The 2018 Asian Games, the second largest multi-sport competition in the world, kicked off in Indonesia on August 18. For two whole weeks, the cities of Jakarta and Palembang will be hosting 40 events which, apart from the usual Olympic sports, cover the sports diversity across Asia. This year’s edition involves 10,000 athletes and is not short of worldwide premieres: while eSports is making its debut as a demonstration sport, climbers and skateboarders are officially competing for medals for the first time ever.
For eSports, the 2018 Asian Games also translates into the beginning of a new era. After years of isolation, eSports is finally emerging from the niche. This is the first major international sporting event to recognize eSports for what it truly is: a sport that requires just as much talent, passion, training, resilience, teamwork, physical and mental strength as traditional sports; a sport that, according to Newzoo’s 2018 Global Esports Market Report, is estimated to generate $906 million global revenues and prides on a year-on-year growth of +38.2%; a sport that by 2021 is expected to attract 250 million enthusiasts, from 165 millions in 2018.
The eSports industry is booming and has a huge economic potential. International sporting events need to embrace the new sports that the younger generations practice. Otherwise, they will lose relevance. Read on to understand why 2018 Asian Games matters so much for eSports and find out what eSports and traditional sports have in common.
Finally, eSports gains spotlight at 2018 Asian Games
Esports has been added to the 2018 Asian Games through a partnership with Alisports, the sports arm of Alibaba Group. Even though players will not be competing for medals, it’s the first time they have a chance to represent their countries in a competition of this magnitude.
With eSports already set to be an official medal event at the 2022 Asian Games in China, there is hope on the horizon. The Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) explained that this decision reflects “the rapid development and popularity of this new form of sports participation among the youth.” So far, this is the biggest step towards mainstream recognition of competitive gaming.
While the traditional critics may still be raising their eyebrows at the news, at least 165 million eSports enthusiasts confirmed by the latest statistics are rejoicing in seeing their passion being taken seriously. Hopefully, the Olympic program too will add eSports as an official medal sport in 2024. The decision is still under heated debate.
For the time being, the International Olympic Committee will keep a close eye on the events at Jakarta-Palembang, as IOC President Thomas Bach warned against the selection of e-games which are killer games or promote violence or any kind of discrimination. Consequently, the Asian Esports Federation (AeSF) carefully selected Starcraft II, League of Legends, Hearthstone, Pro Evolution Soccer (PES), Clash Royale, Arena of Valor as the official game titles to be showcased on this year’s edition. “In the selection of Asian Games Esports, we exercised stringent criteria, i.e. the game must adhere to our vision of promoting integrity, ethics, and fair play. Esports will strive to inspire and motivate the youth of the world to be the best they can be through educational and entertaining interactive challenges,” stated AESF president Kenneth Fok.
For those of you who want to take the pulse of the competition, the demo tournaments are scheduled as follows:
- Arena of Valor, August 26
- Clash Royale, August 27
- League of Legends (LOL), August 27-29
- Starcraft II, August 30
- Hearthstone, August 31
- Pro Evolution Soccer (PES), September 1
The inclusion of eSports in the 2018 Asian Games not only challenges biases, but also signals an anachronism that the Olympic Committee should pay attention to – we’re living a digital revolution that is changing every aspect of our lives, sports included. We spend most of our lives online – we shop, we read, we teach, we chat, we date, so it’s only natural that we also play sports online. Hence, eSports is a coherent reality/outcome of the digital era. Other than that, the Olympic Games are not only ancient, they’re also modern, current and real.
Today’s definition of sports needs to take into account the technological dimensions of our lives, and the Olympics need to keep up the pace with the times. While we remain respectful and loving of ancient sports, we cannot ignore the younger generation’s interest in competitive gaming. Arguing that professional eSports doesn’t stand comparison with, for example, basketball is only scratching the surface. Because, on a thorough analysis, they have a lot in common. Scroll down to find out.
5 traits that eSports and traditional sports have in common
Many debates are asking if eSports is a real sport, but it’s rare that they come up with a clear answer. If you haven’t watched the “The Future of Esports” just yet, you have a chance to find out not only why eSports deserves the attention and the recognition, but also what eSports and traditional sports have in common. Here’s a glimpse.
