“What makes it a sport as opposed to a different kind of game?”
August 11, 2017 3:23 PM   Subscribe

Should eSports be in the Olympics? [Polygon] “"As esports industry and its own culture is expanding, we, IeSF, as the international union of 44 member countries’ national federations, feel responsibilities to create esports’ own legacy, which can benefit all related parties especially the key stakeholder, the players." But the narrow interpretation of "sport" shouldn’t be taken as a slight against video games in particular, according to Dr. Mark Dyreson, a professor of kinesiology at Penn State University. This is a debate that extends back to Coubertin's first move to reinstate the games. "It’s a big question — what makes it a sport as opposed to a different kind of game? How much physicality should it have to be a contest? Chess was considered to be a sport in some literature, and Sports Illustrated used to cover chess up until the '70s." The debate about whether esports should be included in the Olympics needs to be considered in context, says Dyreson. Originally, Coubertin wanted the Olympics to focus on amateur athletes. That is, those who weren’t being paid significant amounts of money to compete.”

• Paris Olympic Committee Will Consider Esports For The 2024 Games [Kotaku]
“The Paris Olympic bid committee will consider esports for inclusion as a medal event in the 2024 Olympic Games, according to Tony Estanguet, the committee’s co-president. Estanguet told the Associated Press that talks have been scheduled with the International Olympic Committee and with esports representatives “to better understand what the process is and why it is such a success.” Estanguet also had some thoughts for esports skeptics out there: “We have to look at it because we can’t say, ‘It’s not us. It’s not about Olympics.’ The youth, yes they are interested in esport and this kind of thing. Let’s look at it. Let’s meet them. Let’s try if we can find some bridges.” This won’t be the first time that competitive video games have contended for a slot in the Olympics. The 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio featured an “eGames” showcase with exhibition matches rather than medal events; eight international teams competed in Smite and Super Smash Brothers Wii U.”
• eSports are real sports. It’s time for the Olympic video games [The Guardian]
“The image of an Olympian is associated with physical prowess, a sculpted body chipped into perfection by years of careful maintenance and preparation. We expect these people to perform great feats of physicality better than the rest of us. That is why so many are scornful of the notion that competitive video gaming, or eSports as it’s come to be known, should stand alongside other Olympic sports. But this requires rethinking. eSports are being talked up as a potential medal event in the Paris summer games of 2024, but there are plenty of barriers in the way, with International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach saying that eSports are contrary to “Olympic rules and values of sport” (for now).” [...] Some maintain that the Olympics should keep its focus on traditional notions of physicality. But a casual glance through history shows the IOC awarded medals for town planning, drawing, poetry and much more. They still award them for dressage. As Mary Beard notes, the Olympic Games has a long, strange history, with its standards rarely set in stone.”
• eSports Can Be in the Olympics, Former Diablo and World of Warcraft Dev Says [Gamespot]
“"There's a very good argument for eSports being in the Olympics," Pardo told the BBC in an interview. "I think the way that you look at eSports is that it's a very competitive skillset and you look at these professional gamers and the reflexes are lightning quick and they're having to make very quick decisions on the fly. When you look at their 'actions per minute', they're clearing over 300." Pardo said that it's hard to think of video games as a sport if you define it strictly as something that requires physical exertion, but that he questions that definition given other events already included in the Olympics. Sports television network ESPN has been airing Dota 2 and League of Legends eSports events on its online branch, ESPN 3, but the company's president John Skipper recently stated that he doesn't consider video games played at that level to be a sport. “It’s not a sport—it’s a competition. Chess is a competition. Checkers is a competition,” Skipper said. “Mostly, I’m interested in doing real sports.””
• Pro gaming doesn't need balls to be considered a 'sport' [Engadget]
“Besides, traditional sports can sound just as silly as eSports when stripped of their nuance and reduced to incomplete basics. Explain football in the simplest of terms and it becomes a game where you "catch a ball." For baseball, it's, "Hit a ball and run in a circle." Soccer: "Kick a ball." Hockey: "Hit a puck." Tennis: "Smack a ball over a net." League of Legends: "Play a video game." There is no reason to write off any eSports game for being "childish" when our most beloved sports involve chasing, throwing and hitting balls of various sizes. When these sports are presented in a structure with rules and records and dedicated players, they become something to be admired, as do eSports. Both require skill, practice, dedication, teamwork and strategy, though one is more the province of the body and the other that of the mind. Still, a skill is a skill, and watching talented, passionate people perform rigidly regulated tasks is one of humanity's favorite pastimes. The main difference between sports and eSports, for now, is history.”
• Pro gamers can win gold medals in e-sports at the 2022 Asian Games [The Verge]
“Their official inclusion will come after demonstration events to be held at this September’s Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games, as well as the upcoming Asian Games, taking place in Indonesia, in 2018. The OCA didn’t provide a full list of the games that would feature at the tournaments, but said that players would be competing in FIFA 2017, as well as “MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) and RTA (Real Time Attack)” games. Expect that to translate to titles similar to League of Legends and StarCraft II — assuming, of course, that the OCA can hammer out deals with developers like Riot and Blizzard. While the Asian Games might not offer the prize money of some of the bigger existing pro gaming tournaments, the inclusion indicates that in the eyes of the general public, e-sports could be coming closer to parity with traditional sports. The Asian Games are recognized by the International Olympic Committee, and the event is reportedly the second-biggest sporting competition in the world, behind only the Olympics in the number of athletes involved.”
posted by Fizz (89 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
Watch a video of the folks' hand movements during a game of starcraft w/ high micro rate
If you can get injured during it, it's a physical sport thing, isn't it?
posted by hleehowon at 3:32 PM on August 11 [1 favorite]


