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- The International Olympics Committee (IOC) has updated its stance on esports following the 8th Olympic Summit earlier this month.
- While the IOC previously declared that competitive video games “could be considered sports,” a statement from this year’s summit said the Olympics isn’t ready to support games that aren’t based on traditional sports like basketball and soccer.
- Instead, the IOC said it wants to encourage esports professionals and regular gamers to participate in sports and build habits that promote physical and mental health.
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Esports has blossomed into a multi-billion dollar international industry, but the International Olympic Committee is still hesitant to put video games on the world’s largest stage for competition.
In 2017, the IOC issued a statement saying that competitive gaming “could be considered a sporting activity” and that esports could help the Olympics engage younger people around the world. But a statement following the 8th Olympic Summit earlier this month said the committee would prefer to focus on video games that simulate traditional sports. The committee also floated the possibility of embracing video games that make use of virtual or augmented reality to add a physical component to gameplay.
“With regard to electronic games simulating sports, the Summit sees great potential for cooperation and incorporating them into the sports movement,” the IOC said in a statement. “Many sports simulations are becoming more and more physical thanks to Virtual and Augmented Reality which replicate the traditional sports.”
While some sports video games have professional leagues like “NBA 2K,” the most popular esports are rooted in successful video game genres. The IOC previously expressed concerns that violent video games and other explicit content could run counter to Olympic values. Strategy games based on corporate intellectual properties and shooting games with militaristic violence could be tricky territory for the IOC and its diverse membership.
“With regard to other electronic games, the Summit concluded that, at this stage, the sports movement should focus on players and gamers rather than on specific games,” the IOC’s statement said.
Focusing on players and gamers would include encouraging them to participate in sports and building routines that promote physical and mental health. Professional gamers often spend eight or more hours playing each day, and esports organizations employ staff to try and establish a healthy life balance. The IOC’s 2017 statement acknowledged the strict regiment that comes with competitive gaming, comparing their training to traditional athletes.
While the IOC’s statement isn’t good news for most of the established esports community, the committee is encouraging regional partners to explore relationships with video game publishers and find new ways to embrace esports.
It may take a while for esports to appear on the Olympic stage, but competitive gaming will only continue to grow and provide more opportunities for professionals.