How Esports and Physical Sports are Not as Different as You Think
I’ve heard it more than once so it’s possible that you may have heard it before as well: “Esports aren’t really sports, just a bunch of nerds playing video games.” More than anything, this kind of sentiment comes across as a malicious and fundamental misunderstanding of what is being witnessed at the highest level of gaming. As a member of a non-gaming family, sometimes it can be hard to communicate to the uninitiated why I care so much about these “nerds”.
This brings me to why we are here. Esports should not be considered so different from other types of sports. As spectators, all we want to see is the game that we love to play, be played at the highest possible level. Whether this means that the pro’s are the fastest runners or the fastest thinkers, witnessing players at their peak levels of performance is always a sight to behold. So instead of thinking of ways that these two types of sport are different, I decided to make a list of ways that they are the same.
Why does anyone watch sports? I guess there are a number of answers but I would expect that the most popular one would be so that people can see what it looks like to be the best at the sport that they love. People love seeing diving catches in football, those fall-off-the-table sliders in baseball, and especially those incredible hole-in-ones on the golf course. Not only is this extremely entertaining, but as players of these sports, it gives us something to strive for. It shows us what countless weeks, months, and even years of practice can accomplish. Watching the best players of games like Call of Duty, Counter Strike, and League of Legends is no different. Millions of people spend hundreds and thousands of hours playing these games and it is no surprise that they feel the same rush when they get to see what it looks like to be the best.
Consider going to any professional sporting event and think about what you see there. Besides the field, the players, and the band, I think about the sea of people in the stands all wearing the colors of their home team. This kind of large scale support for a single team creates not only a deeper love of the game, but a stronger connection between fans. The feeling of “our” happiness depending on the performance of this team instead of “my” happiness is pretty compelling. What’s interesting is that even though esports is still in its infancy, the sale of jerseys for both team and individual players is already commonplace. While not on the scale that we see with teams such as the Lakers or the Cowboys, it will only be a matter of time before esports jerseys make their debut outside of gaming conventions and tournaments.
The final, and what I believe is the most important, similarity between esports and physical sports is how the much the players care about what they do. The dedication required to maintain top-level play is far beyond what the majority of the population is capable of committing to. Many esports organizations require that they practice their games for a minimum of eight hours per day and more often usually ends up being much more. While this might not seem like any more than a common 9–5 job, the focus and attention to detail required to play at such a high level for so long can be grueling. It is this unwavering commitment that is present in all athletes, on the field or off. Players have to love what they do or they will burn out quickly and their skill will suffer.
I understand that many who read this are not those that need to be convinced about the efficacy of esports. I also know that even if those who don’t already appreciate esports do get a chance to scan these words, there is little chance that they will be swayed from their ways. Either way, I hope this can help to start a discussion that will eventually lead to a greater level of understanding. An understanding that even though esports athletes are not always the “strongest” or “fastest” people on Earth, they are the best at games that millions of people love and enjoy every day.
What are your thoughts? Is it strength or speed that makes an athlete? Skill? Fans? I want to hear what you think!