No.
posted by Artw at 3:33 PM on August 11 [47 favorites]


The actual problem: video games are mostly owned by for-profit organizations. So it goes a little against the original Olympic ideology and it goes against the corrupt organizers being sufficiently corrupt.
posted by hleehowon at 3:33 PM on August 11 [20 favorites]


Originally, Coubertin wanted the Olympics to focus on amateur athletes. That is, those who weren’t being paid significant amounts of money to compete.

Translation: That is, aristos and sons of robber barons who didn't need to concern themselves with working for a living generally, much less working for a living in sport.
posted by Etrigan at 3:37 PM on August 11 [7 favorites]


Maybe what eSports is missing is another sport. I'm thinking of Chess-boxing.

So let's add something in the same vein. Hmm, lets see:

• League of Legends-Marathoning.
• Overwatch - Wrestling
• Dota - Archery
• Super Smash Bros. - Weightlifting
• Street Fighter - Rowing
posted by Fizz at 4:03 PM on August 11 [5 favorites]


I think the actual problem is that there isn't an eSport today that necessarily will have the longevity. What happens when Overwatch is huge this year, and no one plays it in 4 years? Do we chop it into vague genres like MOBA, FPS, RTS, and fighting game? Who decides whether we play Skullgirls or SFV or Smash?

Baseball is baseball, track and field events are recognizable 100 years ago and will be 100 years from now. We just can't say that about eSports.

That, and as mentioned above, these games are all owned by companies and not open source, free-to-play.
posted by explosion at 4:05 PM on August 11 [23 favorites]


The early Olympics were full of people who worked for a living, like this Greek water carrier who won the first modern Olympic marathon.

I think the marathon in the 1904 Summer Olympics is a good example of just how much the Olympics have changed. The winner was doped with rat poison and brandy and had to be helped across the finish line; the man who placed fourth actually laid down during the race and took a nap after eating some rotten apples; one man was chased a mile off course by dogs. Oh, and the guy they thought was the winner at first actually took a car part of the way.

It's true that if the Olympics today were restricted to amateurs, only the independently wealthy would be competitive in some sports because the training demands are so high. But it's changed a lot, and even now a lot of Olympic athletes outside of the highest profile sports still don't make all that much. Many of them still work (on something other than sport) for a living.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 4:06 PM on August 11 [17 favorites]


If they're rejected are thousands of former gamergoobers gonna swat the Olympic committee? If there's a female team, are they going to be safe from threats and harassment? Are the NBC streams of the games going to be filled with fan comments like "cuck got triggered lmao" and pepe memes?
posted by Stonkle at 4:07 PM on August 11 [18 favorites]


Missing from articles: overlap of people who think esports are sports but not figure skating?
posted by eeek at 4:07 PM on August 11 [3 favorites]


This is both the dumbest idea and the most obvious ploy to replace the bribery that got shut down in the Salt Lake City scandal. How ever will they choose the games? I'm guessing it involves strippers and plane tickets.
posted by rhizome at 4:11 PM on August 11 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I don't care if they add DOTA2 to the Olympics. The IOC and the Olympic games are so disgustingly corrupt and unfair, might as well throw some DOTA2/SC players into the mix.
posted by xyzzy at 4:11 PM on August 11 [4 favorites]


And what about Tracer's butt?
posted by Stonkle at 4:12 PM on August 11


1) No.
2) Everybody would be disqualified for drug use. Everybody.
posted by Justinian at 4:14 PM on August 11 [1 favorite]


Actually let me qualify that: It would magically turn out that 100% of Esport olympians have ADHD.
posted by Justinian at 4:15 PM on August 11 [9 favorites]


Unless the host city is involved somehow in creating the "playing field" of the video game the way it's involved in building venues, building outdoor courses that take advantage of local landscapes, etc., then I fail to see how video games will be in the spirit of the Olympic Games.

