By Laura Daly and Isla Stanich
Video gamers probably aren’t what most people picture when they think of Olympic athletes, but competitive gamers could soon be competing for gold.
The International Olympic Committee is in talks with the e-gaming industry, and they’re liking what they see with virtual reality games, and could be a medal event in the future.
Dylan Poulus, the founder and coordinator of the QUT eSports Program, said the growing popularity of eSports is giving people who don’t fall under the traditional sports umbrella a new chance to excel in a competitive environment.
“It really gives hope to a lot of those people who, who this is their sporting outlet, this is the thing they’re really confident at and passionate about to be able to be recognised potentially one day at the same level as some of their traditional sporting heroes means a lot,” he said.
Similar to what athletes experience in current Olympic events, successful eSport players train and prepare for competition, and the games have a live audience with professional commentators and attract people across the globe.
“In the same way that the under 15 cricket coach will come and help kids get better at bowling and batting, we have kids come and get better at playing a certain character or understanding a game or moving in the game,” Dylan said.
Max Melit, a freelance eSports journalist, raised a similar point. He has traveled the world to attend eSporting events and said the athletes need to be in peak condition.
“To be able to travel across the world 50 weeks out of 52 weeks of the year, you need to be in physical shape, you need to have a strong mentality, you need to have all these attributes that traditional sports athletes have been honing for a long time,” he said.
Emily Rosemond, an ex-Olympian, said the same competition and teamwork of traditional sports also cross over into eSports.
“There is a lot of commonality around traditional sport and eSports. In eSports, there’s I think a lot of the same principles apply, there is teamwork, there’s comradery, there are tactics there’s the mental stresses that you have as an athlete,” she said.
But as eSporting grows in popularity, so does the concern of young minds becoming addicted to their screens, and other questions surrounding the legitimacy of the sport.
Dylan said parents shouldn’t be concerned, and urged people to look at the benefits of playing competitive online sports.
“It’s an opportunity for parents to engage with their children in something that they’re really passionate about. You as a parent have the opportunity to help them learn, grow, and develop.”