The Term eSports Bothers Me in a Pedantic Way

Related to this tweet by Ben Kuchera, I sort of have to object to the term “eSports” to mean competitive video game playing. Arguments about definitions are usually boring (see also: what is art?), but to me, a “sport” must require an athletic component. Further, I worry that the use of the term invites this exact sort of dismissal and thus undermines the concept of competitive gaming.

I don’t at all want to put down the concept of competitive gaming (especially because I’m terrible as first-person shooters and never dedicated enough time to get past basic Zerg rushes in StarCraft). Gaming does require coordination and endurance, but it’s not an athletic endeavor, just like playing the trombone isn’t. Playing an instrument requires an intense amount of mind-body cohesion. It requires you to tie your breathing to the piece you’re playing, to tune your emotions to what your fingers are doing, for wind instruments, to be aware of spit production, and so on. But you don’t call a musical performance an athletic event (dance, marching, etc. obviously excluded). I make the connection because while you wouldn’t call playing in an orchestra a sport, you’re not diminishing music, you’re just applying a definition. Whatever competitive gaming is, it’s not a sport, but that’s not a knock against it.

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