We are living in a world where e-sports are being legitimized as “real sports.” Governments are recognizing e-sports competitors as professional athletes, and while countries like South Korea have always been crazy for Starcraft on national television, we’re just now seeing networks like ESPN and Disney XD air and commentate on e-sports competitions. With that, the next logical step seems to be a serious discussion of whether e-sports is worthy of inclusion in the Olympics.
In an interview with the South China Morning Post, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach didn’t entirely rule out videogames in the Olympics, but Bach had some choice words for violent games. “We want to promote non-discrimination, non-violence, and peace among people. This doesn’t match with videogames, which are about violence, explosions and killing. And there we have to draw a clear line,” Bach said.
Not exactly a ringing endorsement for the medium as a whole. Granted, there would be a stark contrast when switching from the pole vault to someone getting their spine ripped out in Mortal Kombat. But still, to group all videogames as having “gratuitous violence and bloodshed” is pretty off-base. Instead, Bach is keeping his mind open towards videogames that simulate soccer and basketball—essentially the virtual versions of the “real sports” you’re already watching.
To be fair to Bach, he does bring up legitimate concerns about the potential of e-sports in the Olympics. For one, there is no main, central governing body with standardized rules, a la FIFA for soccer/football. Ultimately, the discussion of e-sports in the Olympics is based on a desire to attract younger audiences to watch the Games, and e-sports is one of the various routes the IOC could go about doing that.
Meanwhile, the Morning Post mentions that videogames will be included in the 2022 Asian Games, although which videogames will be included in that event have not yet been specified.