If you thought the possibility of putting eSports into the Olympics was going to cause grumbling, well, you were right – at least from the perspective of those who believe computer games have no place in the Games themselves.
Now, get ready for a different type of complaint: that of many eSports aficionados when they learn that any games to be contested in 2024 will have to be those without violence.
In a recent article in SportTechie, IOC president Thomas Bach noted that while he was open to welcoming eSports competition, he had reservations about the types of games included. “We want to promote non-discrimination, non-violence, and peace among people,” Bach told the South China Morning Post. “This doesn’t match with video games which are about violence, explosions and killing. And there we have to draw a clear line.”
That leaves out wildly popular games like World of Warcraft, Dota 2, League of Legends and Call of Duty, among others. And don’t even think about Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, in which terrorists and counter-terrorists battle it out.
In exchange, Bach suggested that any game included should mirror something played in real life, such as football or basketball.
“So if ever somebody is competing at playing football virtually or playing other sports virtually, this is of high interest,” Bach told the Post. “We hope that, then, these players are really delivering sports performance. If [fans] at the end would even play the sports in the real world, we would even be more happy.”
Worth noting: the International Table Tennis Federation recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the International eSports Federation to develop and promote table tennis eSports. Table tennis is already a medal sport in the Olympics.
While it remains to be seen whether the electronic versions of sports can induce computer gamers to play physical sports, the onboarding of eSports in the Olympics stands to bring in the youth demographic that Bach has long sought to revitalize the Games. A study done in the U.S. showed TV viewers between ages 18-34 declined roughly 30 percent in 2016 compared to the London games.
“That means for the long-term future, we have to make sure that the young generation is well served with digital platforms to follow the Games and that the Games are presented in a way that is interesting to them,” Bach continued.
Something of interest to purists: there are plenty of eSports games that offer the combative aspect aficionados might seek, such as those based on wrestling, boxing or martial arts – all of which are included in the Olympics.
SDM requested a comment from the International eSports Federation, as well as the World eSports Association, but did not receive a response from either by press time.