

The 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo will introduce skateboarding, surfing and sports climbing as the newest competitions in the pinnacle of athletics.

But I am here to talk seriously about the next event that deserves the world’s attention every four years.

The IOC should make eSports an Olympic sport.

Esports can take many different forms, but at its core, it is competition that uses video games as its medium.

Some of the more well-known examples of eSports are League of Legends, Overwatch, Starcraft 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.

All have rabid fan bases who consume both professional events played around the world and the multitude of streamers who play video games on the internet, some for audiences of thousands.

League of Legends by Riot Games has dominated the streaming market since 2013, with Statista estimating the 2018 League of Legends World Championship had 99.6 million viewers worldwide.

To put that in perspective, Nielsen reported the 2019 Super Bowl had 98.2 million viewers.

Let that sink in. 

More people watched a computer game than the Super Bowl.

All of this does not qualify eSports to be an Olympic sport, but it demonstrates the IOC should certainly consider the ramifications of missing out on that market.

However, it seems straightforward for the IOC to include eSports in the Olympics when you dive deeper into what the qualifications are.

Encyclopedia Britannica said the first step in being part of the Olympics is getting the IOC to recognize an event as an official sport.

Naysayers would argue in order to be a sport there must be a physical aspect to the competition, and that pushing buttons should not qualify.

However, the IOC would seem to disagree, recognizing the organization is behind both chess and bridge, which have far less physicality involved than esports.

Archery, a sport in the Olympics, also does not require full body exertion, but rather hand eye coordination — much like eSports.

Furthermore, young adults playing video games professionally are no longer kids sitting in their basement for hours.

Many organizations have massive corporate sponsors. Geico and Dr. Pepper stand behind Team Solo Mid, one of the most well known North American gaming teams.

They employ nutritionists, sports psychologists and have full facilities in order to ensure their athletes are in peak condition to compete.

The IOC recognizing an event does not mean its immediately included in the Olympics. It must be chosen off of the short list to earn your spot in the games.

One of the most important considerations in what events are selected is popularity, because at its heart, the Olympics has become a television show.

There is certainly a stigma against e-gaming, as it is new and difficult to understand for a generation of people who grew up without it.

But younger viewers are clamouring for this type of content, and professional video games appear to be here to stay. So, the question for the IOC may not be should they include eSports in the Olympics, but rather can they afford not to?