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E-sports: Actual Sport, or Glorified Video Games?


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The definition of a sport in the Oxford dictionary is “An activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or a team competes against another or others for entertainment”. When being provided this definition, Jacob, an e-sports fanatic weirdly chuckles before becoming dead serious, and abruptly passionate about why he believes e-sports are in fact an actual sport. The longtime Entertainment and Sports Programming Network (ESPN), usually recognized as a channel or stream to tune in and watch something sports related, has begun to show a lot of the trending and increasingly popular e-sports. E-sports are a form of competition through video games, usually consisting of multiplayer video games in an organized competition among professional gamers. These competitions are starting to become quite popular.  So, should e-sports really be considered in the same category with sports that aren’t digitalized, that have been around much longer? Are playing video games now considered an actual sport? If so or if not, should ESPN really be streaming it, being the longtime sports associated network that it is?  

There are many mixed opinions on this, and you might believe that these opinions are partly determined by an individual’s background, such as things you’ve done growing up and the things you’re doing now. Multiple individuals were asked about this controversy, some with a good background in sports and fluent in video games and others who are only fluent in video games.  One might think these individuals would have very different opinions on this topic given their different backgrounds.

Jacob Manrow, a student at Oswego State has been a heavy gamer most of his life.

While still highly focused on his education with a 4.0 GPA, he still manages to stay quite up to date with the latest trending video games. Though he has never been very passionate or fluent in sports, after being provided with the exact definition of what a sport is, he still fully believes that the growing e-sports falls under the same category. “I would say that e-sports is an actual sport for sure”, Manrow said. He then backed up his opinion by making a comparison between e-sports, and long time traditional American sports that are so popular today.

“When we think of traditional sports, we think of the most popular such as football, basketball and baseball. These consist of individuals who have a lot of skill, and most of those are team based. A very popular e-sport is a game called “Counter Strike, Global Offensive”. In this game, just like regular sports, people work very hard at strengthening their reflexes in a way that makes them accustomed to the gameplay. They work together and train extremely hard for long periods of time in teams of 5 v. 5 in typical matchmaking competition”, Manrow said.

To solidify his case, he took another piece of the definition of sport into consideration, the entertainment aspect. The definition states that this form of competition must be for entertainment purposes. He stated that just like professional athletes, professional gamers are in the spotlight just as well. “People watch it. They get paid a lot of money for a large audience that watches them”, said Manrow.

Based on the given definition of a sport, Manrow provided multiple facts as to how e-sports would fit the definition. One may think Manrow’s perception and opinion can be a result of his childhood and extensive background as a heavy gamer growing up, but two other college students, who have extremely different backgrounds than Manrow, took the same side and position on e-sports as he did. “I would consider E-sports a sport depending on what game they’re playing. There are certain games that have competition amongst individuals or compete in groups or teams against other teams”, said George Richardson.

 Richardson is a member of the St. John Fisher club hockey team, and he has always had a love for sports.

Growing up, Richardson played football, baseball, hockey, and wrestled as well. He occasionally played video games when hanging out with friends enough to know how to play some of the more popular games, but was never extremely into them. Sports were always his main thing. “Regarding the physical part of it, in order to be extremely skilled at a competitive level your hand-eye coordination and reflexes to the game would have to be dead on”, Richardson said. It was clear that Richardson approached this debated topic with an open mind. Taking the full definition of a sport into account when giving his opinion on whether it deserved to be called one or not. Though Richardson has a much richer and deeper background in sports than video games, it was clear that he was not biased about this topic because of it. “There are plenty of people who are good at sports, but they don’t have good hand-eye coordination and they just can’t play video games”, said Richardson.  

Nick Hallinan was the last person to give his input. Hallinan is another college student athlete. He is a goalie on the St. John Fisher Lacrosse team.

He grew up loving sports, playing football and lacrosse from a very young age, but he also loves video games as well. “I absolutely believe that it’s a sport. You’re competing against one another to accomplish a common goal. The pro gamers are putting in constant hours of practice in order to become better and compete at the next level, just like the best and most dedicated athletes do. The physical aspects of e-sports may not seem as significant when comparing it to other sports, but it’s a big part of it.”, said Hallinan.

Shockingly enough, three different people who all had different backgrounds regarding sports and video games, all chose the same side. They even gave their opinions in an unbiased fashion when stating their reasons as well. However, they did have different opinions on the future of e-sports, including the comparison to traditional American sports that have been around for so long.

Manrow believes that with the direction this generation is headed in, eventually e-sports will become just as popular as the current most popular and well-known sports in this country, like football, baseball and basketball. “Based on our generation and our relatively new-found obsession with media, a generation that’s growing up on influencers including people who play these games, it’s really the same concept. People grew up on and adapted to these longtime American sports when they first came out, and eventually they evolved and blew up in popularity. We’re seeing the same exact thing happen with e-sports. I don’t think they’ll ever take over the sports world completely and become way more popular, but I think we’re going to see much more of a balance between the two in the future”, Manrow said.

Richardson had a different take. Again, one might find this a surprising response for someone with his type of background to give. When giving his opinion, he considered some of the more recent trends in popular sports today. “I could see e-sports becoming more popular than traditional sports, because of the physical aspect of traditional sports. Like with football and the direction the NFL’s going in to try to make the game safer. I think 10 to 20 years down the road football won’t be nearly the same as what it was. With the ratings being down as it is, I think you’ll see a lot more of those lost viewers turn to e-sports, to the point where there is a shift in popularity. I think in 10 years or so you’re going to see more parents pushing their kids into high school e-sports programs because there’s no room for injury or danger for their kid that way. I think with all this CTE news and everything coming out it’s going to scare parents, and ultimately make programs like e-sports more popular as being extracurriculars”, said Richardson.

Hallinan was the only one of the three who expressed he believes e-sports won’t ever be as dominant as traditional American sports. The factor he based his opinion on was a very significant one, a factor that would really make some longtime sports fans sad when taking it into consideration if e-sports actually took over. “The virtual world of e-sports lacks the drama that these actual longtime sports have. The big upsets, the passion, the heart and intensity, that’s all something you can see from these athletes in a live game, that not’s something you can see on a screen broadcasting a video game, you know, the visualization of actual emotion”, said Hallinan.

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Part of what has always made sports so great is the emotion and passion these athletes show during the game. If e-sports were to take over and become the most dominant form of sports entertainment television, there is a possibility we could be robbed of that. However, these three all believe that e-sports should be respected as an actual sport, so it’s not hard to believe them when they each said that it was a good fit for ESPN. Even if you don’t care at all what e-sports actually should or shouldn’t be, there’s still a valuable lesson in all this. Never assume what a person’s beliefs are on a subject, just because of what kind of background they have.

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