Video games and sports are often thought as being completely opposite each other. Gamers just sit on their couch and mindlessly shoot aliens, while athletes are the pinnacle of fitness, right? Well it may not be so black and white.
When you dig beneath the surface appearances, video games and sports share a number of things in common. In this article, we are going to explore how video games and sports are more similar than one might believe.
What do video games and sports have in common?
- Competition: Perhaps the most important similarity is the very act of competing. If we accept ‘sport’ to mean games of leisure, typically with competitive elements, then video games are certainly a sport. Playing soccer on Crazy Games may not offer the physical exertion of soccer in real life, but there is still the elation of victory, and the disappointment of losing.
- Rules: A game must have a set of rules. Just like a basketball player can’t leave the court and make a free-throw from the audience, a player can’t exit the map in Tanki. Cheaters are often fined, or banned outright from the sport. Whether it’s an MMA fighter caught using steroids, or an e-sport team caught looking at the global screens, cheating is frowned upon in both physical sports and e-sports.
- Strategy: An integral part of winning is strategy. Just like having huge muscles doesn’t make you a good boxer, knowing every character’s special move in Street Fighter doesn’t make you a champion e-sport player. Those things might help, but you also need training to develop technique, reflexes, and strategies for different scenarios.
- Chance for glory: Just like a top sports player can become internationally famous, an e-sports gamer can become famous in their own right. This video from EVO 2004 has been viewed over 8 million times on YouTube, as it features one of the most incredible moments in gaming tournament history. It even has its own Wikipedia page (Evo Moment 37). Just take a peek at “The 25 Richest eSports Players”, and you’ll understand why some predict that eSport players are likely to earn more than many professional athletes by 2022.
Just what is a ‘sport’?
If you’re a sports fan, you may be reading this article and thinking “despite these similarities, video games aren’t a sport! Sports are defined by physical activity!”.
It’s important to acknowledge that not all sports are defined by athleticism. Chess, for example, may not be included in the Olympics, but it is recognized as a sport by the International Olympic Committee. Some may point to a strict interpretation of the word ‘sport’, such as the definition offered by Oxford dictionary: “An activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.”
This is a limited view, however. The very word ‘sport’ comes from the Old French word ‘desport’, which literally meant ‘leisure’ in the 14th century. The original definition was “anything humans find entertaining or amusing”. In the late 15th century, ‘sport’ was given an additional definition – “game involving physical exercise”.
It’s true that language and meaning changes with time, but it’s also true that many things come full circle. So while we may think of ‘sport’ in the modern definition, classical usage is certainly becoming more accepted. Especially when you consider the rise of “e-sports”.