On the Bench: eSports should be respected, and we shouldn’t be having this discussion


For the last few years, video games have been on the rise, both as an entertainment medium and a career path. People can invest their time into growing more experienced at something normally called a hobby and turn it into a five to six figure salary. A couple recent examples would be players like Dominique “SonixFox” Mclean or Justin Wong who have recently been acquired by Rick Fox’s relatively new eSports team Echo Fox. This is happening, and sadly it’s happening in the general public’s ever-judging gaze.

The standard sports like American football, soccer, baseball and tennis at their very core are all simply games that adults are paid to play, and it’s only because of social perception that they became respected. Baseball is, or at the very least was, seen as America’s pastime for children everywhere, and nobody saw any issue with athletes becoming baseball pros as full-grown adults. eSports are commonly seen as nothing more than a bunch of man-children scrambling to preserve their youth. It’s an unfortunate consequence of today’s perception of video games.

Video games and sports are not that different, but if the similarities are unclear, instead compare video games to another mind sport: chess. Chess is respected across the globe, despite the fact that there’s no physical activity involved. It’s considered a mind sport, and for good reason. A player must confound their enemy through elaborate planning and efficient counter-plays.

These traits carry over into nearly every single eSport, and more so. In chess, players have time to deliberate, since the game rules allow players to take turns. Minus a few outliers, like digital card games and Pokémon, nearly all competitive video games are “constantly active.” From start to finish, competing players are continually performing some kind of action until the match comes to a close. This doesn’t even happen in American football, the most-watched sport in the U.S. In gaming, players spend an overwhelming amount of time practicing for events where, if they don’t take home the trophy, they only receive money from sponsors. For a ludicrous amount of work, professional video game players receive nothing more than the minimum.

The year 2016 is a great example of how the world is positively changing to fix that. Two different Street Fighter V tournaments were aired on ESPN2 last year: EVO 2016 and Capcom Cup 2016. It’s a step in the right direction, and for the most part, gamers are all for a new age of entertainment. Will the rest of the populace get up to speed?