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Is competitive gaming a real sport? Former Blizzard chief creative officer and World of Warcraft designer Rob Pardo says yes and thinks these games should be a part of the Olympics.
"There's a very good argument for e-sports being in the Olympics. I think the way that you look at e-sports is that it's a very competitive skillset and you look at these professional gamers and the reflexes are lightning quick and their having to make very quick decisions on the fly," Pardo told the BBC. "When you look at their 'actions per minute', they're clearing over 300."
Pardo added that video games are great for spectating. The game developers have a lot of control over the visuals of their products and can make them as eye-catching as they want.
Still, he conceded that it would be an uphill battle to get e-sports recognized as a "real" sport.
"That starts getting into how you define sport," he said. "If you want to define sport as something that takes a lot of physical exertion, then it's hard to argue that videogames should be a sport, but at the same time, when I'm looking at things that are already in the Olympics, I start questioning the definition."
He has a point. The modern olympics include events like air rifle, curling and dressage. Do they require skill? Absolutely. They're no more physically demanding than playing League of Legends or Street Fighter 4, though.
Even without the cultural baggage, it would take a lot to add e-sports to the Olympics. There's a cap on how many sports can be added to the Olympic roster at a time. Plus, even if e-sports were recognized as an Olympic sport, that doesn't mean they would actually be part of the Games.
I do wonder which game or games would end up being the first to be introduced to the Olympics. E-sports are spread across numerous genres. Blizzard themselves own several games with professional competition, such as collectible card game Hearthstone and real-time strategy StarCraft 2. They're also joining the MOBA genre with Heroes of the Storm. Other e-sports categories include first-person shooters like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive or fighting games like Marvel Vs. Capcom 3. How would they determine which e-sport becomes part of the Olympics first?
Whether or not e-sports is ever accepted by the International Olympic Committee, they're growing in popularity across the world. The Season 3 world championship for League of Legends was watched by 32 million people. There's a growing competitive scene at colleges for that game as well, with one university in Illinois even offering an athletic scholarship. Rival MOBA Dota 2 recently held its world championship and gave out $10 million in prize money, most of which was supplied by its player community.
Should video games be added to the Olympics?