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Are E-Sports Real Sports?

Online gaming is a growing industry, and some colleges offer scholarships to e-athletes. But should playing a game online be considered a sport? Two Choices advisers weigh in.

YES

Right at the beginning of my freshman year of high school, I broke my foot and had to miss my entire volleyball season. I was devastated by the injury, and, even worse for the team, I wasn’t the only one sidelined. Throughout the season, my teammates got sick and injured, to the point that we rarely had a full team practice. These barriers highlight the limitations of traditional sports. E-sports, meanwhile, aren’t as dependent on a player’s condition, yet provide many of the same benefits as traditional sports. That’s why they should be considered real sports.

I’m not the only one who recognizes e-sports’ legitimacy. According to the gaming industry analytical firm Newzoo, e-sports is a $1 billion global industry. Professional gamers compete for up to $1 million in prize money. And more than 200 colleges offer e-sports scholarships. College e-athletes attend practices where they work on strategy and skills, just like traditional athletes.

Not only are e-sports legitimate sports, they also have advantages over traditional sports. Perhaps the most important benefit of e-sports is their accessibility. When I broke my foot, I was sidelined for just one season, but many people have disabilities and physical differences that prevent them from ever playing traditional sports. E-sports are more accessible than many other sports— there are even adaptations that let gamers use their voices to operate the controls. Opponents may claim that e-sports don’t provide the same physical workout as traditional sports. While it’s true that playing Fortnite might not leave you as sweaty as playing tennis, e-sports can improve your hand-eye coordination, focus, and cognitive abilities. Plus, e-sports athletes are much less likely to sustain debilitating injuries like concussions and broken bones than traditional athletes.

E-sports are much safer and more accessible than traditional sports yet still teach the importance of competition, collaboration, and strategy, which is why I believe they should be considered real sports.

NO

I play basketball both online and in real life. The difference is, I can comfortably sit on my living room couch and play the basketball video game NBA 2K20 for hours on end while barely breaking a sweat. On the other hand, I can’t even last an hour on the basketball court without needing a water break. By the end of the game, my T-shirt is drenched in sweat, my arms feel heavier than the Titanic, and my legs are on the verge of collapsing. This is why I believe that even though it’s a fun hobby, playing video games is not a real sport. Pushing buttons on a controller is simply not physically demanding enough to meet the Oxford English Dictionary’s definition of a sport: “an activity involving physical exertion and skill.”

Not only are video games too sedentary to qualify as real sports, they also negatively affect the health of players. In a 2019 survey of e-sports athletes, the American Osteopathic Association found that 56 percent of the gamers who responded experienced eye fatigue, 42 percent reported back and neck pain, and 36 percent reported severe wrist pain. Even worse, almost half of the e-sport athletes surveyed got no physical activity in a given day.

While it’s true that traditional athletes can sustain injuries while playing games like basketball, volleyball, and football, the health benefits of traditional sports offset the risks. These benefits include improved cardiovascular health, a reduced risk for diabetes, and greater joint flexibility. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that teens get an hour of physical activity daily. Playing any traditional sport is a great way to meet this requirement.

Some video game connoisseurs might argue that gaming is a real sport because spectators watch you compete. But many games that can be watched by spectators are not sports. Competitive chess matches, for example, can be observed both online and in real life, but chess is a game, not an athletic event. Only games requiring extreme physical exertion qualify as true sports.

As both a gamer and traditional athlete, I’m interested in the future of e-sports. However, video games are not traditional sports and should not be held in the same regard as sports like football, baseball, and soccer.

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