I'm not going to watch, either way. Who am I kidding?
posted by emelenjr at 4:15 PM on August 11 [1 favorite]


I wonder if we can write a deep learning bot to play Overwatch by 2024.
posted by GuyZero at 4:17 PM on August 11


I'm looking forward to the QWOP gold medal round.
posted by sfenders at 4:21 PM on August 11 [21 favorites]


Just turn them into live-action events. PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds with paint guns. Doomfist Elimination with fists. Mario World speedruns over the roofs of the host city.
posted by zompist at 4:24 PM on August 11 [2 favorites]


I think these should be Olympic sports, so long as the players are required to supply their own electricity through a bicycle generator.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:27 PM on August 11 [8 favorites]


I think these should be Olympic sports, so long as the players are required to supply their own electricity through a bicycle generator.

Isn't this a Black Mirror episode?
posted by Fizz at 4:28 PM on August 11 [3 favorites]


I don't know, I can't peddle long enough to watch Black Mirror.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:30 PM on August 11 [27 favorites]


Some maintain that the Olympics should keep its focus on traditional notions of physicality

Even if so, we pretty much have to include Dance Dance Revolution.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 4:31 PM on August 11 [7 favorites]


I think these should be Olympic sports, so long as the players are required to supply their own electricity through a bicycle generator.

As a two-person even this would be pretty interesting. It would get more interesting if they had to swap every so often.
posted by GuyZero at 4:31 PM on August 11 [1 favorite]


No but for what it's worth, previous games have had art competitions, kite flying, and pigeon racing. I 100% support the Olympics representing the finest achievements of humans by placing musical and artistic performances around proper sporting but I do not support just anyone being good at anything being a feature of the Olympics. Supporting attractions or events like someone painting beautiful scenes, jazz concerts, constructions of mandalas, calligraphy writing, chess, debates and public oratory—all of that would be amazing. But it should all be supplemental to amateur athletes who perform feats of skill involving agility, dexterity, endurance, precision, and strength. Why does the Olympics have to be some venue for every conceivable competition? Dog racing? Betting on the stock market? Playing the card game hearts? There are infinite things that human can compete against one another at and just like how long jumpers have no place at a Texas hold 'em tournament, not everything that could be competitive should be an Olympic "sport" or even some tertiary event.
posted by koavf at 4:31 PM on August 11 [3 favorites]


I think the marathon in the 1904 Summer Olympics is a good example of just how much the Olympics have changed. The winner was doped with rat poison and brandy and had to be helped across the finish line; the man who placed fourth actually laid down during the race and took a nap after eating some rotten apples; one man was chased a mile off course by dogs. Oh, and the guy they thought was the winner at first actually took a car part of the way.

Kutsuwamushi, this paragraph is a thing of beauty.
posted by Atom Eyes at 4:33 PM on August 11 [5 favorites]


Even if so, we pretty much have to include Dance Dance Revolution.

Only if they combine it with skeet shooting.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:33 PM on August 11


No it shouldn't. It's not a sport if you can smoke and drink while doing it. Snooker, pool, darts, video games. None are sports.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 4:41 PM on August 11 [5 favorites]


I think the marathon in the 1904 Summer Olympics is a good example of just how much the Olympics have changed. The winner was doped with rat poison and brandy and had to be helped across the finish line; the man who placed fourth actually laid down during the race and took a nap after eating some rotten apples; one man was chased a mile off course by dogs. Oh, and the guy they thought was the winner at first actually took a car part of the way.

Jon Bois has a pretty good video about this.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 4:42 PM on August 11 [8 favorites]


Missing from articles: overlap of people who think esports are sports but not figure skating?

The traditional argument against figure skating is that scoring is done by subjective judges, and not an objective criterion. Objectivity is always subjective, not that they'll admit it. That said, video games are, if anything, more objective than "real sports" because there's no ref to blow a call.
posted by explosion at 4:43 PM on August 11 [1 favorite]


Can we swap eSports for skateboarding? Because skateboarding definitely needs to stay the hell out of the Olympics. Shit like the X-Games has done enough damage.
posted by loquacious at 4:44 PM on August 11


I really don't have an opinion but shooting has been part of the Olympic games since 1896: it's not more athletic than e-sports, and it also requires costly, specialized equipment. Coubertin himself was a pistol champion.
posted by elgilito at 4:46 PM on August 11 [3 favorites]


The problem with shooting is the competitors are on the wrong side of the barrel. Switch that around and you'd suddenly have The Most Dangerous Olympic Game.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:49 PM on August 11 [4 favorites]


yes, truly there are few things that represent teamwork, good sportsmanship, and the majesty of olympian althletic skill better than teabagging and the screaming of racial slurs
posted by poffin boffin at 4:50 PM on August 11 [12 favorites]


Everybody would be disqualified for drug use. Everybody.

And yet snowboarding is still an Olympic event.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 4:55 PM on August 11 [1 favorite]


Well, right, but that's drug use AS an Olympic event.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:57 PM on August 11 [1 favorite]


As long as the etheletes have to wear tiny little stretch rags like the men's divers and women beach volleyball athletes do, I'm in.

