A group of friends and I spent our Sunday night playing board games and talking about games, which led to an impeccably timed conversation about what a “real” sport is.
Jokingly at first, but then in a serious way, we tried to define what sports were. Football, basketball, and the usual cases fell easily into the “sport” category, whereas things like gymnastics and wrestling fell into the “Olympic activity” category (as per a friend’s definition). Talking about e-sports was unheard of. His rubric began with physical activity, but that category wasn’t exclusive enough for him – swimming didn’t seem like a sport to him, but based on that definition it would be considered as one. So he added a second means of analysis – great chance of physical harm. This made me bring up cheerleading over and over as a viable sport through those parameters, and we decided that the third qualifier was “because I say so.” So if it fit the first two and he was still unhappy, he could still just say it didn’t count.
This is a kind of silly anecdote, but it’s completely related to discussions about e-sports. T.L. Taylor points out in Raising the Stakes the many similarities between what my friend would define as “real” sports and e-sports, and how there are many physical aspects to e-sports even if we don’t realize it. Minus the bodily harm portion (though raging can get kind of intense, see my last post). League of Legends takes time, learning, and practice to become skilled, just as sports do for someone to become better at them.
(This is one of my favorite examples of skill – and luck.)
Something my friend failed to address but that I think is integral in the aspects of sports is the idea of competition. Since the first week of class, we’ve been discussing these ideas of what ‘competition’ and ‘games’ mean in relation to each other, and if something can be for ‘fun’ if it’s a competitive game. Where are the lines drawn, if there are any, and is there any way to define them? This gray area is another issue entirely, but whether or not a game is a sport or a game is something fun or not, sports involve competition (at least in my book).
This is why I am glad there was a demo on League of Legends. On a large scale, tournament type basis similar to what Taylor writes about in Raising the Stakes, League of Legends is the most competitive game I’ve played in a long time. While I also really enjoy games like the Call of Duty franchise and other similar, multiplayer online games, they’re in a completely different realm than League of Legends. As was said in the presentation, League allows people to (theoretically) join ranks with the pros if they’re skilled enough. This game is so centered on rank, score, and winning that it’s hard not to consider it a sport. This, in addition to many of Taylor’s similarities between traditional and e-sports, is why I personally think e-sports are “real.”
[Also, since it was such a big hit last time, there is an MTV True Life episode about being a professional gamer. I’m sure there are ways to find it on the internet and watch it.]