eSports – Game or sport?

Reports are questioning whether eSports can be considered real sports. Source:

The trade body for the UK’s games and interactive entertainment, Ukie, has released an eSports whitepaper today calling for the education of policymakers about the opportunities eSports presents to the UK.

The report estimated global eSports revenue is around $493 million and by 2019 is predicted to become a billion-dollar industry. 

The report made Government recommendations, including suggesting they: “integrate eSports opportunities into the government’s trade and investment work […] and proactively encourage major eSports business and tournaments to be established.”

The United States recently granted Super Smash Bros player William ‘Leffen’ Hjelte a temporary P-1 visa. This visa  classified Hjelte as an “individual or team athlete”.

According to the US government, a P1 visa allows an individual:

To perform at a specific athletic competition as an athlete or as a member of an entertainment group.

 “Requires an internationally recognised level of sustained performance.”

By granting this, visa reports are questioning if the US government is recognising eSports gamers as professional athletes and therefore legitimising eSports as a sport.

A study earlier this year by Seth E. Jenny , R. Douglas Manning, Margaret C. Keiper and Tracy W. Olrich found:

“Many games, including those such as Jenga and eSports, only involve fine motor skills for successful completion, which does not meet the condition of physicality within common definitions of sport.

“Until eSports include motion-based video games (MBVGs) that track gross motor physical body movements within the game, the general public may not accept eSports as ‘real’ sports.”

Robin Gillie investigates eSports.


ESPN President, John Skipper, agreed with this, concluding that despite eSports games featuring on ESPN, he did not define them as sports but rather competitions.

At the Code/Media conference earlier this year, Skipper said:

“It’s not a sport — it’s a competition. Chess is a competition. Checkers is a competition… mostly, I’m interested in doing real sports.”

Dominic Bonner, a League Of Legends player said:

“the main reason that people don’t think it’s a sport is due to the lack of physicality, however, the world is moving away from physicality as a whole.

“Most kids have a games console in their house nowadays, and a lot of kids would choose to play a video game over playing a real game. I think the only thing holding eSports back is that the older generation can’t admit they don’t know what we want. More people watched the 2015 league finals than game 7 of the NBA finals.”

While the US government and ESPN continue to debate which category eSports should fall into, the French Government launched a digital reform that saw the further legitimisation of eSports, providing an indication of the change beginning to happen.


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