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

PHOTOS: Hope remembers, 100 years since the end of the Great War

Veterans, police, fire and rescue services, politicians, community organizations and residents attend Nov. 11 ceremony

Community Briefs: Nov. 17 craft sale going strong since the 80s

Also: Fraser Canyon Hospital Auxiliary raises $19,000

B.C. Legions in need of young members to continue aiding veterans into the future

Lest we forget what thousands of men and women did to fight for Canada’s freedoms – but without new membership, many Legion chapters face dwindling numbers

Gymnastics program on a roll at Hope rec centre

“Gymnastics can make such a difference in a childs ’ development”: instructor, Chelsea Currie

VIDEO: Marvel Comics’ Stan Lee dies

Marvel co-creator was well-known for making cameo appearances in superhero movies

Touching note left on Lower Mainland veteran’s windshield

A veteran is hoping the writers of a note know how much he was touched by their kind words.

B.C. health care payroll tax approved, takes effect Jan. 1

Employers calculating cost, including property taxes increases

Nunavut urges new plan to deal with too many polar bears

Territory recommends a proposal that contradicts much of conventional scientific thinking

18-year-old to hospital after shots fired in White Rock

Police investigating early-morning incident

Shelter struggles: Landlord takes over rental unit whenever visiting B.C. town

Renter’s story highlights how hard it is to find accommodation in Revelstoke

‘Weird Al’ brings Strings Attached tour to Lower Mainland next summer

Legendary musical satirist performs with full symphony orchestra

Lack of public response threatens B.C. referendum credibility

Of the few who have voted, poll finds most rejected proportional representation

Tentative deal reached in NHL concussion lawsuit

More than 100 former players accused the league of failing to better prevent head trauma

Most Read