(Seriously, I unironically enjoy watching pro League of Legends way more than I ever liked basketball or football. It's great. But a big part of the Olympics for me, I'm only slightly ashamed to admit, is watching very fit young people running around on my high-def screen. I suspect I'm not alone in that. Some pro LoL players are also very fit, but a non-physical sport does seem to be an odd match for the Olympics.)
posted by Nelson at 4:58 PM on August 11 [4 favorites]


It would magically turn out that 100% of Esport olympians have ADHD.

I never thought about that (not being much of a follower of eSports) but, having definitely used adderall and similar before, it makes absolutely perfect sense. Amphetamines and Starcraft II, for instance—yes, of course they would make you a better player.

But for how long? People build up a tolerance to adderall pretty fast—I certainly did. You can't stay high all the time, because pretty soon your dosage will be maxxed out and taking it will only stave off withdrawal rather than give you superhuman focus and reaction speed. You'll be stuck with all of the dependency and all of the side-effects, but none of the benefits.

A lot of pro gamers must be really pushing that envelope as hard as they can. Has anybody died yet?
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:09 PM on August 11


The traditional argument against figure skating is that scoring is done by subjective judges, and not an objective criterion.

How do these people account for gymnastics, then? Diving? These are not sports? Or is it only subjectively-judged sports where you get to wear pretty clothes that are a problem?
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:19 PM on August 11 [7 favorites]


The obvious solution to the problem of esport games being ephemeral and controlled by corporations is to only allow games that are completely free and have been actively played for at least 25 years. That's right: the time has come for Olympic NetHack.
posted by skymt at 5:23 PM on August 11 [23 favorites]


I once knew a guy who tried to convince our friend group that poker was a sport. That guy was totally full of shit.

The case for eSports being a sport, on the other hand, is actually pretty strong.

The only real disqualifying factor in my mind is the fact that the platforms the games are played on (meaning the servers and game code, not the hardware the players use) are owned by private companies. The ethical issues involved are certainly no worse than any other ethical issues with the Olympics, but there's no other sport I can think of where the rules are neither known to all the participants nor open to modification by the body running the competition.
posted by tobascodagama at 5:33 PM on August 11 [2 favorites]


The traditional argument against figure skating is that scoring is done by subjective judges, and not an objective criterion.

How do these people account for gymnastics, then? Diving? These are not sports?


I have had this argument on three separate continents, and yes, people who don't consider figure skating to be a sport also do not consider gymnastics or diving to be sports.
posted by Etrigan at 5:39 PM on August 11 [2 favorites]


Wait, why not skateboarding?
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:43 PM on August 11


A lot of pro gamers must be really pushing that envelope as hard as they can. Has anybody died yet?

I *think* they only take stuff for competitions and not training and practice which would keep the tolerance low. But I'm no expert.
posted by Justinian at 5:51 PM on August 11


Apart from the necessary and sufficient conditions for something to be a sport, so as to determine what qualifies, I don't feel hopeful, because 1) not all sports are in the Olympics, so there is some arbitrary decision making as to what to include; and 2) there is not a high level of appreciation among the general public for how good games are, or the kind of skill required. And it's a hard sell to those who really don't care, and may never care. The number of people I've talked to who think that games are just for kids or men who never grew up is quite high. Couple this type of prejudging with number 1, and I think it won't happen. One exception, I wonder, is if VR will have a transformative effect on what can be possible physically in virtual environments. Come close enough to reality, and who knows. When it's just someone sitting in front of a keyboard with a glazed look of concentration, though, I can't see how it wouldn't be viewed as a move in a negative direction for the image of the Olympics. Give Starcraft a UI like we see in Minority Report, though, and maybe we'll have something to run on.
posted by SpacemanStix at 6:10 PM on August 11


I have had this argument on three separate continents, and yes, people who don't consider figure skating to be a sport also do not consider gymnastics or diving to be sports.

Hey, you can argue with me, too. Fun.

I'm always open to changing my mind, but I'm pretty sure I don't believe in sports that need judges to tell you who won. And sure, that means gymnastics and figure skating don't make the cut, as you say, but it also means diving and boxing and many others need to be overhauled or booted from the sports category and placed into "impressive performance" or something. It's equal opportunity.

You could make all of those things sports, by emphasizing the athletic parts, like the compulsories, and I don't deny there's athletics at play, as well as a lot of art in some cases, but as long as judges are giving American Idol style points, controversy and drama over who favors whom, and they're basically rating the contestants, it's not sports.

Say what you will about video games as sports (also dumb for different reasons, all enumerated to bits in this thread already), but at least there are points to count and clear winners.
posted by rokusan at 6:23 PM on August 11


It would magically turn out that 100% of Esport olympians have ADHD.

So that's modern baseball, then. Or kindergarden.
posted by rokusan at 6:32 PM on August 11


No it shouldn't. It's not a sport if you can smoke and drink while doing it.

