For quite a few years now there has been talk from the gaming community about seeing esports in the Olympics. By all accounts, esports stars are athletes. Studies on them during matches have shown that their bodies and minds are under just as much stress as someone doing a traditional sporting event. Even the IOC, International Olympic Committee, was talking about it back in October. They said then that competitive gaming could be considered a sporting activity. It seemed like the first steps towards getting esports in the Olympics might actually be happening. However, from the looks of things now, we won’t be seeing esports in the Olympics any time soon or possibly ever.
We’re learning this because AliSports, a division of Alibaba, was attempting to negotiate a bid to sponsor an esports competition in an upcoming Olympics game. During negotiations, they discovered that the IOC wouldn’t consider any violent games. Specifically, the CEO of AliSports Zhang Dazhong said this, “In our communication with the Olympics committee, we’ve come to have a better understanding of their values, which is to promote peace.” This isn’t the first time we’ve seen the International Olympics Committee say this either. In August the President of the IOC told South China Morning Post that “we want to promote nondiscrimination, nonviolence, and peace among people. This doesn’t match with video games, which are about violence, explosions, and killing. And there we have to draw a clear line.”
Arstechnica wrote a wonderful news piece on the entire subject pointing out that this stance would mean that just about every popular esports title currently in existence would be barred: Starcraft, Dota, LoL, CoD…even Rocket League wouldn’t qualify to be an Olympic event.
So, it looks like instead of the games that are popular in the esports scene…if we did get esports in the Olympics they would be real-world sports like FIFA. Even if we do want to see a FIFA Olympic event, there are some other roadblocks in our way. There needs to be an international third party governing body. One that oversees doping, match-fixing, gambling, and more. This third party can’t be the publishers and right now this might be the biggest hurdle to jump over.
Additionally, if we did get FIFA in the Olympics…would anyone care? In a Neilson survey from October, it was found that only 28% of esports fans in four countries think it should be in the Olympics. If you take out the popular games that everyone loves that number will drop for sure. Who knows if there is going to be anyone who actually wants to watch it when or if it does happen.
IOC Out of Touch
This seems like a case of the IOC being out of touch with younger generations and not understanding the games that are popular in the esports scene. Yes, esports games have violence in them, but in no way does that damage the message of peace that the IOC treasures so much. They are, in the eyes of many in the younger generations no more violent than wrestling. Shooting is an Olympic sport; you’re shooting a target rather than an opponent. In shooting games you aren’t shooting the player, but instead your avatar is shooting another person’s avatar. Fencing is an Olympic sport. Is that not violent? Fencing, a sport where you are literally going after another person with a weapon is in the Olympics. Rocket League is certainly less violent than these.
However, the IOC sees explosions. It sees simulated blood and they nope out. Have they looked at the following games like Dota 2 and LoL have? Have they seen how big international events bring together the world? That is how they promote peace in the world.
To me at least, this feels very similar to the argument that violent video games cause people to be violent. There have been scientific studies that have proven there is no relation between the two, but the Baby Boomer generation is mostly convinced that it somehow is related.
Game Versions of Real Sports
It seems to me a little bit silly and pointless to have the real version of a sport and the digital version of a sport happening at the same event. Maybe I’m alone in this. I just don’t think that having them both at the Olympics makes sense.
Maybe the IOC will decide to include esports in the Winter Olympics instead of the Summer Olympics. This would actually make a bit of sense. They wouldn’t be competing, and it might give a boost to the Winter Olympics as people watch the kids playing virtual soccer when they usually only watch the Summer Olympics. Maybe it would be a bit of a boost for them if they did that.
We’ll Make Our Own…
Perhaps there needs to be an esports only Olympics. It doesn’t carry nearly as much prestige, but that’s because the Olympics has had, depending on how you want to look at it, either thousands of years or a little over a hundred years to build that brand. It isn’t an amazing solution, I will grant yo, but it does seem like the simplest solution to the problem. Though there is that pesky problem of the name. It couldn’t be called the esports Olympics unless it was under the IOC. Since the IOC is the problem to begin with that’s a rather pointless venture.
Basically, what this all boils down to is that we aren’t going to see esports in the Olympics any time soon. If we do, it won’t be the games that the majority of fans want to see. It’s unfortunate that the IOC seems quite set in its decision. I truly believe this is what will kill any remaining hype for esports in the Olympics. It has certainly killed mine.