Esports made their ‘tense and exciting’ debut at this year’s Asian Games – DIGIWIZ CENTRAL

Esports made their ‘tense and exciting’ debut at this year’s Asian Games

Team South Korea played Team China R in the League of Legends semifinal at the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China.

Adek Berry/Getty Images

Esports, or professional video gaming, were an official sport at the Asian Games for the first time. Players competed in games such as League of Legends, DOTA 2, and EA Sports FC Online.Singapore hosted an Olympic-licensed esports event in June. 

Esports, or competitive video gaming, debuted as an official event at this year’s Asian Games in Hangzhou, China that concluded earlier this month.

Professional esports leagues and tournaments already sell out arenas and are streamed to millions of viewers online.

But its inclusion in the games, one of the world’s largest sporting events, is the first time esports has appeared alongside traditional sports at a major competition.

In a custom-built 4,500-seat stadium fitted with giant screens, Asia’s top gamers battled it out on titles including League of Legends (LoL), DOTA 2, and EA Sports FC Online.

Seven games were included in the event, with a gold medal awarded for each title. China finished with four golds, South Korea won two, and Thailand one.

Due to the event’s popularity, esports tickets were sold on a lottery basis, with more than five million entering the ballot, according to Hangzhou Asian Games data.

Team Malaysia compete during the DOTA2 semi-final against China.

Xinhua News Agency / Getty

Chris Liu, a spectator from Wuxi, China, told Insider that watching the esports categories was “tense and exciting.”

“I only watch games that I am interested in or that I like to play, such as LoL or Teamfight Tactics (TFT),” Liu said. “The older the group, the less interested or even opposed to esports they are. In China, esports is still a serious pest to the majority of parents.”

Global interest in esports is on the rise, and got a boost when the pandemic closed down many mainstream sporting events.

The number of gamers is expected to hit almost 3.4 billion this year, up 6.3%, per data from analytics firm Newzoo.

But more than half that number are in the Asia-Pacific region, the report said.

Esports became part of sports culture in Asia earlier than other regions, but fans are hopeful that the inclusion in major competitions such as the Asian Games can help boost the global audience.

Esports gamers at the ChinaJoy expo that’s been running for 20 years.

JADE GAO / Getty

“The inclusion of esports proof that there’s a big opportunity outside of the existing league structures. We’re excited to see the landscape of esports events around the world expand,” said John Robinson, president of US esport organization 100 Thieves.

But the inclusion of esports alongside more traditional events like athletics and cycling has prompted some discussion over whether it should qualify as a sport or not.

Further controversy was sparked by the news that the South Korean medallists would temporarily exempt them from compulsory military service.

South Korea grants exemptions to athletes, as well as classical and traditional musicians and some dancers, who win top prizes in their respective fields, The Associated Press reported.

South Korea’s Kim Gwanwoo won gold for Street Fighter V: Champion Edition.

WANG ZHAO / AFP via Getty

Esports are also on the International Olympic Committee’s radar. In June the IOC held an esports event, stating it supported “the growth of virtual sports within the Olympic movement.”

The Olympic Esports Series is “a global virtual and simulated sports competition created by the IOC, and in collaboration with International Federations and game publishers.”

However, the event included 10 games such as sailing, archery, and cycling instead of fan favorites such as LoL, and was criticized for failing to reflect the true landscape of competitive esports.

Matt Woods, CEO of esports marketing and talent agency AFK, told The Guardian he questioned the IOC’s decisions. “Instead of working with existing game publishers or well-established tournaments, it seems that the Olympic committee has instead decided to use this event as a marketing vehicle for brand-new, poorly thought out, unlicensed mobile games.”

There’s another complicating factor about including esports in competitions such as the Olympics.

Grant Rousseau of gaming organization Team Falcons told Insider: “Someone owns each and every sport in esports, and that’s a very large difference compared to traditional sports. To bring all these different publishers together is extremely difficult.

“Handing over competitive control to a group under a ‘traditional sport’ design who, to be frank, don’t understand esports to the depth they do, certainly isn’t top of the IOC’s list,” he added. “We cannot forget that esports is very simply a marketing tool for the publishers.”

Others argue that esports lack the physicality of traditional sports. While they “can’t compare in physical prowess,” Rousseau said they “certainly match traditional athletes in the form of dedicated training, mental focus, and sheer discipline.”

Esports did not make the list of new events set to be included at the 2028 Games being held in Los Angeles. They include baseball/softball, T20 cricket, flag football, lacrosse (sixes) and squash, the IOC said on Friday.

Read the original article on Business Insider
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