You would be amazed by what I can do while smoking and drinking.
posted by Literaryhero at 6:34 PM on August 11 [6 favorites]


I haven't really been much of a gamer since the 80s, but if there's a chance I can medal in Zork, count me in.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 6:35 PM on August 11 [2 favorites]


I'm always open to changing my mind, but I'm pretty sure I don't believe in sports that need judges to tell you who won.

Define a catch in American football and then tell me there's a sport that doesn't have judges telling you who won.
posted by Etrigan at 6:35 PM on August 11 [15 favorites]


From the Gamespot quote above: "I think the way that you look at eSports is that it's a very competitive skillset and you look at these professional gamers and the reflexes are lightning quick and they're having to make very quick decisions on the fly."

Stonkle: "If they're rejected are thousands of former gamergoobers gonna swat the Olympic committee? If there's a female team, are they going to be safe from threats and harassment? Are the NBC streams of the games going to be filled with fan comments like "cuck got triggered lmao" and pepe memes?"

Trolling, shitposting, doxxing, and swatting are also very competitive endeavours that require lightning-quick reflexes, a degree of skill, are very popular activities amongst certain groups, and pursued by some on a professional full-time basis.

I don't think the Olympic Committee would have any trouble finding multiple teams for each discipline, though they'd probably have to be organised on a per-newspaper or website basis rather than national teams…
posted by Pinback at 7:00 PM on August 11


I think I want gladitorial combat back in the Olympics before we add esports in.
posted by Nanukthedog at 7:05 PM on August 11 [2 favorites]


My concern with eSports is that any given game is inherently a commercial endeavor run by a one-company monopoly. Of course, all the sports in the Olympics have companies that profit by selling equipment for the sport, but most of the sports have a timelessness to them that video games can't get at, and (to me) that's a key component to what makes a given sport feel Olympic or not. Ten years from now, there'll still be people selling skiing equipment, basketball equipment, and so forth, even if the companies that make them go out of business, but the same can't be said for any given video game.

I mean, I hardly think that there's any particular sanctity to the Olympics that needs to be preserved, I just think it's off brand.
posted by LSK at 7:11 PM on August 11


I would rather see Olympic Paintball, than any kind of fps computer game be in the Olympics.
posted by Groundhog Week at 7:28 PM on August 11 [1 favorite]


Define a catch in American football and then tell me there's a sport that doesn't have judges telling you who won.

Seriously?

Officials enforce the rules: yes, that was a catch or it was not, according to this rule book right here, which defines a catch in absolute terms. Hey, look, you can confirm and review it on video and 100% of viewers will agree. If the official gets it wrong, it's an objective mistake that would be seen as such. Games are protested under bad calls, but everyone knows the rules.

Judges grant points for their opinions: I'm going to call that 7/10ths of a catch. The guy beside me is calling it 4/10ths, probably because he's in a bad mood or to make up for how I impugned his countryman yesterday. Our decisions are final, but there's no definitive rulebook since my interpretation is what matters, and if I get it "wrong", whatever wrong means, oh well. This "score" can be debated forever.

I have respect for competitive dancing and rock-climbing, too. Doesn't mean they are sports.
posted by rokusan at 8:10 PM on August 11 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I don't care if they add DOTA2 to the Olympics. The IOC and the Olympic games are so disgustingly corrupt and unfair, might as well throw some DOTA2/SC players into the mix.

Glad someone went the corruption angle. It is so fucked up, I don't EVER want to see the abhorrent amoral mess the IOC would create trying to pick the "official game of the Olympics".

Also, fuck those medicated gamers. I have some major lifelong ADD, and I can't get meds as I am, apparently, an adult drug seeker.
posted by Samizdata at 8:42 PM on August 11 [1 favorite]


Oh fuck no.

Shooting isn't an argument for including eSports it's an argument for excluding shooting. Notice how we just deal with it in the 1st day and never speak of it again. The horse stuff should go too. And figure skating too, well the judges and costumes must go, the discipline is actually very demanding. Ice dancing... there's no saving that.

The most striking argument for me is that you can't even write the rules down beyond "start Starcraft.exe and win a game", you 100% relying on some gamedev exe.

In any case there's no way to make the host city waste billions on an eSport arena do I doubt we'll ever see it. That and the fact it's thoroughly unspectacular.

No it shouldn't. It's not a sport if you can smoke and drink while doing it. Snooker, pool, darts, video games. None are sports.

... curling? It's more skill than athletism, but it's more physical than you'd think.
posted by WaterAndPixels at 9:00 PM on August 11 [2 favorites]


Yeah, as someone who is a huge fan of SC2 and watches online matches all the time, I'm still not seeing eSports as being viable for the Olympics. In gaming terms there is an enormous time gap between Olympics. How many multiplayer games are still viable after 4 years? How do you tell at the outset which games will still be popular 4 years later? What do you do when your game of choice becomes a "dead game" between year 4 and year 8?

