Esports in the Olympics has been a topic of discussion for some time. Gamers everywhere have advocated for the addition of Esports to the ever-evolving docket of events in the quadrennial celebration of worldwide athleticism and competition.
Back in July of this year, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) made an announcement that they would be attending and taking part in what was being called an “Esports Forum” – an event consisting of interviews, roundtable discussions, and panels – which were all centered around potentially bringing Esports to the Olympic Games. The result of said forum was the establishment of an Esports Liaison Group between the Global Association of International Sports Federations and the IOC. The goal of this collaboration was “to continue communication and engagement between the Olympic Movement and Esports and gaming stakeholders.”
While all of this seems like a pretty awesome outcome, it may not be…I wouldn’t get too excited, however, gamers. It seems that Thomas Bach – IOC president – has unequivocally stated that he has no interest in having videogames as an event at the Olympics. That is, unless some specific changes are made in gaming itself.
Bringing back an old (and in my opinion tired) argument, Bach said in an interview with the Associated Press, “We cannot have in the Olympic program a game which is promoting violence or discrimination. So-called killer games. They, from our point of view, are contradictory to the Olympic values and cannot therefore be accepted.”
We all know that the Olympics do feature events that have roots in, and actually feature, violence. Sports like fencing, boxing, judo, wrestling, etc, are all long-standing events at the Games, with their roots firmly entrenched in war and combat. Lo and behold, the IOC has made no mention of ever doing away with those sports; yet of course, video games pose a problem for the Committee.
We all see the irony here, apparently. Bach’s retort? “Of course every combat sport has its origins in a real fight among people, but sport is the civilized expression about [sic] this. If you have egames [sic] where it’s about killing somebody, this cannot be brought into line with our Olympic values.”
As most of us remember, the debate concerning violent video games has been going on for quite a while. Once upon a time, back in the early 1990s, hearings took place in front of Congress (led by one Joe Lieberman, believe it or not), which subsequently led to the establishment of the ESRB. The “discussion” about violence in video games goes on to this day, with opponents of violent video games butting heads over and over again with gamers and fans.
Since the early days of the debate, however, there have been several studies (we’ve talked about these before, too) which have repeatedly flown in the face of the notion that video games make people (i.e. children) violent psychopaths. Still, there always seem to be detractors.
So, lemme get this straight: videogames, where people assume the mantle of digital avatars, and go after one another in virtual environments, causing no damage to each other’s physical forms…are “too violent” for the IOC.
Still, dear readers, all hope may not be lost. Thanks to the aforementioned Esports Forum, the Olympics door may still be open for other games such as Rocket League, Hearthstone, Madden NFL, and the like to still make it to the big show someday. While games like these do have something of a following, the excitement and appeal of Olympic Esports may only reach a tepid level without the draw of titles like League of Legends, Overwatch, or Dota 2. So, if Thomas Bach really wants to put butts in seats, and eyes on screens for any Esports events in the future of the Olympic Games, he (and the rest of the IOC) may want to re-think their stance on these supposed “killer games”.
I want to hear from you about this one, gamers. What do you think about Thomas Bach’s decision to exclude gaming and Esports from the Olympics based on “violent” content? Would you watch Esports as a part of the Olympic Games? Leave your thoughts in the comments below. In the meantime, I will leave you with a quote from one of (in my opinion) the greatest satirists and essayists of all time:
“Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play. It is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence. In other words, it is war minus the shooting.”
~ George Orwell
‘The Sporting Spirit’
December 14, 1945