Professional Video Gaming: Sport or Not?

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With rising tournament prize money, the hours of practice required to be the best and Youtube now being a job (and a well-played one at that), Sport Editor, Jack Pethick, evaluates whether or not Video-Gaming should be classified as a Sport.

For some years now, a debate has existed within the sporting and gaming community as to whether or not professional video gaming should be classified as a sport. Those within the gaming community would of course, say yes, arguing that the hours and hours of practice required in order to win the huge prize money that the international tournaments now offer make it unquestionably a sport. Those in the more traditional sporting corner, however, would strongly argue that video gaming should stay firmly in its place as a recreational activity, citing the fact that any lazy slob who sits on his sofa all day can become good at video games.

Ultimately, what side of the fence you are is decided by what characteristics you believe to make up what classifies as a sport. For me personally, there are four key aspects which define the make-up of a sport. Firstly, and arguably the most crucial aspect, a sport must have a competitive edge to it. Period. It is this aspect which differentiates the term sport from leisure. Secondly, a sport must be one that demands either extreme skill, or either physical superiority in some capacity over your opponent(s); whether it’s being stronger, faster, more skilful or fitter than your competitor. Thirdly, a sport must also have the practice element to it, requiring hours of training to maintain the high level of skill or physical trait required to be successful within that sport. Finally, due to its competitive nature, a sport is something which demands both mental stamina as well as cleverness; often what separates the top sportspeople from the others is their ability to stay mentally strong and dig out results, as well as being tactically more intelligent than there opponent. Of course sports can fulfil these characteristics in a variety of ways, but in my opinion, they nevertheless have to fulfil all of these characteristics in some manner.

To an extent, professional video gaming does fulfil these defining characteristics. It is certainly competitive, with huge international tournaments taking place for instance, over games such as FIFA and World of Warcraft. Furthermore, there are a number of video games which not only require immense skill, but also hours and hours of practice in order to be successful; in order to win the huge money prizes on offer at tournaments, players practice weeks on end to make sure they are at the top of their game come tournament time. In addition, a lot of video games do require the use of intelligent tactics; games such as Call of Duty or again FIFIA for example, can be won by the use of clever tactics and anticipation of the opponents move, just as any chess player would do for instance.

It is also hard to ignore factors such as the huge money that professional video gamers and Youtubers make in this argument, as well as the entertainment it brings to huge fans bases across the world. In huge multi-billion dollar sports such as football, golf, and American football, these are characteristics which help increasingly to define the nature of the sport in some respect. Video gaming tournaments are increasingly starting to bring in similar big sponsors, money and fan bases that big sports such as football has, and this increasing factor is arguably what is starting to spark the debate we are having now and whether or not professional video gaming should indeed be seen as a sport.

Undoubtedly this is a topic that will continue to cause debate and divide opinion. Furthermore, it is also a debate that will continue to grow in the public eye as the money and fan bases of professional video gaming continue to grow, and as virtual reality technologies continue to develop. However, as to whether or not professional video gaming does stand in the category of being a sport, I would certainly argue so as it has the  basic characteristics of what I would deem makes up a sport. After all, professional video gaming is surely a sport if we think that some fat blokes who drink beer and throw darts at a board is!

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Jack Pethick. Sport Editor 2014-2016. Third-Year History student. Mainly write for the Sport section but dabble in writing News and Features. General Armchair pundit and lover of all things Sport. #WouldDoABetterJobThanCarragher

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