Should professional gamers be considered athletes

Should professional gamers be considered athletes

By Lazaros Ioannou, APC Sports Consulting Limited

While gaming is becoming more and more popular with mainstream culture and as eSports continue to gain more followers, the argument whether eSports are indeed a sport and if professional gamers should be considered athletes is getting bigger and lots of people are ready to argue for either side.

In order to better understand the numbers and growth of the eSports industry we can take a look at some general statistics relating to the revenue and following of eSports. As per Statista, an online statistics portal, in 2018, worldwide revenues generated in the eSport market amounted to 865 million US Dollars and by 2020 it is expected that the number will rise to 1.48 billion US Dollars. The worldwide number of eSport viewers in 2018 was 395 million and it is expected that by 2022 the number will be 644 million. The salaries of professional gamers have also increased significantly during the past few years. The top gamers are now making millions of dollars per year from prize money and sponsorships.

So, it is clear that we definitely have an upcoming industry which is currently on the rise; it is starting to produce billions in revenue; it has hundreds of millions of followers and it is certain that it will grow rapidly in the near future. The momentum of the eSports industry, is one of the main reasons why many are already considering eSports to be an actual sport.

One of the main arguments used by those who are opposed  to eSports being considered a sport is that gaming is not a sport because of the lack of physical exercise while playing; to support their argument they are also using the definition of sport as it is given by Oxford Dictionary ‘’Sport is: An activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment’’. However, there are many recent studies with findings which come to overturn the common perception of gaming being a non-sport and that professional gamers are not ‘athletes’:

  • When playing there are gamers who achieve up to 400 movements on the keyboard and mouse per minute
  • The focus and coordination required when playing are sometimes equivalent to those required from F1 pilots
  • When playing, various parts of the brain are being used simultaneously
  • Gamers are exposed to physical strains similar to those of many other sports
  • The amount of cortisol produced is about the same level as that of a race-car driver
  • The pulse of a gamer while playing may rise up to 160 – 180 beats per minute, which is close to fast running
  • The mental and physical demands of eSports are similar or sometimes more than those of some traditional sports

It is worth noting that the government of the United States has already indirectly recognized gamers as athletes. In May 2016 a petition was created in response to the ongoing travel – visa issues faced by William “Leffen” Hjelte, a Super Smash Bros Melee player, who was initially denied a P1 athletic visa to play SSBM in the U.S. The petition was eventually expanded in scope beyond the Smash Bros. community, receiving more than 100,000 signatures and meeting the requirement that guarantees a response from the White House. The White House response was that esports athletes are eligible for P1 visas under current U.S. law, a type of Visa that is granted to athletes with the purpose of participating in sporting events in the United States.

So, is there a difference between watching 22 players playing soccer from watching 10 players playing League of Legends? This is an argument that will keep going on for some time and both sides have many passionate supporters. But, with the current and expected growth of the revenues, followers and publicity of eSports it is our opinion that one day soon, everyone will accept that eSports constitute a form of sport and professional gamers will be considered athletes and will be perceived as any other professional athlete.

For a further discussion and exchange of opinions on the growth and future of the eSports industry you can get in touch with us at info@apc-sport.com

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