There's also the small problem that for many eSports, South Korea just completely dominates. It would be as if no one in the world played soccer except Brazil, and then soccer was added to the list of Olympic games. The next 12 years of competition would just be Brazil slaughtering all comers in this strange sport that they excelled at and almost no one else cared about.
posted by Balna Watya at 9:05 PM on August 11 [2 favorites]


I would support esports but not DOTA or Starcraft or whatever.

Pong. Played on vintage 1975 home machines, hooked up to crappy 25 inch CRT console-style televisions. The venue is a musty basement. Play commences at 2:30AM local when each player drinks an entire 2-liter bottle of store-brand coke.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:02 PM on August 11 [6 favorites]


The most striking argument for me is that you can't even write the rules down beyond "start Starcraft.exe and win a game", you 100% relying on some gamedev exe.

Awwwwww dang! /captainamazing

Didn't even THINK of the corruption possibilities in bribing game companies for...ahem....modded Olympic game versions.
posted by Samizdata at 10:04 PM on August 11


I am, apparently, an adult drug seeker.

Hey, whatever helps you get around the Stalkers and Void Rays.
posted by rokusan at 10:13 PM on August 11


Didn't even THINK of the corruption possibilities in bribing game companies for...ahem....modded Olympic game versions.

Although... working in a studio that does produce an eSport game, the fairness aspect is taken seriously by devs because otherwise we'd lose all credibility (and future revenue). This is worth more to us than whatever somebody would pay to win the olympics. And you'd be surprised how invested players can notice minute differences, people are freaks! Still not an olympic sport.
posted by WaterAndPixels at 10:15 PM on August 11 [1 favorite]


Do we chop it into vague genres like MOBA, FPS, RTS, and fighting game? Who decides whether we play Skullgirls or SFV or Smash?

See, this is where I get excited, because I say you don't just chop it into genres, you define the sport as a genre and make the implementation of the actual per-Games genre entry part of the responsibility of the host city. Genre as blueprint for a new virtual stadium each time.

The 100 meter dash is the 100 meter dash, sure, but every four years it's run on a different track in a different city with different construction. Within specifications, but a new track every time. Every velodrome, every luge track, every marathon course and decathlon course and ski jump is new every time. Every baseball park is different. Every golf course is different. It's still the same sport. These are things we accept in sports.

So too, why not, with esports? Build it from scratch. Every time. The best FPS players in the world come to compete in...an FPS. Not Counter-Strike, not Quake 3, not Call of Duty: a bespoke FPS, built for that year, built to the spec of competitive "FPS" requirements, with a degree of neutrality and sterility but still for all that its own character and feel. Let the athletes adjust to the stadium, let that inform the event. A new RTS. A new MOBA. A new track, a new ramp, a new course.

DOTA 2 isn't the sport; DOTA 2 is the home ballpark you practice in. But when you go to the Games, you play in the ballpark they built. Just like everyone else.
posted by cortex at 10:40 PM on August 11 [17 favorites]


hleehowon: “The actual problem: video games are mostly owned by for-profit organizations.”
You know what game isn't? Netrek.
posted by ob1quixote at 10:50 PM on August 11


So too, why not, with esports? Build it from scratch. Every time. The best FPS players in the world come to compete in...and FPS. Not Counter-Strike, not Quake 3, not Call of Duty: a bespoke FPS, built for that year, built to the spec of competitive "FPS" requirements, with a degree of neutrality and sterility but still for all that its own character and feel. Let the athletes adjust to the stadium, let that inform the event. A new RTS. A new MOBA. A new track, a new ramp, a new course.

So you want to mix olympic infrastructure cost overruns & delays with video game development cost overuns & delays?!?!? God help us!

I'm kidding obviously but I just think its one of those things that don't need to be.
posted by WaterAndPixels at 10:57 PM on August 11 [1 favorite]


there isn't an eSport today that necessarily will have the longevity.

Of course there is: the only true eSport, Quake. Unfortunately, there's no money behind skill based video games. I mean, if there is any rival to Quake, it is Street Fighter, listen to the Street Fighter players talk about the Consequences of Reducing the Skill Gap.
posted by Chuckles at 11:45 PM on August 11 [2 favorites]


I think the marathon in the 1904 Summer Olympics is a good example of just how much the Olympics have changed.

Another example of how the Olympics have changed: compare the crowd at the 1988 Olympics in Calgary vs. 2010 in Vancouver. And this change only took 22 years..
posted by Chuckles at 11:55 PM on August 11


Should eSports be in the Olympics?

No.

Or not unless they also allow Skee-Ball, Dunk Tank, Ring Toss, and Whack-a-Mole. The Carnival Quadrathlon.

Or not unless they combine videogames with some actual athleticism like they do with the biathlon (cross-country skiing and rifle shooting) and they standardize on a noncommercial subset of videogame moves on a standard platform.

