For several years, video game enthusiasts have called for esports to become a full-fledged Olympic event. The appetite for acceptance is growing all the time. Recent events like the 2021 Free Fire World Series brought in more than 5.4 million viewers. In 2020, the League of Legends World Championship amassed a combined audience of more than 49 million people across all platforms. These viewing figures are staggering and in many cases, far outsize the kinds of audiences conventional sporting events can hope to achieve. However, embracing esports as a bonafide Olympic might be some way off yet.
Interest from the International Olympic Committee
Although it’s unlikely that esports will sit alongside traditional sporting events in the Olympic schedule any time soon, some strides have been made to introduce esports to a larger audience. In 2021, the International Olympic Committee announced the first-ever Olympic Virtual Series.
This initiative brought together several International Sports Federations and video game publishers from across the globe for the first licensed event of its kind. This initiative was partly a response to the growing appetite for esports but also falls underneath long-term goals for Olympic Agenda 2020+5. One thing to bear in mind here is that the games included in these plans are strictly virtual versions of real-life sports. It’s more simulated softball and sailing than first-person shooters and battle arena titles. Nonetheless, this is a promising development for anyone hoping to see their video game favorites played out professionally alongside traditional sports.
What Constitutes a Sporting Category?
How esports is defined is one of the biggest obstacles standing in the way of video games becoming a recognized Olympic category. Currently, so-called ‘mind games’ aren’t considered acceptable candidates for category recognition. This is why games like chess have long been excluded from consideration, despite ongoing calls for them to be included.
The argument for esports to be recognized makes several strong points. Esports players need to call on far more than their familiarity with game mechanics and mental faculties to compete, with physical conditioning now considered equally important. Ultimately, unless esports comfortably fits within the definition of a recognized sport, don’t expect it to become an Olympic staple any time soon.
Other Hurdles to Overcome
A major barrier standing in the way of video games becoming entangled in the Olympic web is licensing. The rights to regular sports aren’t owned by individual parties, but video game titles are. This makes hosting events particularly complicated. Furthermore, regulation will be nigh on impossible. Others argue that content found within many genres isn’t suitable for Olympic competitions. You only need to follow CSGO live here to get a flavor of the kind of content Olympic organizers are talking about. If video games are to carve out a niche within the Olympic landscape, expect racing games and sporting simulations to be the first titles to be recognized. This rules out titles like League of Legends and CS: GO. However, popular titles like FIFA may stand a better chance at entering the fray.