Accept the reality of esports

Joshua Defibaugh, Opinions Editor

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Imagine a group of people working together to achieve a goal. Each person in the group is reliant on the others. Each person has specific duties and obligations to the group and is often the best at performing those duties. The members of the group rely on communication, teamwork and extensive sessions of practice to compete against other groups to achieve a set of goals.

I could be discussing any number of activities from group presentations in classrooms to secretarial work in an office. Ultimately, however, this deconstructed hypothetical can be applied to almost any team-oriented sport in the world, even the growing trend of electronic sports, or esports.

By definition, any esport is an electronic competition between two or more people or teams. Of course, this could translate to competitive Candy Crush or Trivia Crack between Facebook friends; however, the consensus is that esports consist of competitions between players or teams with video games.

Like the present classifications of sports, there are different classifications of esports from first-person shooters (FPS) like “Halo,” “Call of Duty” and “Overwatch” to multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) games like “Dota 2” and “League of Legends.” Far and away the most popular outlet for esports in the U.S. is Major League Gaming (MLG).

My case for the social recognition and legitimization of e-sports to be considered as real as, say, American football or baseball is multifaceted. First, e-sports meet the same criteria of other sports including competitiveness, physicality and strategy. Second, esports provide an outlet for people not typically geared for intense physical activities. Lastly, esports provide a more equal playing field for nearly every demographic.

How are esports competitive? Watch and listen to two professional esports teams compete against each other in a game of Halo and you’ll quickly realize just how competitive the teams become. Much like a basketball or football team, esports players rely on quick and situationspecific communication to beat their opponents.

And what about physicality? Similar to basketball or hockey, there are obvious practices and exercises that can improve the dexterity and reflexes of esports players. Cognitive scientists from the University of Rochester have studied the reflexes of video game players and found that they have higher and no-less accurate reflexes than sports players.

The similarity between the agilities of esports players and traditional sports players is remarkable. According to reports from the BBC, esports players can make up to 300 decisions per minute based on in-game situations. “Someone attempting to return a 120 mph Serena Williams server,” wrote the BBC in 2016, “has less than half a second to react.”

Next comes the issue of inclusion. What can be said for the students in high school who aren’t physically fit enough to play a traditional sport? Of course they could join a club, or they could start playing competitive video games. Colleges across the U.S., particularly some on the west coast, have adopted esports and started statewide competitions. If the students who feel left out in high school push themselves, they too can go to college doing what they love. This is the same story told to young kids playing Pee Wee football.

Finally, we come to the issue of equality. For every national sports league in the U.S. — Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association (NBA), National Hockey League — there is almost always a women’s equivalent. There exists the National Pro Fastpitch softball league, the Women’s NBA and the Canadian Women’s Hockey League.

With esports, there is no gender division. Although there already exists an overwhelming majority of male players, female players are not excluded or delegated to their own league. Men and women of nearly all ages — from 12 and up — compete against each other.

Esports foster teamwork and valuable communication skills, provide an outlet for students of all ages who hold little to no affinity for traditional sports and promote equality across genders. Colleges, including Western Illinois, would benefit greatly from introducing an e-sports league and continuing the growth and recognition of esports.

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