For example, they have to climb a climbing wall on standard hardware, play a video sequence on standard hardware, run a kilometer, play another video sequence, and then ride a bicycle over a certain course. But give each stage certain randomizations that are reflected in subsequent stages. The partially randomized climbing wall settings indicate what you will need to remember and apply in the video stages, and the partially randomized video stages plus the climbing sequence indicate what you will need to remember and apply on the bicycle course.

The winner of such an event will have climbed a wall, run a good distance, and ridden a good distance competitively and with variations determined in part by the video portions. They could fairly take home a gold medal and not feel like a cheat compared to all the amazing athletes who have come before. And it sure would help to improve the health of people trying to emulate Olympics gamer heroes.
posted by pracowity at 11:58 PM on August 11 [2 favorites]


Maybe writing pompous, stilted pseudo-academic essays on stuff no one cares about outside the internet should be an Olympic sport? Oh no, wait that would require subjective scoring. Maybe writing pompous pseudo-academic essays on how to objectively score pseudo-academic essays could be an olympic sport? The judges are volunteers though, no one's gonna do that.

How about we compromise on paintball as an Olympic sport? I think we could all get behind that.
posted by fshgrl at 1:33 AM on August 12 [4 favorites]




Yes. But only if the game played is forever set as Mike Tyson's Punch-Out.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:56 AM on August 12 [1 favorite]


Hey, look, you can confirm and review it on video and 100% of viewers will agree.

Hahahaha haha! Okay, so I don't really do American football, but the above is patently not true for (Olympic) sports like football, never mind rugby or handball. What's a legal barge, and what's a foul? When two players collide, whose fault was it and who gets the penalty? Etc, etc. Video replays did not remove the element of interpretation or the profound disagreement of reasonable people in any of these sports, and I would be mighty surprised if American football is any exception (not that it matters, because the idea that subjectivity means not a sport is disproved by all the other examples).
posted by Dysk at 3:01 AM on August 12 [5 favorites]


Shit, (Olympic sport) football has laws about intent. There's no video replay provable objectivity in deciding whether or not to award that booking for the hand ball offence - see ref decides if he thinks it was intentional. Hell, there's an extent to which he has to decide that before even calling the foul, never mind the booking - a ball kicked up into the hand of an opposing player will almost always result in a waved 'play on'.
posted by Dysk at 3:06 AM on August 12 [2 favorites]


If the official gets it wrong, it's an objective mistake that would be seen as such.

This is about the point where I realized you don't live in the NFC North footprint.

I get your argument -- it's nice to have a simple, elegant "This is what A True Sport is." rule. But you can't do it by claiming to eliminate the human element of judging/refereeing and call it a day.

And more importantly, why is it so important that the Olympic Games include only True Sports? What damage does it do to any part of the Olympics or athleticism or competition or anything else to have judges "deciding" winners?
posted by Etrigan at 3:36 AM on August 12 [2 favorites]


"Sport" is like "art." Everyone has motives for where they draw lines and try to install gatekeepers.
posted by xyzzy at 4:19 AM on August 12 [1 favorite]


Automobile, motorcycle, powerboat and airplane racing all require more natural ability, rigorous training and physical conditioning than playing videogames. Once we get a motorway at an Olympic venue and a slate of races for it, then we'll talk about free advertising for games companies via esports.

Not all competition is athletic, and that doesn't make it less competitive or entertaining... But it does not make it worthy of the Olympics. There's a long line of competitions that would make a better fit but are not yet part of The Games.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:22 AM on August 12 [1 favorite]


A lot of pro gamers must be really pushing that envelope as hard as they can. Has anybody died yet?

Every so often I notice one of those little human interest articles about some poor guy keeling over after staying awake for days while playing some video game, but I don't think it has hit the level of prevalence to be an expected part of major competitions.

There's also the small problem that for many eSports, South Korea just completely dominates.

Isn't this already a fairly open aspect to decisions about what sports to include (eg, ping pong)? Personally I think adding esports is a dumb idea, but as a business decision for the Olympics it is probably smart and will bring in a lot of eyeballs from a bunch of countries that aren't necessarily tuning in to watch ski jumping.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:56 AM on August 12


So, problem #1 is that any VG that requires connection to a server can't be allowed. If the competition involves connecting to an outside server, then (a) the match isn't really being held at the Olympics, it's being administered by a third party and (b) can that party certify, with legal consequences, that every packet is being handled fairly?

Also, what do you do about speedrunners that use unpatched glitches or undiscovered tricks to finish a game? Is it cheating, even if the game's physics engine allows it?

Just as an example, watch this guy speedrun Clustertruck at SGDQ 2017. Not only does he use a legal in-game ability (the "portable truck") repeatedly to glitch the physics and launch himself across the level, but at certain points the game developers actually modify the game while he's playing just to goof with him.
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 7:17 AM on August 12


See, this is where I get excited, because I say you don't just chop it into genres, you define the sport as a genre and make the implementation of the actual per-Games genre entry part of the responsibility of the host city.

