E-Sports: Sport or Not?

By Emre Bilginoglu

Lawyer, Istanbul, Turkey

One of the most debated issues regarding E-sports is whether it really is a sport or not.

The criteria whether an activity is a sport depends on the meaning of the term “sport”. The European Sports Charter defines sport as: “all forms of physical activity which, through casual or organised participation, aim at expressing or improving physical fitness and mental well-being, forming social relationships or obtaining results in competition at all levels”.

Without doubt, physical activity is at the centre of the notion of sport. Sports competitions usually determine who is the strongest, the fastest, or who jumps the highest.

Organised computer gaming is not based on physical dexterity. The key elements in e-sports are strategy; reaction times; lots of practice; and cooperation if it involves team-play.

Computer gaming does not improve physical fitness, except for the games that involve detection of movement in three dimensions. These exceptions have not yet found an audience, since nobody would like to see someone play virtual tennis instead of a real Australian Open final between Federer and Nadal. E-sports do not yet require any physical dexterity, except for fast clicking and quick reactions.

However, not all sports are based on physical dexterity. The Association of IOC Recognised International Sports Federations (ARISF) does recognise bridge and chess. They both have an international governing body, the World Bridge Federation and the World Chess Federation. Bridge and chess do require less physical activity compared to E-sports. Billiard sport (World Confederation of Billiard Sports) and auto racing (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile) are also on the list of the ARISF. If driving an automobile can be considered as a sport, why not playing a computer game?

E-sports are not yet represented by an international governing body. The International E-Sports Federation (IeSF) is an organisation that strives to become the global governing body of the sport, but it has to work on increasing the number of its members. This would be a hard task, as current E-sports competition organizers would not wish to hand over the autonomy that they currently enjoy.

Another issue is the scope of E-sports. Which games will form part of the sport? How will a game last long, whilst even the most popular games vanish with time. Space Invaders, one of the most influential games ever made, is now unknown by youngsters who follow League of Legends. Players of Space Invaders, who used to follow football matches, can still see live football. League of Legends will undoubtedly be forgotton in the following years, not because it is a poor game, but because it will not be able to keep up with the technology. On the other hand, who runs or swims the fastest; who jumps the highest; or who lifts the heaviest have always attracted and will continue to attract millions – if not billions – of people around the world!

What do readers think?