is esports a sport

Is Esports a Real Sport or Just a Game?

Esports, or electronic sports, has become an increasingly popular form of competitive gaming over the past few decades.

With the rise of online streaming services and increased access to the internet, esports is now considered a legitimate form of competition by many, but despite its growing popularity, there is still much debate about whether esports should be considered an actual sport.

This article will explore the debate surrounding this issue, the recognition of esports as an official sporting event, and the evolution of competitive gaming.

What Is Esports?

is esports a sport

Esports, also known as electronic sports, is a form of competitive video gaming where players or teams participate in popular games and compete against each other.

The debate on whether esports should be classified as a sport has gained attention due to the increasing popularity of video games and the emergence of professional gamers.

The Debate Surrounding Esports As A Sport

The debate surrounding whether esports should be considered a sport continues to divide opinions within the gaming and sporting communities. 

One key argument in favour of considering esports as a sport is the physical exertion involved. While it may not require the same level of physical activity as traditional sports, esports still demands excellent hand-eye coordination, reaction speed, and mental focus. Some studies even suggest that professional gamers have enhanced cognitive abilities compared to the average person. Additionally, the sedentary nature of esports does not negate their competitive aspect, as skill and strategy are crucial for success.

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Opponents, however, claim that the physical aspect is a defining factor of a sport, and without it, esports cannot be considered a true sport. They argue that athletic activities such as running, jumping, or throwing a ball provide a different level of physical challenge not present in competitive gaming.

Ultimately, the debate surrounding whether esports qualifies as a sport is subjective and likely to continue. While traditionalists may struggle to see past the absence of physical prowess, the growing popularity, professionalisation, and financial investment in esports have led many to recognise its legitimacy as a competitive activity deserving of its category separate from traditional sports.

History Of Esports

The history of esports traces back to the early days of video gaming in the 1970s and 1980s. While the concept of competitive gaming existed in arcades, it was not until the rise of personal computers and multiplayer online games in the 1990s that esports started to gain traction.

is esports a sport

Games like Space Invaders and Donkey Kong laid the foundation for competitive gaming with their high score leader boards, but it was with the advent of multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) games and first-person shooters that esports truly exploded in popularity. Major League Gaming (MLG) was one of the first organisations to organise and host professional gaming events, and the formation of teams like Team Liquid further professionalised esports. With the increasing popularity and recognition, esports began attracting significant prize money and developing large-scale tournaments like The International for Dota 2.

Today, esports is a multi-billion-dollar industry, with game developers investing heavily in esports leagues and tournaments. Its growth has even earned the attention of traditional sports organisations, universities, and the mainstream media, cementing its place as a legitimate form of competition.

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Popularity And Growth Of Esports Today

Esports has experienced a meteoric rise in popularity and growth in recent years, solidifying its position as a global phenomenon. Once considered a niche activity, competitive gaming has now captured the attention of millions of fans around the world. The increasing accessibility of video games, advancements in technology, and the rise of streaming platforms have all contributed to the exponential growth of esports.

Major tournaments and leagues attract millions of viewers, with events like the League of Legends World Championship and The International Dota 2 Championship boasting staggering prize pools. Esports organisations and teams have emerged as professional entities, signing sponsorships and securing major investments. With the support of game developers, the gaming community, and even traditional sports organisations, esports continues to flourish, securing its place as a prominent form of entertainment in the 21st century.

The Most Commonly Played Games In Esports

Esports, also known as competitive gaming, has evolved into a global phenomenon with a wide range of games capturing the attention of millions of players and viewers.

Several games have risen to prominence within the esports community, becoming commonly played games that dominate the competitive gaming scene.

is esports a sport

One of the most popular and influential games in esports is League of Legends (LoL). Developed by Riot Games, LoL boasts a massive player base and holds prestigious tournaments such as the League of Legends World Championship with millions of dollars in prize money.

DOTA 2, another popular game in the esports realm, also attracts a significant following. Developed by Valve Corporation, DOTA 2 features intense multiplayer battles and has its own illustrious event, “The International,” where esports teams compete for a multi-million dollar prize pool.

These commonly played games in esports have not only garnered immense popularity but have also shaped esports competitions and the gaming community. They have captured the attention of players, spectators, and game developers alike, solidifying esports as a thrilling and vibrant realm within the video game industry.

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Prize Money, Online Broadcasting, And Sponsorships

Prize money, online broadcasting, and sponsorships have been instrumental in the growth and professionalisation of esports.

The allure of high cash prizes, combined with the accessibility of online broadcasting platforms, has drawn in a global audience.