Fun! This is a great idea at basically any budget. Like even without Olympic budgets, it would be awesome as a one-week indie event mashing up Ludum Dare with Games Done Quick.
posted by john hadron collider at 7:26 AM on August 12


In a lot of ways, esports are more analogous to motor racing than most other forms of sport. Now, I'm a huge motorsports fan, but I don't think it should be in the Olympics either - most competitions are owned by commercial entities, often the manufacturer of the (mandated) equipment, but if not, then usually an organisation with a commercial relationship with the company that manufacturers the mandated equipment (so that'd be like one-makes or situations like RLCS and F1 and DOTA respectively, as examples). There's too much commercial involvement, too much opacity (around precise car specs and source code) for it to be a good fit - way too much potential for corruption and interference which isn't subject to easy oversight, too much power for companies to affect or even outright rewrite rules for commercial rather than sporting reasons. None of this makes either bad, just not suitable for the Olympics.
posted by Dysk at 8:26 AM on August 12 [3 favorites]


No.


And if it is, the IOC should go full meta and the competition should be on the official videogame of the Olympics. graphics aside, It's more or less the same thing since Track and Field back in 1983.
posted by lmfsilva at 9:31 AM on August 12 [1 favorite]


Every so often I notice one of those little human interest articles about some poor guy keeling over after staying awake for days while playing some video game, but I don't think it has hit the level of prevalence to be an expected part of major competitions.

It's worth noting that these are usually amateurs. I think there may have been one or two cases of streamers dying during a marathon event, but I don't believe any actual pro gamers (as in ones who regularly compete/place in organised league tournaments) have died this way.
posted by tobascodagama at 9:50 AM on August 12 [1 favorite]


Betteridge's Law at work.
posted by Dr. Twist at 12:43 PM on August 12


Surprised that no one has cited George Carlin on "sports" yet!

"To my way of thinking there are really only three sports: baseball, basketball, and football. Everything else is either a game or an activity...."
posted by oakroom at 2:23 PM on August 12


I am, apparently, an adult drug seeker.

Hey, whatever helps you get around the Stalkers and Void Rays.


Heh.

Although... working in a studio that does produce an eSport game, the fairness aspect is taken seriously by devs because otherwise we'd lose all credibility (and future revenue). This is worth more to us than whatever somebody would pay to win the olympics. And you'd be surprised how invested players can notice minute differences, people are freaks! Still not an olympic sport.


That is why I made the point of it being an "Olympic edition". Might I ask which eSport?

And, as much as I love video games, I am really down on the Olympian eSport idea. Although the idea of a version of sprinting representing the bio during online gaming amuses me.
posted by Samizdata at 2:43 PM on August 12


The Olympics is run by tremendously corrupt zillionaires, and the Olympics itself ruins every single city that hosts it for years, so no one should actually care? But the idea that it isn't a "sport" and shouldn't be in the Olympics is ahistorical bullshit. Literature used to be an Olympic competition.
posted by adrienneleigh at 10:14 PM on August 13 [2 favorites]


Yeah, and art, and poetry. It's almost like the modern games doesn't really resemble or serve the same function as it did in the first half of the 20th century, what with it now being a sporting competition.
posted by Dysk at 3:48 AM on August 14


Oh, forgive me for intruding with actual history; i will just let you continue to elevate the wonders of the corrupt zillionaire IOC and shit on esports in peace.
posted by adrienneleigh at 4:01 AM on August 14 [1 favorite]


I'm just not sure I see the relevance of "but this is how they did it in the 1930s!" It was a different world in the 1930s. Even then, it'd be an argument for bringing back poetry? It's not like they played Olympic computer games back then...

And nobody here is praising the IOC, or really shitting on esports. There are all kinds of awesome things in the world that just wouldn't be a good fit for the modern Olympics.
posted by Dysk at 4:10 AM on August 14


The Olympics were shaped by Coubertin to be a cultural event, believing man should excel in sports and arts. Like many things in the Olympics it has changed for the worse, the better (because Coubertin might have been an idealist, but he also was full of shit, being a late 19th century aristocrat), or simply get on with the times.
I don't think there should be a poetry or painting competition in the Olympics, but if the IOC decided to hold a yearly award for work of arts about sport on several areas (poetry, visual arts, music and architecture, for instance) nobody would see a problem in there. Or likely care.

There are things that could be connected to sports - FIFA already runs an yearly world championship for EA's FIFA players, for instance (but it's not going to be on the Olympics ahead of beach soccer and futsal). The problem is how do you connect the DOTAs and the Street Fighters. Yes, it's competitive, but plenty of things are and also aren't considered.
posted by lmfsilva at 8:08 AM on August 14 [1 favorite]


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