Electronic sports at the olympic games: lights and shadows

January 15, 2018, twenty-five days at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics: the torchlight, which has been travelling since November, reaches Seoul. In the streets of the South Korean capital we find, in order: the recommended doses of enthusiasm and fellowship; a taste of frost – the tiny amount that disturbs the organizing committee, since in Daegwallyeong, to save money, a roofless stadium has been built; the hope that these Olympics will bring South Korea and North Korea the same good blood flowing between Hodori, the 1988 edition mascot, and the modern Soohorang: the two tigers fly the same flag, and every human conflict appears so frivolous at a stroke.
Then a fault appears. The torchlight goes into the hands of a group of teenagers who have little idea of sportsmen: almost all equipped with glasses, the five teenagers display “stay at home on the computer” physiques. Smeb, Score, Pawn, Pawn, Deft and Mata are the stars of the award-winning KT Rolster team. Team What? Of League of Gentlemen, a videogame.
A little glossary and a step backwards. You may not have heard of eSport or electronic sports yet. If for years, in fact, the videogame as a competitive discipline has remained in the storeroom of the tournaments (a highly organized and profitable storeroom, made up of full arenas and an estimated revenue that will exceed one billion dollars in 2020), the impression is that the dam is gradually yielding. A first crack opens in 2011, with the online debut of the Twitch streaming platform, almost entirely dedicated to gaming, the service settles in a short time on a figure of over one hundred million users per month. The traditional sports channels, which eSport had always talked about whilst yawning, have a slight but burning penalty when Twitch lengthens his hands even on some non-electronic sports: the partnership with the NBA's G League is good last but not least, of which he starts broadcasting the matches on 22nd December last year.
The deluge, however, is from October just before: Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, leaves the summit in Lausanne and declares that yes, we could actually see eSports as real sports; and that yes, certainly, we could even include them at the 2024 Paris Olympics. The sector, on the other hand, is growing too fast to ignore. And back to Smeb, Score, Pawn, Pawn, Deft and Mata, the tireless stronghold of a potential sports and semantic revolution. The statements that in 2014 drowned in the polemic John Skipper, president of the American sports station ESPN:"[eSport] are not real sports. They are a competition, such as checkers or chess "(for the record, already then ESPN had already featured the international tournaments of the Dota 2 war game. Yet the doubt remains: can we really talk about sport? Those who support YES mention the massacring boot camp, or training residences where the gamers drink energy drinks and fixate on screens for sixteen hours. Others observe how the definition criteria of the Global Association of International Sports Federations itself are, on paper, so elastic that they allow ambiguity to survive; and they conclude angrily :"Maybe we will have to adopt with sports, the famous criterion of the Supreme Court judge Potter Stewart to identify pornography: I recognize it when I see it".
In the possibility of the Olympic Committee, however, there is a small clause. In August, interviewed by the South China Morning Post, Bach was cautious: there will be no place for violent video games, since the ultimate goal of the institution is "to promote non-discrimination, non-violence and peace among peoples". Those who know what we are talking about complete the joke for themselves: only video games with a sporting theme, a minority segment of the planet eSport, more prone to the so-called beating or subjective massacres of First-Person Shooter, would escape the mania.
Bach's words unintentionally evoke other shadows. Time has not dampened the long wave of Gamergate, the violent web campaign of threats and hacking actions directed in 2014 against game developers Zoe Quinn and Brianna Wu and the journalist Anita Sarkeesian, guilty of having denounced the frequent cases of misogyny in the sector. Not all gamers practise electronic sports, and the intersection between eSport and Gamergate cannot be clearly traced. Gender discrimination remains as a serious background note. Then it happens that at a media day called in early January by the Overwatch League - involving a shooter videogame - the failure to enlist a pro player, Kim "Geguri" Se-yeon, is justified with a tortuous climbing of mirrors: the press would call it an advertising move and people doubt and judge her ability.
But yes, patience. Kim will always be able to play Twitch, being careful to avoid the harassment of trolls: it is said that the platform control policies tend to be a little weak.
The gaming industry continues to grow. Mostly thanks to women, who are growing in consumption and in fields such as game development. Will marketing force the hand of progress? Meanwhile, the Olympic hypothesis is looming, and a slice of the gamers' community could paradoxically share Thomas Bach's concerns. What game should they choose for the Olympic Games?, asks a user on Reddit. None, replicates another. It is not just a tournament: they also have moral values.

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