Pro-esports Players are Athletes, Change My Mind

Pro-esports Players are Athletes, Change My Mind

With esports becoming such a renowned, worldwide superpower, this constantly growing enterprise boasts a global audience of over 400 million people. Esports scholarships are being handed out, and the industry stands to make or break the professional careers of thousands of gamers alike.

As with any international phenomenon, there seems to have arisen a great deal of controversy. Specifically, around whether the words sports and athletes are being used appropriately, or whether they make a mockery of the rich legacy of sports and athletes, laid down over almost three millennia.

Here are the big questions people are asking:

Is esports a real sport?
Should pro esports players really be called athletes?

What defines a sport?

Collins Dictionary has sports pegged as “competitive leisure activities which need physical effort and skill.” Cambridge Dictionary similarly defines sport as “a game, competition, or activity needing physical effort and skill that is played or done according to rules, for enjoyment and/or as a job.”

Sport is actually a classification of games. Both terms are defined similarly by competitiveness and adherence to rules, but sport differs in one keyway. Where games often rely on an element of chance, such as in gambling, sport is primarily a game of skill and requires an element of physical effort.

While there should be no doubt that pro-players exhibit a tonne of skill, there is some speculation that pro-players do not exert enough physical effort for their activities to be considered a sport—tell that to the esports pros suffering from repetitive strain injury or tennis elbow.

In fact, there are plenty of games that are officially considered sports that involve a heck of a lot less physical exertion. The Association of IOC Recognised International Sports Federations (ARISF) considers bridge and chess sports, both of which are played sitting down. Esports, however, still lies in the fringes—it has even been deemed too violent to be recognized as a sport, and “not compatible” with Olympic values.

That being said, the history of esports players harming one another physically is pretty thin, considering it’s a no-contact activity. However, I have seen some horrific martial arts injuries. Besides, have you ever watched a takedown in American Football? Hot damn!

Image credit: ESL esports

Who qualifies as an athlete?

It’s no secret that pro esports players train hard. They toil daily, just like any other athlete, in order to hone their skills, and they compete professionally for a prize. All these things should put them in the running to be held as athletes, right?

But, by the logic that follows, should my engineer friends who trained, toiled, and competed in a robot-wars like contest at university not also be considered athletes? They spent hours hunched over their machines, focused and sweating all day in a workshop. They trained their minds, and their reflexes, in order to compete and win.

I mean, technically they competed, but maybe the robots are the real athletes? As you can see, it all gets a little fuzzy around semantics, so here’s some more etymology for you.

The definition of an athlete, as it stands with Collins Dictionary, is “a person who does a sport, especially athletics, or track and field events.” And Cambridge Dictionary describes an athlete as “a person who is very good at sports or physical exercise, especially one who competes in organized events.”

Note the phrases “or physical exercise,” and “especially athletics” are used, meaning the term athletes is not exclusive to physical versions of sports. So surely, as long as esports can be considered a sport, pro esports players should be able to consider themselves athletes. There’s nothing here about the necessity of being in peak physical condition, though it may surprise you that many pro esports players are involved in a strict regime of physical exercise.

Just a note, although it’s not actually stated in the dictionary, I’m pretty sure athletes cannot be robots. However, this may be subject to change in the near future.

Image credit: LoL esports

Where do we stand?

In a very grey area, that’s where. The main arguments seem to boil down to the blurred lines between what counts as physical activity and fitness (which means different things for different people), as well as whether the inclusion of violence should disqualify an activity from being regarded as a sport (which is just total rubbish).

Perhaps if esports players used standing desks more often, or played more nonviolent games, could they then finally consider themselves athletes? And, with F1 esports looking forward to a bid for the Olympics, why not other non-violent games like Stardew Valley, or Pong?

I’ll be honest, not using the word athletes feels as if it undermines all the effort, the hours of labor, tears, and frustration these professional esports players endure on a daily basis. And, at the end of the day, definitions are fluid.

Humanity has been redefining words for as long as words have existed, and adaptation is how we advance as a species. Lines that are drawn shift constantly, and are never quite as finite as we would like to think.

So, while the definitions of all the above terms will vary with time, one thing is for certain: the future is becoming increasingly digitized. Eventually, esports players may be suited up and shoved into virtual reality tournaments, to compete with other pro-teams in increasingly physically strenuous activities.

So, once esports athletes are playing real physical sports, against real people, but in a digital arena, where will the lines be drawn then? And, who’s to say they aren’t already athletes—just because they might not be able to sprint a hundred meters.

Just because their pitch is digital and doesn’t need watering?

