Athletes, pro video game players not so different: esport insiders

Esports has ballooned in popularity in recent years, drawing fans, professional video game players

From horse riding to weight lifting and soccer to sailing, what is defined as “sports” includes a broad variety of activities. But whether professional video gaming falls under that wide umbrella remains up for debate.

Esports has ballooned in popularity in recent years, drawing fans and professional video game players from around the globe.

This weekend, thousands of people are expected to attend the International Dota 2 Championships in Vancouver, while millions more stream the event online.

Anyone tuning in will see similarities with traditional sporting events, from a stadium packed with cheering fans to well-dressed analysts in headsets offering commentary between matches.

Some of that structure has been borrowed from other sports, said Erik Johnson of Valve, the company that created the “Dota 2” game and runs the tournament.

But there’s a difference when it comes to competition.

High-level gamers are being tested on how they handle the pressure of being watched by millions of people as they compete for enormous amounts of money, Johnson said.

“It’s not a physical test, it’s a mental test for a lot of these players,” he said.

Victor Goossens is the co-CEO of Team Liquid, which won the “Dota 2” championship last year. He said his players spend up to 12 hours a day practising and studying their game, and take care of their physical and mental health in the same way a traditional athlete does.

Like any pro team, Goossens’ group is always looking for a competitive advantage, so earlier this year they teamed up with technology company SAP to develop software that would allow them to analyze their training and in-game performances.

SAP’s Milan Cerny worked with competitors in sailing and tennis before turning to the esports project. Gamers and traditional athletes have a lot in common, he said, including that both are “really, really good at what they’re doing.”

“They have a lot of knowledge about the discipline that they’re good at,” he said.

Anyone who thinks gamers aren’t athletes is misunderstood, said Dan Cybak, CEO of the Gaming Stadium, a group that’s looking to build esports facilities across Canada.

Players spend countless hours honing their eye sight, learning to control their heart rate and perfecting their skills, and they follow strict eating, sleeping and training regimes, just like traditional athletes, he said.

“They have to be on top of their game, they have to choose the right champions,” he said. “Their skill set and where their mind is at a level that a lot of us can’t play at.”

Cybak believes esports will make it into the Olympics in about a decade, and when they do they’ll become mainstream.

Justin Simpao with the University of British Columbia’s esports association doesn’t see professional video gaming as falling under the same category as hockey or basketball.

“Esports is not a real sport, but it is still a competition,” he said, adding that both traditional sports and gaming all come down to competitive entertainment.

Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Rainfall warning: Up to 70 mm expected across Fraser Valley

Environment Canada issued a weather warning heading into the long weekend

Chilliwack students take the lead as mental health advocates

About 100 Chilliwack youth prepped to make a difference during Mental Health Week

Chilliwack PEO: ‘We who are sisters’

International oganization celebrating 150 years of service

No more mobile vendors on Harrison beach

The approval of an updated business licence bylaw means Nolan Irwin is without a cart

BC Ferries to pilot selling beer and wine on select routes

Drinks from select B.C. breweries and VQA wineries to be sold on Swartz Bay to Tsawwassen route

VIDEO: Alberta man creates world’s biggest caricature

Dean Foster is trying to break the world record for a radio show contest

B.C. RCMP receive application for Police Cat Services

RCMP announced the launch of the Police Cat Services unit as an April fools joke

Rats available for adoption in Vancouver

In a social media post the City of Vancouver says you can adopt a rat for $5.

Kirkland Signature veggie burgers recalled due to possible metal fragments

Recalled products came in 1.7 kg packages with a best before date of Apr. 23, 2019

Chaos at the ferry terminal for people heading from Vancouver to the Island

Easter crowds create backlog at Tsawwassen ferry terminal

Parents of 13 who tortured children get life after hearing victims

One of their daughters fled their home and pleaded for help to a 911 operator

Crews battle Burnaby blaze; 2 people sent to hospital

Emergency Support Services helping residents displaced by fire

Flooding, climate change force Quebecers to rethink relationship with water

Compensation for victims of recurring floods limit to 50% of a home’s value, or a maximum of $100,000

Storms blast South, where tornadoes threaten several states

9.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia at a moderate risk of severe weather

Most Read