eSports in LA 2024 Olympic Games
The surprise announcement from the 2024 Los Angeles Olympic Committee that they want eSports to be included in their games fills me with both excitement and dread.
In the one hand, the inclusion of the now booming eSports – estimated to have global revenue of $463 million – could have the potential to draw both this generation of youngsters and the next into the Olympic fold. Despite the emergence and prowess of young Olympic athletes such as 19 year old Simone Biles, who won four gold medals and a bronze at this year’s Rio Olympics, there is a strong perception that young people are not very involved in sports – and there is good reason to think that, considering that in the UK alone child obesity is rising at an ever greater and alarming rate. Thus, the introduction of eSports as a gateway into the traditional area of Olympic sports has the promise to kick-start an interest in sports for our future generations. With approximately 131 million people viewing eSports as of this year, this could certainly be a prime target audience to bring in to the Olympic and sporting fold. Furthermore, the evolution of ‘sport’ itself is another thing to consider.
Should technology become intertwined with sport? It already has to some extent. In football (or soccer, for those of you stateside) goal line technology is being normalised, hawk-eye at Wimbledon and the ‘Hot Spot’ system in cricket are well established parts of the refereeing make-up. True, it is only an aid and an aid to human referees at that, but digital technology and traditional sport are no strangers to each other. (Cricket is not an Olympic sport – that is a separate campaign to be had altogether, but getting youngsters introduced to any physical sports should be encouraged.) Also, the traditional sporting and Olympic establishment would do well to recognise that the landscape and face of sport is changing, as it ever does, and as the continuing exponential growth of digital appliances and the equally exponential growth of video games pushes onwards, it seems only a matter of time before the two collide in earnest.
eSports appears to be the obvious fusion – ‘sport’ in the name after all, but there are some hiccups. First and foremost, for eSports to become an ‘Olympic’ sport it must have firm and distinct categories to be awarded medals. This may seem an unimportant, nonchalant part and parcel of the process however it is the most difficult. If it were to be divided by genre – the obvious route – then how are games within that genre judged against each other? If at all? There are thousands of ‘FPS’ games on Steam. True, not all of them are currently played at the eSports level but it gives an idea of the problem eSports faces. If the most popular eSports games, such as League of Legends, Dota 2 and StarCraft 2 are only allowed to begin with or at all, then huge swathes of the gaming community – let alone the public – will be potentially left out as while popular these original eSports games do not appeal to everyone.
Perhaps the best solution would be a partnership – between the Olympics and prominent eSports organisations– to solve the issues of practicality and to cross the boundary between digital and physical sport in terms of commercial and marketing appeal.