Personally, I can’t wait to see the likes of Euro Truck Simulator 2 plastered up on the pro athletes’ screens at major Olympic esporting events.

By Katie Wickens
November 2020
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Local eSports leaders to create a league for high schoolers

SPRINGFIELD, Mo- Contender eSports, and the Drury eSports team are squading up to create a league for high schoolers in Springfield.

Contender eSports is Springfield’s only eSports gaming center. Brett Payne owns the Springfield location and the franchise nationwide, with the corporate office in Springfield at the Missouri State eFactory.

Brett started the company towards the end of 2018 and wanted it to be a place for the community to come and enjoy it.

Brett Payne, Founder and CEO – Contender eSports

“There was an opportunity for us to kind of standardize this and make sure that we have a way for every city in the United States to have its own brick and mortar esports facility,” says Brett.

Brett is no stranger to video games. He has four kids ranging from 27 to 6-years-old. So he understands the parental perspective with kids and video games.

He says since the gaming center has opened, it opened last week, parents are shocked with how family-friendly of a place it is.

“They come in here; they see so many people while they’re playing. They sit on the couches, they talk with their other friends. They know that this is a very family-friendly place, so we try to make it really really safe for everybody,” says Brett.

The mission of Contender is to reach gamers of all ages. To reach high school students, they are creating gaming leagues for high schoolers in Springfield.

Contender and the Drury eSports team are hoping to create the league in the coming weeks.

“We’re working together to start the first Springfield eSports high school league. So parents that have been arguing with their kids about playing various games all of a sudden are going to see those kids competing against other high schools here,” says Brett.

Esports: nothing but (inter)net for a group of Drury athletes Drury eSports Head Coach

Michael Jones says Drury’s role is to coach the students on teamwork.

“We’re offering the expertise in how do you run a team? What are the duties of a couch? There’s a lot of teachers and faculty members that are stepping up that are seeing this as something their students are passionate about, and they want to support that. So we’re volunteering to offer mentorship and coaching to these young gamers so that they can learn how to be part of a team,” says Michael.

Until the leagues are set in stone, high schoolers are still welcome to play with friends at Contender.

In more eSports news, Drury will be hosting an eSports festival at the O’Reilly Family Event Center on February 22nd and 23rd.

According to a press release from Drury, “Teams in the Midwest Esports Conference will hold official competitions in a double, round-robin regular season in the game League of Legends. In addition to spectating the conference’s League of Legends contests, attendees can sign up for tournaments in a variety of games.”

By Chris Six
Feb 10, 2020 / 06:25 PM CST / Updated: Feb 10, 2020 / 06:27 PM CST

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Esports: Changing the definition of athletes in college and beyond

Esports phenomenon changing gaming stereotypes

There’s a new sport gaining popularity, and it doesn’t involve a field, a court or even a ball.

In this sport, you can catch gamers banging away at their keyboards, competing against other players in a virtual sphere.

This is the new world of esports, or electronic sports, and it is a growing phenomenon that’s attracting a new kind of athlete.

“I always say games are easy to pick-up on, difficult to master,” said Christian Anton, a third year student at the University of Denver and a member of the DU Esports Club team.

The world of esports just crowned its first world champion team, the London Spitfire, and a growing number of universities are even offering scholarships to competitive video gamers.

“It’s really becoming a mainstream activity, especially among millennials and those younger than me, like Gen Z,” Anton said.

The athletes

Anton is a computer science major at DU, with a triple minor in mathematics, history and public policy. A smart guy who argues his fellow keyboard warriors are, without question, athletes.

“The definition of what is a sport and what isn’t is rather fluid,” Anton said. “Some people say stuff like car racing is a sport, while others say, ‘All they do is turn left for about three hours.’ What you can’t argue with is it’s a task that you can improve with over time and with practice.”

At DU and Colorado State University in Fort Collins, there are now both casual and competitive esports clubs.

“It really should be considered a sport,” said Kyle Tong, a founding member of the casual esports club at CSU.

The clubs even have team captains, like Reave Hosman, for different games and skill levels.

“With every incoming freshman or first year class, we’ve grown,” Hosman said. “We’ve doubled, we’ve tripled. It really is incredible.”

Gaming is also bucking the stereotype that it’s a loner activity.

“There is a lot of camaraderie among fellow gamers,” Tong said. “And they socialize together. They’ll play a game together and they’ll go talk and say, ‘Oh, you’re this person, you’re that person. It’s nice to get to know you in person. Oh, it’s great to meet you.'”

