SPORTS ESPORTS-SPORTSPLUS 1 LA

eSports has quickly become a big event across the gaming world, hosting tournaments that sometimes appear on channels like ESPN.

eSports are the next big sport

Brandon Ellis | The Breeze

eSports have risen in popularity over the years, especially now with popular video games like Tekken, Call of Duty and Fortnite. These games all have online competitive modes where people are trying to become pros to make money and gain popularity. The main debate with eSports is whether or not it’s a sport.

eSports are a real sport because there’s a competitive mindset that takes a unique skill to be a respectable player like Ninja on Fortnite or Doug “Censor” Martin on Call of Duty. These traditional video games have been entertaining for people to watch for several years, and it takes a certain dedication and talent to master your craft as a gamer to become a professional gamer.

That’s also how professional athletes also master their craft, so gamers actually have commonality with real sports. Professional gamers and professional athletes are both unique as compared to other humans because of their commitment to their craft.

The sensation of eSports has even reached the sports gaming community as well. Madden has a competitive league that gets air coverage on ESPN. A more recent example of a sports game that’s become an eSport is the NBA 2K series.

Earlier this year, NBA 2K introduce the 2K league. The league was founded by the NBA and Take Two Interactive — the head of 2K— that gathers its players and allows them to compete for the right to get an opportunity to get drafted into a team that is sponsored by the NBA. NBA franchises have made teams such as the Celtics Crossover Gaming, Wizards District Gaming and Raptors Uprising GC.

The 2K draft was featured on the NBA’s official YouTube channel and was done like the real NBA Draft where each of the teams in the league would choose the players they wanted. NBA commissioner Adam Silver even announced each pick and the players would walk up and shake his hand.

The NBA is doing this because Adam Silver is progressive enough to see what the game does every year. It gets eyes on the actual NBA as people are buying the game every year and for the NBA to essential create an eSport around basketball. By bringing the competitive fire of the NBA into NBA 2K, that sets the presence of doing something like this in other sports maybe one day.

The inclusion of eSports with leagues like the NBA make it a sport. If big-time leagues are recognizing gaming as its own sport and the gamers as athletes it’s time fans did, too.

Contact Brandon Ellis ellis3bm@dukes.jmu.edu For more sports coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.

eSports shouldn't be considered a sport

Jordan Simal | contributing writer

The eSports and professional gaming scenes have taken off over the past couple of years, receiving airtime on national TV stations such as ESPN and TBS. ESports refers to professional competitive gaming, spawning leagues for certain blockbuster game franchises and even creating fan bases worldwide. One of the best examples of eSport’s growth is Blizzard’s Overwatch League, which consists of 12 professionally funded teams spreading worldwide and has recently began broadcasting on ESPN.

Both pro-gamers and pro-athletes need to put in countless hours of work to be at the pinnacle of their performance capabilities and must have complete focus of their surroundings. However, one thing that seems to separate the two categories of sports stars is how they’re labeled. When JMU takes to the gridiron on Saturdays, who takes the field? Athletes. When gamers take their seats in a $10,000 tournament, who picks up the controllers? Gamers. Can people really call professional video-gamers athletes? No. The idea of it seems ridiculous and the stereotype of swapping out the weight room for a couple liters of Mountain Dew and Doritos scarcely seems like the grounds to consider someone to be a professional athlete.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines an athlete as a person who’s trained or skilled in exercises, sports, or games requiring physical strength, agility, or stamina. Even though hand-eye coordination and other reflexes may be necessary for gaming, putting a JMU football, volleyball or lacrosse player next to a video-gamer and referring to them as athletes seems completely absurd. Two key words displayed in the definition of an athlete are “physical strength.” One would assume that a pro-gamer wants stronger hands when handling their “ball” - a controller. But when looking at some the routine full-body workouts of JMU’s champion athletes, the amount of physicality seems incomparable.

When looking at the two from an entertainment stance, the numbers also are outmatched. When looking back at Blizzard’s Overwatch League, the numbers don’t compare to some of the nation’s most profound sports leagues. The Overwatch League Grand Finals drew only 860,000 viewers a minute and 10.8 million viewers over the two days it was broadcasted. When compared to NCAA’s March Madness where over 97 million tuned in earlier this year, the term ‘lopsided’ isn’t enough to describe the difference.

Viewership may be on the rise and the national interest may be too, in professional gaming, but you can’t call it a sport The idea seems impossible because it also doesn’t seem that pro-gamers can ever truly be called professional athletes. One other strange notion that separates the two is that many pro-gamers enter tournaments to play sports video games, such as Madden 19 or NBA2K19. If pro-gamers are playing video games where the in-game characters are real-life athletes, they can even distinguish a difference between pro-athletes and themselves.

Would the average consumer be interested in playing a sports video game where you play the role of a pro-gamer trying to win a $10,000 prize? More than likely, no. However, sports games based on pro-athletes sell millions of copies worldwide every year. There are critically-acclaimed games created to focus on playing sports as pro-athletes, but none created to playing a game in a game as a pro-gamer. That alone shows a distinction between sports and gaming and how they are completely different fields of competition. Thinking eSports could ever be considered a sport, especially when no one will ever think of pro-gamers as pro-athletes is absurd.

Contact Jordan Simal at simaljg@dukes.jmu.edu. For more sports coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.

Sports has been a passion for me all my life. I've always wanted to become a sports journalist ever since I heard the legendary Stuart Scott exclaim his great catchphrases like “Booyah!” or “Cooler than the other side of the pillow.”