Could esports be classed as real sports?

Far from being a solitary exercise in one guy’s bedroom, or the family enjoying a spot of tennis on the Wii after Sunday dinner, esports have become a phenomenon in their own right.

Competitive gaming is nothing new, and few esports mirror traditional, offline sporting games as we commonly know them. In fact, very few feature ‘sport’ at all.

According to Wikipedia, “Electronic sports (also known as eSports, e-sports or competitive gaming) is a term for organised multiplayer video game competitions. The most common video game genres associated with electronic sports are real-time strategy, fighting, first-person shooter, and multiplayer online battle arena.”
The common element, it seems, is ‘competition’. Just as in regular sport, it’s one man or team competing against another. There are other correlations too:
Both regular sports and esports are something people enjoy 
The most talented of each can forge a successful career from their skills; top esport salaries are well into the ‘high income’ by most classifications
Esports and offline sports both attract swathes of spectators
Huge events are based around the ‘best of the best’ battling things out….
Professional gaming requires skill, wits and determination; physical fitness appears to be the only difference between the digital and the tangible. And it seems the wider public will accept gamers as ‘sportsmen’. Even the US government now grants visas to international players coming to America to play, on the basis that they’re ‘professional athletes’.
The popularity of esports mirror those of traditional sports. Global fans of American Football in 2015 total more than 150mn; esports fans number £103mn, whilst ice hockey – a very popular, well-established sport in the US and other countries - attracts only 94mn fans worldwide.
Competitive sport often equals plenty of money, and esports can hold their own in this respect too. Live events and gaming conferences attract huge crowds that contribute to a still-growing, already-lucrative industry. The money spent on esports following a live event, for example, surges by 38%, and the average monthly budget of enthusiasts is around $200 – multiply that by the £103mn fans and that’s a lot of wonga. On top of that, corporate sponsors spend $450mn per year. 
So, what’s the draw of esports over regular sports? Perhaps it’s because they’re more accessible and played by so many at ground level. Michal Blicharz organises esports events around the world and is passionate that they’re seen as a ‘proper’ sport. He says: “I’ve sweated on the judo mat enough times to have a good opinion about it. Judo and esports are not that dissimilar. There are tournaments, you have to climb up a ladder to eventually compete with the best. In terms of training, you have to put in the same amount of hours, perhaps even more in esports. You study strategy, technique and opponents. And all the elements are there – the excitement, the adrenalin, players crying tears of sorrow and joy.”

Those opposed to esports being classed as sport are set on the physical aspects the digital word has no need for. ESPN’s president, John Skipper, says: “When I was a kid, sport was all about getting outside, getting wet, muddy, out of breath – you’re not going to get out of breath smashing your thumbs on a controller. Maybe I’m just getting old.”
Is it an age or generational thing? Do you think esports should be classified as ‘proper’ sport (whatever that means)? 

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