The influx of sponsorship and investment from major brands and the recognition from television networks have further contributed to the exponential rise of esports as a legitimate and thriving industry.

Recognition Of Esports By Major Organisations

Esports has experienced a momentous shift in perception and legitimacy, with major organisations across the globe acknowledging and recognising it as a legitimate sport.

In recent years, institutions such as Stanford University, Cambridge University Press, and even the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have started to take notice of esports’ growing popularity and have begun to support and study its impact.

International Olympic Committee

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has been closely examining the recognition of esports as a sport and has shown a positive stance towards this emerging phenomenon. While not officially recognized as an Olympic sport yet, the IOC acknowledges the growing popularity and significance of esports.

To be considered for inclusion, the IOC requires esports games to adhere to the rules and regulations of the Olympic movement. This ensures fair competition and the maintenance of integrity within the sport. It also emphasises the importance of maintaining a positive image of esports within the wider sporting community.

The recognition of esports by the IOC is a significant step towards legitimising competitive gaming as a sport. While there are still challenges to overcome, such as deciding which games and genres should be included, the IOC’s acknowledgment reflects the changing landscape of sports and the increasing fusion of technology and physical prowess. With the mutual recognition between the Olympic movement and esports, the possibility of esports becoming a part of the Olympic Games is not far-fetched.

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National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) 

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has faced the question of whether esports should be included under their governance. However, the NCAA has chosen not to recognize esports as a varsity sport.

One of the main reasons behind the NCAA’s decision is the issue of governance. The NCAA is responsible for overseeing the regulations and policies of traditional collegiate sports, ensuring fair play, and maintaining the amateurism of college athletes. Adapting their governance structure to include esports would present logistical challenges and require significant resources.

While the NCAA has chosen not to include esports under its governance, the acceptance and recognition of esports as a legitimate and competitive activity continues to grow. Various collegiate esports leagues and associations have formed, providing opportunities for collegiate gamers to compete and pursue their passion for esports.

Major League Gaming’s Role In Promoting eSports

Major League Gaming (MLG) played a significant role in promoting esports and elevating it to its current status as a mainstream competitive sport. Established in the early 2000s, MLG organised and hosted large-scale tournaments that attracted professional gamers and amassed a growing fan base of spectators.

Through its extensive reach and well-organized events, MLG contributed to the legitimisation of esports as a serious and legitimate form of competition. By providing a platform for gamers to showcase their skills and compete for substantial prize pools, MLG helped shift the perception of gaming from a casual hobby to a professional endeavour.

In essence, Major League Gaming’s impact on promoting esports cannot be understated. Their establishment in the early 2000s and their organization of large-scale tournaments not only captured the attention of professional gamers and spectators but also played a crucial role in legitimizing and popularizing esports as a competitive sport.

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Challenges Faced By The Industry

As esports continues to gain recognition and evolve as a competitive form of gaming, it also faces several challenges:

  • One major challenge is the ongoing debate over whether esports should be considered a sport. 
  • Another challenge is the struggle for recognition from mainstream sports institutions and organisations. This lack of recognition has implications for funding, resources, and the overall perception of esports as a legitimate sporting endeavour.
  • The issue of prize money and financial stability within the industry is also a challenge. While some esports events offer substantial cash prizes, there is still a disparity in the distribution of prize pools. Additionally, the revenue streams for esports, such as sponsorships and advertising, are still developing, making it difficult for players and teams to achieve financial stability solely through their gaming endeavours.
  • Furthermore, the constantly evolving nature of video games presents challenges for the esports industry. The popularity of certain games can fluctuate over time, leading to shifts in viewer interest and potential declines in viewership. Additionally, changes in game mechanics and updates can impact gameplay and strategy, requiring players and teams to adapt constantly.

Overall, the esports industry faces challenges in gaining recognition as a sport, securing financial stability, and navigating the ever-changing landscape of video games. However, the passion and dedication of esports athletes, along with the growing popularity and support from the gaming community, continue to propel the industry forward.


The esports industry faces many challenges in its pursuit of recognition as a legitimate sport.

While there is still a long way to go, the passion and dedication of gamers and support from the gaming community have propelled the industry forward.

To overcome obstacles such as financial instability and ever-changing gaming trends, esports athletes must continue to strive for excellence and work towards establishing more robust revenue streams.

In recent years, the esports industry has made great strides in terms of recognition and legitimacy, with many major sports organisations now recognising esports as a viable competitive sport.

However, for esports to reach its full potential, governments must step up their enforcement of regulations and ensure fair competition and player protection. 

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