Video games as a sport

“I had a coach who made a distinction between athletics and sports. He would say that athletics disciplines are measures of physical human prowess. When we think of running, swimming and jumping, they are traditional Greek sports which focus on physical ability. Sports are the gamification of athletics.”

Zach Wigal, CEO of the Gamers Outreach Foundation, posed some interesting questions on 7 December, day two of the Peace and Sport Forum. Speaking as part of a session on “The dawn of digital solutions”, he pointed out that video games share some of the same characteristics as sports – they are competitive, they have a huge following and the stadiums of big sports teams host major video games events, video games is a lifestyle for many people and they invest good money on it getting the best consoles and monitors, like the best 4k gaming monitors specially for this.

He asked the audience to consider where video games fall on the spectrum when comparing them to more traditional sports. The more important question, however, is “how do we, as sports enthusiasts, convey the same values?”

The Gamers Outreach Foundation is a nonprofit organisation that provides equipment, technology, and software to help kids cope with treatment inside hospitals. Video games are a familiar pastime to many patients and health professionals are using them to encourage kids to leave their bedside environment. The foundation is setting up portable video game centres in hospitals, to support children and young people in their rehabilitation.

On the other side of the coin, these activities encourage video game enthusiasts to volunteer. They can become mentors and help guide kids through their recovery.

Video games can also be effective platforms for fundraising. Gamers for Giving holds large live-streamed events. Some participants are high-profile social media personalities. They encourage their followers to watch and donate, and the last event raised 300,000 US dollars for social causes.

We see the same patterns in sport, which can support people going through difficult times and encourage volunteerism. Sport stars such as Leonardo Messi help raise awareness and money.

E-sports, defined as multiplayer video games played competitively for spectators, typically by professional gamers, are still in their infancy. Some in that field are currently working to establish federations. Wigal ended his presentation with a call for federations at the Peace and Sport Forum to support this process, not just with organisational issues but also to promote social change.