Sporting for centuries has been classed as a form of physical activity which uses skills and abilities in an entertaining manner. But can someone hunched over with a controller staring into a virtual environment on a screen also be classed as a sport?
Electronic sports are on the uprise, being classed as real sports in many sporting championships worldwide. They even have the same prize funds as many major sporting events. BBC's iWonder posted an article around this subject, and wrote a section about how esports are now being included in the 2015 Winter X games.
Even the Facebook page of the BBC show “Match of the Day” posted about the 2014 League of Legends esport world championship, writing that it had attracted 40,000 fans to the stadium it was hosted at, which was the venue for the FIFA World Cup semi final in 2002. This comparison, documenting that esports attract just as many fans as a FIFA world cup semi final match, shows that esports are becoming as popular as one of the main sports in the world.
So can racing in a simulator be classed as a real sport?
Many define a sport to involve a degree of physical activity in it, as well as a certain set of skills, abilities and to involve a lot of hard work and training to be where they are today. While esports may not have all these, not all sports do either. Chess and Poker are considered sports today, although there is no element of physical activity within the sport. These sports do require skills and mental focus like other sports, but they just don't involve a physical aspect to them.
This defines two kinds of sports; Physical and Mental.
Physical sports involve a large level of physical input in the sport, and the 'fitter' you are, the more chance you have at succeeding and winning against weaker competitors.
Mental sports are mainly about the mentality a person has, and the mental ability and capacity they have when they are competing, as well as skills about the sport.
With this, there is one factor to take into consideration; Mental sports can be done without the physical aspect, but physical sports cannot be done without the mental aspect. So is a sport actually defined by the mentality and skills behind it, rather than the physical input that many define a sport by? This may show how many class an esport as a real sport as it involves and requires the same skills. Mentality is a huge skill needed as well as good reaction times and a good strategy to win, much like the sport tennis.
While esports require many of the skills needed in physical sports, there are also some other positive points towards it being introduced as real sport. Esports can hugely improve reaction times, whether the player is an esport player or a physical sports player. This is a way of improving skills too, and doesn't require the player to have a team mate(s) with them to practice.
One of the largest positives though, that hugely relates to the F1 world, is it takes away the danger and the life endangering element of it. Using an F1 simulator like at our centre, the weather can be recreated on the track, the pod can look and feel the same, and the steering wheels can be based on the real F1 models too (at a fractionally lower cost of course!) With most of the elements the same as what an F1 driver uses and experiences, the danger element can be taken out of the equation. If F1 esports were considered an actual real sport, another accident like that of Jules Bianchi's could not happen, and a simulated car on a screen would be the only thing damaged in the accident (which if the simulation software is reset, would be fine again.)
Having esports classed as an actual sport can also benefit those who can't afford to enter or train up into a sporting tournament. F1 is especially relevant here, as many cannot get sponsorship or earn enough money to compete. Having esports addressed as an actual sport, means that a lot more people can participate who are good drivers as it makes it more accessible, and would then have a way to compete without the huge costs. It also means the sport is not elitist anymore, and all people can race without having it depend on the experience they have been able to afford. And esports can even create jobs for people, like when a student was offered a football managing role after impressing on the game 'Football Manager'.
But not everyone will accept seeing esports accepted as a sporting event in itself.
Can what many class as a hobby be turned into a sport that could potentially earn them millions from tournaments? While some people will say they don't agree playing video games as a hobby can be turned into a real sporting career, is it that different from a sport as a hobby turning into a athletes career?
Taking Lewis Hamilton for example, his career started as a hobby with a radio controlled car bought by his father when he was 6. The following year he came 2nd in the national BRCA championship which resulted in Hamilton's father buying him a go-kart. From this, he carried on in competitions and has ended up where he is today, a two time F1 world champion.
But some will still argue that esports don't compare. They don't include any athletic skills such as endurance and strength, and athletes put hard work into their physique and skills, whereas gamers may just train their memory for button combinations and don't have to train as much as an athlete. It's questionable whether an esport player just needs to have quick reflexes to hit the keys first before the other player and not have any actual strategy put in place in their game. But in F1, is it just about memorising a track and knowing what buttons to push when on the steering wheel just like an esport?
As always I look forward to hearing from anyone that supports Lets Race and/or has their own take on esports.