Big business

Esports is certainly big business, inspiring new gaming centers like a huge facility in the Denver suburb of Lakewood.

“It’s big enough to be called an arena,” said James Love, director of communications for N3rd Street Gamers. “We have one in Philadelphia and one in Denver. In a nut shell, esports is competitive video gaming. I like to call it the biggest industry that nobody has heard of because it has flown under the radar for so many years.”

But those days are perhaps over. And Love said these controller commandos exhibit uncanny reflexes and more.

“There is an extraordinary amount of hand-eye coordination,” Love said. “It also takes a lot of focus. It takes breathing. So, a lot of the training that goes into traditional sports translates to the training that esports athletes go through.”

Let’s get physical

At one of Denver’s premiere one-on-one physical training facilities, The Body Shaping Company, trainer Briana Phillips appreciates the intensity of gaming.

“There’s definitely some skill involved within esports,” Phillips said.

But, she said the dedication, focus and skills of traditional athletes versus gamers are night and day.

“On a physical level, having to perform, whatever sport it is — you can’t really create that sitting down watching a screen,” Phillips said. “It’s just a different level of physical activity, dedication and passion.”

Equestrienne Natalie Anderson spends several hours a week in the gym.

“This is what helps me continue to compete at the level that I enjoy doing,” Anderson said.

She argues the stakes are simply higher for traditional athletes compared to gamers.

“I can certainly appreciate the skill it takes to master anything,” Anderson said. “But, I don’t think they’re necessarily comparable in that you’re not putting your body on the line in esports. There’s just a physical component of, if I come in and I’m not focused, I could have a serious accident or get hurt.”

While there are certainly a myriad of opinions, esports is certainly a game changer. And, it’s dispelling stereotypes about playing video games.

Dispelling the stereotypes

Contender eSports 405 N. Jefferson Ave Springfield, MO 65806 404-418-5416

“The idea that it’s a 300-pound guy in his mother’s basement or something like that? Totally wrong,” said University of Denver computer science professor and department chair Scott Leutenegger.

He said the intellectual abilities of esports athletes are unmatched and undeniable.

“Beyond fast reflexes, they work with a team, they communicate, they think ahead,” he said. “That’s called telescopic probing — if I do this and this and this. Just like chess. Thinking in multiple stages of what you are going to do, but unlike chess, you need to do it as a team. So, in many ways, it’s much more complex than chess.”

Leutenegger said gaming builds a sense of community and esports clubs can help build a university’s reputation.

“I do think more and more universities will be providing scholarships to esports athletes. Absolutely,” Leutenegger said.

Are the players nerds of jocks? He said probably both.

He also pointed out that there are thousands of job opportunities in esports game development and programming.

“These students are actually getting into a career field that is going to be rewarding to them in many ways,” Leutenegger said. “It is going to be lucrative to them.”

Women in esports

For professionals like Cait Culpepper, esports is a culture and career field that’s changing all the time.

“It’s exciting,” she said.

She said her handle name is ‘TinyCait.’

Culpepper is breaking barriers. First, as a woman in esports.

“I think there’s definitely room in this esports sphere,” she said. “We just need to make room for ourselves.”

And second, beyond competing, she’s making a name for herself as an esports event organizer.

“My dad always asked me how I was going to make money doing this,” Culpepper said. “I spent 10 years in the fashion industry in Los Angeles. Eventually, I was like – I just need to take a risk and try to get into this industry and it has worked out so far. I’m an event manager planning big, amateur, open tournaments.”

Big money

Those kinds of tournaments can pay out huge purses, similar to golf.

Love said the prize pools range from $500 to $10,000, and it’s only growing. The higher you place, the more you earn.

“Just like every sport, you have the elites,” Leutenegger said. “And you can make a lot of money.”

Beyond that, Anton said you can also pick up sponsors and some leagues are discussing annual salaries.

“They’re trying to make salaried employees where their primary income is from their sports team, like the NFL or NBA,” Anton said.

Corporations are certainly starting to take the surge in popularity seriously. In a recent tournament that aired nationwide, Coca Cola, Toyota and State Farm all paid for advertising time.

Eliminating socioeconomic barriers

The doors at N3rd Street Gamers are also wide open to the casual gamer. It’s just $10 to play for four hours.

“There’s a low barrier of entry,” said Love. “And there’s a huge demographic of gamers here. We want to provide you a safe place to game with the best equipment possible.”

Whether you consider them athletes or not, esports are certainly becoming more mainstream and popular by the minute.