Meanwhile, let’s look at 5 of the main common traits.
1. Similar physical strains
Esports may not require the same physical fitness as traditional sports do, but recent studies show that during the game the player’s body experiences similar strains. Professor Ingo Froböse from the German Sports University in Cologne studied eSports athletes for 5 years. Here are some of the study results supporting his theory that “eSports is just as demanding as most other types of sports:”
- The level of hand-eye coordination surpasses any other sport in terms of strains. Every minute of gameplay, eSports athletes perform 400 movements on the keyboard and the mouse, which is 4 times as much as the average person. All this, while both hands are moving and various parts of the brain are used at the same time.
- During competitions, the amount of cortisol produced is about the same level as that of a race-car driver.
- The pulse often gets to 160-180 beats per minute, which is common for very fast runs or even marathons.
While the training programs of most eSports professionals translate into endless hours spent in front of the computer daily, professor Froböse recommends regular physical training and exercises to relax the body.
2. The same mental strength
For a long time, traditional media has portrayed gamers as slackers. However, the rise of competitive eSports and elite players has turned this stereotype obsolete. Top tournaments such as the League of Legends or Starcraft II require quick thinking, fast reflexes and focus, which are just as demanding as it’s the case in traditional sports.
High-level competitors rely on coaches and performance psychology professionals to attain the proper level of mental fitness through trained focus, wakefulness, strategic thinking, reaction time and clarity. Especially since they are subject to more frequent emotional swings than traditional athletes.
3. Practice, teamwork and competition
In “The Future of eSports” talk-show, first full-time professional eSports player & 12 times FPS World Champion Johnathan Fatal1ty Wendel, confessed that the journey of going pro requires a lot of preparation: you need to find your pack – people that are into games just as you are, then you need to get into a league and take part in qualifying tournaments. You need to do a lot of research and training.
Fortunately, more and more eSports platforms are coming to the rescue, building an ecosystem for both professional and casual players. For instance, ReadyUp lets players find and meet gamers they like, manage their team, stay connected and improve their game.
4. Packed arenas and escalating online audiences
Over the last decade, eSports has emerged from isolated communities of video gamers who gathered at conventions to play Counter Strike or Call of Duty into packed arenas where die-hard fans watch their gaming heroes battling out. An ever-increasing number of eSports enthusiasts are filling up major sports venues around the world, where professional professional players take the stage. With eSports entering the mainstream, it’s probably just a matter of time before purpose-built arenas like the Esports Arena Las Vegas become more of a common thing.
Meanwhile, tournaments have expanded into fully-fledged circuits, whereas Twitch is amassing more viewers than mainstream media. For instance, over 360 million unique viewers watched League of Legends Mid-Season Invitational in 2017. With only 111.3 million people watching the Super Bowl and only 30 million watching the NBA finals, eSports is officially at the core of the most watched competitive sports events.
Even ESPN is doubling down on eSports by broadcasting the finals of top title tournaments and keeping the gaming community up to date. “Esports is not a fad. It’s not going anywhere. We believe it is ascending, and in the spirit of us attracting a younger audience, eSports has got to be a priority of ours,” recently stated ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro.
So, if the purpose of the Olympics is indeed to appeal to young audiences and maximize the games’ general popularity, as stated in the IOC eligibility guidelines for 2024, eSports deserves to be included in the program.
5. A place in the curriculum
More and more educational institutions around the world are providing a formal education in gaming. What’s more, they even offer scholarships for students with excellent gaming skills.
Back in 2016, the University of California, Irvine (UCI) was the first public university to launch a League of Legends eSports scholarship program. In the meantime, the list of universities that added eSports to their curriculum has grown considerably. Just like the NCAA governs over college athletics in the US, the National Association of Collegiate eSports (NACE) brings college eSports under the same association. So far, NACE includes 57 different schools that have a varsity-level eSports program.
The 2018 Asian Games is the trampoline that eSports needed to gain even more international spotlight. It’s only a matter of time before both international sports competitions and the general public fully acknowledge and support its well-deserved legitimacy.