Video Games Aren’t Sports

John Skipper, President of ESPN, commented on Amazon’s acquisition of for roughly $1Billion by saying that video games (eSports) are not “real sports”. I tend to agree.

I’ve never thought of video games as a sport, just like I do not think of poker, chess, Magic the Gathering, or even Nascar as particularly sporty. When I think of sports I think of what’s in the Olympics or Soccer, Football, Basketball and Baseball. While some might disagree completely that racing cars is entirely sport-like, I think that still leaves a very large gap for DotA 2 to traverse.

To say that video games are not a sport doesn’t denigrate the games or the act of playing them — even competitively. Video games are a competition, a hobby, and entertainment — the best available, in my opinion. I’m not sure why players or those who enjoy watching eSports feel the need to vehemently defend the label. Does it make video games any less fun or enjoyable to watch because we can’t put them in the same category as a bunch of guys in shorts running back and forth throwing a ball into a hoop?

Skipper is getting flack for the comment because ESPN does indeed cover events like MTG, chess, Poker, and even DotA 2. Even though Skipper doesn’t see video games as sports, ESPN still sees them as something worth showing on their network. That alone says something and should be all the validation people need to continue calling this competitive show of skill, even “eSports”, whatever they want.

They’re not sports. Really, they’re not. But in the end they are awesome, take enormous amounts of talent, and clearly carry with them the ratings and the interest to be worth billions.

  • The easiest way to end this debate is to have someone provide their definition of sport; and then take that definition, apply it to something that is clearly not a sport (or something that most consider a sport not fitting the definition), and have them explain it.

    Would be pretty easy using: “When I think of sports I think of what’s in the Olympics or Soccer, Football, Basketball and Baseball.”

    So Lacrosse isn’t a sport now, but was back in 1904 and 1908?

  • I watch them (hearthstone, league, dota 2, SC 2, etc) and I don’t think they are sports either.

    However I do get why people want them to be called such. It takes a lot of stamina and mental fortitude to play these at a competitive level (hearthstone maybe not as much), and takes a huge sacrifice of time. I know for LoL teams, they practice 12-16 hours a day pretty much every single day they are not competing. So I get that they want the recognition that it does take as much of a commitment as physical sports, and while it doesn’t take as much physical prowess it does take a lot of mental prowess. Which is why, even though I agree they aren’t sports, I don’t think there is anything wrong with calling them eSports. I mean when it comes down to it, at the heart of it they are both competitions that provide entertainment for others.

  • While I agree that eSports aren’t “sports”. Racing is a sport. It requires quite a lot of physical exertion and training. Check out the F1 driver fitness tab on

  • I myself tend to think of “sport” as something athletic but if sedentary games like golf, snooker and darts (to name but 3) are sports then so is video gaming.

  • I would argue that any game which requires high manual dexterity and great hand-eye coordination is a sport, because you rely on your physical abilities to achieve success. Any fps, MMO, RTS, requires high manual dexterity to be good.

  • If you are playing a sport, you are out of breath by the end of the match. Otherwise, it’s a game

  • Agreed, video games aren’t sports. I think there is a gray area of things which can be debated if they are sports or not, and video games aren’t even close to that.

  • Regardless, the E in ESPN stands for entertainment. Everyone just assumes the network is pidgeonholed into sports, but that’s not the case at all. It makes perfect sense for them to air “eSport” events if the ratings are good and folks will enjoy watching them.

  • It really comes down to one’s definition of “sport”, a matter of semantics.

    I think 2 major definition are used:

    1) an activity where significant physical exertion exists.
    2) an activity where competition exists.

    I tend to hold to the first definition, but I really don’t have any problem bending it to include the second.

    I see fishermen claim that what they do is a sport, and being proficient does require skill developed through practice; nonetheless, although the term sportsman does include fishing, personally I would be hard put to classify it as a sport even in the context of a competitive event.

    As such I roll my eyes when a fisherman, hunter, or golfer considers what they are doing is a sport, whereas ping pong, rhythmic gymnastics, and running I do consider to have crossed the line into true sports.

    I am not exactly sure why mentally/emotionally strenuous activities aren’t traditionally considered as sports, but perhaps with the development of more modern age competitive pursuits afforded to us by technology it is time to expand our definition out of such a limited brutish context?

  • While it may not be a “traditional sport” so are like 50% of Olympic sports. What they are is a competition and when you have a competition people enjoy watching it. So ESPN can decide not to cover it but in the end they will have to take notice of it. Just like poker it has its viewership base and “e-sposts” is growing. Call it what you will.

    You can classify sports as anaerobic as a true sport and non-anaerobic competitions, whatever category it falls into if there is an audience there is money to be made and all coverage be it tv, internet, radio etc is in this game! The smart ones will get it while it is in its infancy.

  • They are sports, just not athletic sports. Even video games take some sort of physical exertion even if it is very minimal it turns into an argument about how much exertion is necessary. At some point you’d have to draw an arbitrary line, leading to questions about hunting, fishing and stuff like bowling. Anyone who thinks that there is no skill or physical exertion involved in those activities hasn’t participated in a significant way.

  • It shouldn’t be at all difficult to believe that the market for watching competition as entertainment is now a lot broader than traditional sports.

    Just look at the ratings for competitive “one person voted off the island each week” shows like MasterChef (+ a bunch of other cooking show), Next Top Model, Project Runway.. in a world where millions of viewers watch them, for sure there can be millions of viewers watching gaming.

  • Gankatron suggested:

    I think 2 major definition [of sports] are used:

    1) an activity where significant physical exertion exists.
    2) an activity where competition exists.

    I tend to hold to the first definition, but I really don’t have any problem bending it to include the second.

    Both have to be included for it to be a sport. If you are missing the first part, you have a game, such as chess or poker or DotA 2* or darts. If you are missing the second part, you have a pastime such as rock-climbing or scuba-diving or hiking or jogging.**

    * Keen friend’s excepted 🙂

    ** of course one can add a competitive element to these pastimes and make a sport of them. But mostly one does them non-competitively, for the pleasure of the pastime; whereas every game of soccer or tennis is by its nature competitive.

  • I agree. They are a type of competition, and a high level one at that, but they are not a sport. If we can define eSport as simply nothing more than professional competitive gaming, and not something that people want to try and group with true sports, then I have no problem with the label. ESports sounds better than ECompetitions anyways.

  • @Dàchéng:

    That is what I was thinking originally, but then I started to break it down and came to the conclusion that I still considered someone to be doing sports if they rowed or ran just for exercise, and then again we have the term “sportsman”.

    Since there are multiple definitions of “sports” pretty much everybody on this thread is correct, one just needs to define which usage they prefer to avoid getting caught up in a semantic argument.

    Here are just 2 of the definitions listed in the free online dictionary:

    1) Physical activity that is governed by a set of rules or customs and often engaged in competitively.

    2) An individual or group activity pursued for exercise or pleasure, often involving the testing of physical capabilities and taking the form of a competitive game such as football, tennis, etc

    The first has competition being commonplace, but not absolutely necessary, the second has physical exertion being commonplace, but not absolutely necessary.

    The term “sports” seems to have enough leeway in its definition to be anything one wants it to be; for instance the term “water sports”, which can mean any sport done on an aquatic body, or, …well something else entirely.