“It’s not a sport in the traditional sense. We’re not physically exerting ourselves, that’s pretty obvious,” Hosman said. “But, I would say that these games, with the amount of focus and the amount of hand-eye coordination and the amount of effort that we put in, are as — if not more — mentally draining than any other sport out there that people play.”

Tong said they have the competitive spirit — their fun just happens to take place on a computer.

“What’s so wrong with that?” he said.

Anton said esports is also a great way to make new friends.

“Everybody on the team has a different role they can fill, or several different roles,” he said. “Just like you have your quarterback, your linemen and your wide receivers in football. In a game such as Overwatch, you have your team.”

Those teams include several different roles, like healers, attackers, attacks and more. The team has a goal they work toward together.

“It’s not a bunch of couch potatoes,” Leutenegger said. “It’s a bunch of active people that also do esports.”

by Russell Haythorn
PUBLISHED May 1, 2019

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Building a Nationwide High School Esports League

Over the last several months much of the media coverage on the growth of the sports has been related to what is happening in colleges and universities. While the growth in this sector is rapid, there is a similar growth pattern in high schools.

The eSports Observer notes, “High schools could prove to be a crucial formative period for any future gaming star. For many institutions, developing a dedicated facility for gaming isn’t nearly as costly as in traditional sports. “Most people are surprised by how easy to build an esports program at their school, and how affordable too” said Parnell. “The biggest onboarding process we have to overcome is the IT equipment. Really understand how the IT network is set up, unblock certain websites…ports for servers, for particular games we’re rolling out.””

The ideal scenario would be for high schools to provide centers directly for their students. Obviously, there’s a financial barrier of entry for this, which leads the way for third-party gaming center to provide the same kind of services to the high schools.

Building a gaming center in a community is more than installing technology. It is the opportunity to provide easy access to all local universities and colleges, high schools and clubs throughout the city, not to mention those who simply love gaming and are not yet directly connected to the community.

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Ohio State University eSports Program

Imagine a world-class soccer team, such as Manchester United, deciding to build a stadium in a city that has never heard of soccer. First would come curiosity, then observers, then fans … And very quickly you would not find one person in the city who did not know what soccer was. It would affect all age groups, every part of society, and the general awareness of something that was previously not known would become standard.

This is precisely what is happening with eSports.

Major entities and influencers around the world are pushing global awareness like never before. We see it with celebrities, professional athletic teams, and Rockstars.

This past week Ohio State University became the next big influencer.

Ohio State University (OSU) is developing a new comprehensive esports program that will bring together academics, collegiate competition, and multidisciplinary research. The program will span across five of the university’s colleges, with a focus on game studies and esports.

The curriculum will include undergraduate and graduate esports degrees, an elective course in esports content production, and online certification programs for specialized credentials. Part of the program extends to the OSU’s Wexner Medical Center, where prospective students will study the relationships between the brain, bodies, and behaviors of esports athletes.

The phenomenon is about to happen Ohio’s only evidence of what will happen in key cities around the world. This is not something to be relegated in the United States to New York and Los Angeles … But rather it will touch every town in one way or another.

The same is true outside of the US. What city do you live in? Have you done a quick Google search for eSports in the name of your city? You might find some interesting developments.

Continue Reading the original story in The Esports Observer.

Southern New Hampshire University Adds Esports Varsity Team

SNHU Esports Team

Sultan Akhter is an athlete, but he doesn’t play centerfield or shortstop.

The senior business major will captain the Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) Esports team in its inaugural season this fall.

Along with fellow students playing games like Hearthstone and Fortnite, Akhter will compete for scholarship money as a member of the team’s League of Legends squad.

“An esports team is basically a competitive video gaming team,” he said.

The program is the first competitive esports team in New Hampshire and one of only a handful in New England.

ESPN lists fewer than 100 varsity esports teams in North America, though that doesn’t include club-level teams.

Playing under the auspices of the National Association of Collegiate Esports, SNHU’s team will field squads for four games – Fortnite, Hearthstone, League of Legends and Overwatch and battle online against teams from schools across the country.

Tim Fowler, SNHU Director of Esports, said in addition to the scholarships SNHU will offer next year, college esports teams are competing for real money to continue their education.

The esports industry as a whole has exploded in popularity, size and profitability in recent years. Forbes reported that industry-wide revenue is expected to top $900 million this year and could reach $1 billion in 2019.

“The skills you learn in esports are the same you learn in traditional sports,” Fowler, a former college lacrosse player, said. “I remember playing as a team and being a part of that community, and that’s what I’m trying to build with esports. The real core values you take away from traditional sports are the same you’re taking away from esports.”

Continue Reading the original story at SMJU.EDU.

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