Earlier this month we talked about the folks working to organize the 2024 Paris Summer Olympic Games wanting to add eSports games. Ratings for the Olympics have been on the decline as it appears fewer people care to watch most of the sports that the games highlight each year. This led the Paris Olympics committee to decide that adding in eSports might be a good thing to boost ratings and viewership. As you are likely aware, eSports draw huge crowds and have very avid supporters that could help turn the Olympic ratings slump around and get younger people interested in the games again.
Most would assume from the willingness to consider eSports that it could mean shooters like DOTA 2, Counter-Strike, and Overwatch might make their way into the Olympics. That dream has now been all but crushed by International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach in an interview with the South China Morning Post.
Bach told the publication, "We want to promote nondiscrimination, nonviolence, and peace among people. This doesn’t match with video games, which are about violence, explosions, and killing. And there we have to draw a clear line."
If you see some irony in that statement, you aren't alone. Let's just consider the sports that the Olympic Games have counted among its events, some of them for many, many years (decades and centuries even) that are actually rather violent. Boxing has been part of the Olympics since the sport was introduced to the games in 1904. The goal of boxing, as any fan knows, is to knock the opponent unconscious or hit him so many times that the bout is stopped (a simplification of the sport, for sure). The sport is about violence pure and simple no matter the steps taken to minimize risk to the athlete.
Fencing has been in the Olympic games since 1896 and is at its core a sport designed to let people practice how to fight and kill with precision through the use of swords. Rugby debuted as an Olympic sport in 2016 and just watch a match and see if the game seems violent to you. The Olympics has various shooting disciplines with rifle, pistol, and shotguns, many see gun sports as inherently violent (though that is clearly more opinion-based) and that hasn't kept them from being included in the Olympics.
Karate is being introduced in the 2020 Olympic games and is like boxing in some ways, but you can try and kick someone's head off as well as punch it. Taekwondo started in the Olympics in 1974 and you have to consider anyone who can kick you in the head multiple times without putting their leg down capable of violence. Martial Arts are indeed great forms of sport, and yes, even art form. Sort of like a no-scope tactical quick kill can be for some eSports gamers.
Street Fighter V - An eSports version of the Martial Arts
So what games might the IOC consider for addition to the Olympics? Only non-violent games such as digital versions of things already in the Olympics like soccer or basketball games, according to some reports. But wait, digital versions of games already in the Olympics, you ask? Karate, Judo, Taekwondo, Boxing, and Wrestling, One could make an argument that Street Fighter V and other fighting games are digital representations of some of those fighting sports.
Remove the digital blood and gore and DOTA 2 or Overwatch is no more violent than say fencing, actually these games are about much less real-world violent and more about sporting aspects. There is a reason fencers wear padded clothing and cages over their faces. I've fenced before, I came away with bruises from the foil on more than one occasion. I also studied martial arts for many years, I can't even begin to count the kicks to the crotchical region, bruised ribs, busted noses, and black eyes I've gone home with from those "sports." However, I've never been bruised getting fragged in a FPS game or had aching gonads after a match.
The idea that eSports are more violent than "real" sports already part of the Olympics is a farce. I'm calling BS on the reason the IOC isn't allowing "violent" video games into the Olympics. It appears more that they just don't really want eSports in the mix at all.
Sound off in the comments below with your opinion of course as well...
Fencing Image, credit: Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons