Starting Lineups: Are Gamers Athletes?

A Sports Scribe, Video Games — By on December 24, 2013 at 9:17 am

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Years ago, my best friend and New York Amsterdam News reporter Stephon Johnson and I had a debate on what’s really a sport and what isn’t one. This was about a decade ago when ESPN began showing the World Series of Poker during prime time hours while the NHL’s coverage was (coincidentally) declining. Poker was all the rage for a couple of lazy summers but, at least on ESPN, receded back to a spotlight just larger than the one afforded to PBA bowling on football Sundays. Those early 2000s inspired that discourse between Johnson and me where we would pick a competition and debate its merits.

Golf. Chess. Cheerleading. Racewalking. Gaming.

Gaming would have been quickly dismissed in our younger years, and though this Scribe would remain skeptical about its status, a recent article provided some perspective.

For WIRED Magazine, Kevin Morris adds a defense for video gamers in the opinion piece, “Gamers Are Not Only Athletes, But the Internet Has Changed the Definition of ‘Sports.’” He posed the question thanks to the monies earned by some international heavyweights in the gaming world.

People like to watch other people play games. That’s been clear ever since a bunch of Cro-Magnons first lined up on the edge of their cave to see who could throw a rock the farthest. Combine this almost instinctual urge with the spectacle-making powers of broadcast television and mass consumerism, and it’s no surprise that just about every playground game has turned into a multibillion-dollar-a-year spectator sport — from baseball and cricket to basketball and football (in its many incarnations).

But nowadays, kids who play, say, baseball, are a minority compared to the ones playing videogames. In the U.S. alone, more than half of the population plays videogames and, on average, every U.S. household owns one gaming console. The worldwide gaming market will total $93 billion in 2013.

When the current generation says “playing a game,” they really mean “playing a videogame.”

Plenty of our readers are gamers. You’ve camped out for a system or a game at least once in your life. You’ve scheduled your lives around weekends full of the latest incarnations of GTA. There’s a good chance you watched an episode or two of ESPN’s “Madden Nation” and said, “This chump ain’t played me yet.”

As you read the rest of the article, ask yourselves if your gaming is worthy of sporting status or if this is a reach, even for those who consider themselves hardcore gamers.

A few links on your Christmas Eve. On behalf of the staff here at The Sports Fan Journal, Merry Christmas to those who observe, happy time off for those who do not and happy holiday pay for those who have to work.

FCC Seeks to Do Away With Sports Blackout Rule – New York Times

Judge in Aaron Hernandez Murder Case Weighs Gag Order – NBC Sports via the Associated Press

Manipulation Theater – The Rotation (Sports on Earth)

Sports Media Watch’s Top 20 Stories of 2013 (#20-#16, #15-#11, #10-#6, #5-#2 and #1) – Sports Media Watch

How Cable TV’s Ascendancy Explains the Duck Dynasty Culture War – Bloomberg Businessweek

Most Challenging Candlestick Runs Happen Every Halftime – CSN Bay Area

Brasstown Possum Drop Will Continue – The News & Observer (Raleigh, NC)

J. Clinkscales

Jason is the co-host of The Exchange on BlogTalkRadio with Sumit Dasgupta (@skd_thExchange) and the New York Beacon's beat writer for the New York Giants. Also a vastly undersized PF.

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    4 Comments

  • No. Nope. Not even a little bit. Just because something is competitive doesn’t mean those who do it are athletes. Are salespeople athletes? They’re competing for advertising dollars. Are rock-paper-scissor competitors athletes? You get my point.

    Don’t get me wrong, these people are talented, they make a lot of money and video games are the shit. But come on, they’re not athletes because it doesn’t really take athletic ability. I guess moving your fingers fast is kind of athletic, but no. No. No.

    The are gamers. That’s what they are. And they are professional gamers, just like I’m a professional editor and writer … not an athlete. It’s a different thing, in my opinion.

    I saw the Real Sports on this on HBO … and just no. Not athletes. Impressive. But not athletic. Not everything has to be “a sport” and not everyone has to be “an athlete.” Video games are their own sphere.

  • Pete D says:

    “Dexterity experts”, maybe. Not athletes. A sport is played in real life, not on a screen.

    Now if you asked me, “in 2095 when all we do is stare at screens, will gamers be considered athletes?”, I’d say yes.

  • Esau Howard says:

    The Rev said it perfectly. The answer is just no. Even with the World Series of Poker reaching popular heights, I still just chalked it up to ESPN cashing in on the popularity of the “game”, not necessarily validating it as an actual sport.

    However I will say this, if nothing else hardcore gamers definitely some of the best hand-eye coordination out, those Call of Duty pro’s ain’t no joke.

  • keepnitgulley says:

    Athletes no but big time competitors, yes

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