Competitive video gaming — called esports — may become an official Olympic sport for the 2020 Summer games in Tokyo.
The International e-Sports Federation sent a request to the International Olympic Committee in February to get esports in the Olympics. The IOC responded and requested information about why the sport should be included in the games, but has not released an official decision yet.
Joey Chau, the current president of the eSports club at UNC, said she is excited about the sport's potential Olympic appearance.
“I am quite stoked to hear a possibility of esports becoming an Olympic sport,” she said.
Chau said there is a stigma surrounding esports that could prevent the request from going through.
“I think it's interesting and I definitely feel that professional gamers today are not taken as seriously as professional athletes, so hearing about a possibility of esports being played in the Olympics in 2020 is hopeful,” she said. “Frankly, I have my doubts about it going through so soon. Esports is generating a lot of hype by gravitating towards the competitive scene right now, but the popular opinion has yet to recognize esports as a sport.”
Shane Steele-Pardue, who will be eSports club co-president for the 2017-2018 school year, said he believes esports should be considered a major sport for many reasons.
“I think because esports, like all other sports, requires an advanced understanding of the game's rules and mechanics,” he said. “Also, there's a clear line (separating) casual players and competitive players. That line is defined by time spent learning and practicing the game. In a way, esports can be more interesting than traditional sports because esports is dynamic — the meta evolves over time with the addition of new characters and rule changes.”
Steele-Pardue said esports is already an extremely popular sport in the world, even if many people don’t realize it yet.
“Esports already have a global presence," he said. "In 2012, League of Legends had 32 million active players a month. Last year, the World Championship League of Legends game had more viewers than the NBA finals.”
Chau said if esports becomes an Olympic sport, the top-grossing games would get their own competitive leagues. These games include League of Legends, Dota 2, Hearthstone, Overwatch, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Super Smash Bros.
Derek Fulton, a junior quantitative biology major at UNC, said he always wanted esports to be more celebrated as a sport.
“I remember watching the Badminton Men's Singles Final in the games in 2008 between Lin Dan and Lee Chong Wei and thinking to myself, 'I don't play sports, but I do play Call of Duty. There's no reason these gentlemen should be on that screen, being celebrated as the athletic heroes that they are and I shouldn't,'" he said. "The point is, I'm also an athletic hero."
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.