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Sunday, May 21, 2017

Are esports sport?

It has been awhile since I wrote on the bar debate over what is and is not sport. Now Gizmodo asks the question about esports.

My preferred definition of sport has four elements: 1) Large motor skills; 2) Simple machines; 3) Competition; and 4) Outcome determined by success in performing skills to achieve some other instrumental end, rather than for the virtue of the skill itself. On that definition, esports fail on # 1--operating a game console involves fine rather than large motor skills.  I also would question # 2--the competitors small-motor physical actions do not do all the work--it is the complex machine translating those physical actions into something bigger on the screen. So while esports do require "training, endurance, mental focus, and, yes, physical precision," the physical precision is of the wrong type and works too indirectly.

The comments are interesting in that several people have argued "not a sport" based on a definition that requires direct interaction between competitors and the possibility of one competitor thwarting another.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 21, 2017 at 07:26 AM in Howard Wasserman, Sports | Permalink



It's not full body movement since you stand still and only really move your arms and torso.

The more mainstream game would be Wii Tennis. Fruit Ninja is a bit more involved physically though.

Posted by: Derek Tokaz | May 22, 2017 11:10:04 AM

Is poker a sport? It's on ESPN!


I think chess as a sport would be more debatable than esports, perhaps.

Posted by: Joe | May 21, 2017 12:32:13 PM

Derek: I genuinely have no idea. If it has something to do with full-body VR-type activities, then maybe the result is difference.

Able-ist: Chess is not a sport under my definition (and probably not under most definitions that people who play this game have suggested) because it involves only small-motor skills.

Posted by: Howard Wasserman | May 21, 2017 11:47:38 AM

To use a different usage, that definition seems something like "a sport" in itself. I would have issues with at least two strands of it, maybe even three. The dictionary definition is more open-ended. Wonder what Justice Scalia would think about the "ontology of sports" (see PGA Tour v. Martin) in this context.

Posted by: Joe | May 21, 2017 11:39:03 AM

Chess is a sport, but a disabled person who has to play chess through a computer is no longer a sportsman.

Posted by: able-ist | May 21, 2017 10:35:14 AM

What about Fruit Ninja on the Kinect?

Does have gross motor skill. I'd also say that despite the inclusion of a game console, the player movement is doing all the work -- the computer simply tracks if the movements were correct.

Posted by: Derek Tokaz | May 21, 2017 9:58:06 AM

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