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Is Competitive Video Gaming a Sport?
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Sat Nov 03, 2007 8:42 pm Reply and quote this post
Is anyone out there ever hesitant to tell someone that they are a fan of gaming? Wait, let me rephrase that one. Has anyone out there ever found themselves reluctant to say you consider gaming a sport? If so, then why is that exactly? We obviously have evidence clearly supporting that as time goes by more and more things are being classified as a sport. Many of these sports as we slowly begin to learn about them may instantly make sense to the average person, but at the very same time many of them may cause most of us take a step back and say something such as, "How can such a thing be considered a sport, it's preposterous."

Well as preposterous or perhaps even as bizarre as some of them may seem, they all appear to have a dedicated following that truly enjoy them no matter how big or small they may be. Isn't that what it's all about? You bet your bottom dollar it is. A dedicated following that truly enjoy Professional Gaming is exactly what our community represents. So I'm sure it comes as no surprise that myself or others are more than willing to be the punchline for a joke each time we muster the confidence to defend our right to call what we all know and love "Professional Gaming".

We have the NBA, NFL, MLB, Nascar and those would, of course, fall into the category of far more easily acceptable forms of sport. Then we have other acceptable forms of sport like Golf, Tennis, Lacrosse, Hockey and the widely popular and perhaps most played sport in the world, Soccer. Now there are other, how do I say, less mainstream yet still very popular in their own right forms of sport out there. These include the likes of Bass Fishing, Bowling, Professional Poker, Weight Lifting, Professional Billiards and a number of others I'm forgetting to list including Chess. Some of you may be surprised to learn that there's even a pretty healthy following for Rubik's Cube competitions and yes there are those that consider even that a sport. These competitions even get national recognition on popular television stations such as CNN.

Before my very brief digression I touched upon Chess. Now with my being a major fan of Chess, I can distinctly remember a myriad of instances in which I've found myself defending the right for the game of Chess to be considered a sport. It isn't very hard to find proponents of the mindset that Chess is indeed not a sport. You'll even see arguments against it being a sport among even the most dedicated of Chess fans. To showcase just that I would like to point everyone to what has been one of my favorite websites for a couple of years. A blog called the "The Chess Mind" for Chess fans by a fan of Chess who goes by the name of Dennis Monokroussos. The following is Monokroussos's stance for why Chess cannot be considered a Sport.

The Chess Mind by Dennis Monokroussos wrote:
Q. Is Chess a sport?
A. It might at first seem that Chess is a sport. First of all, it's clearly a competitive activity, which seems to be a necessary if not sufficient condition for something's being a sport. Second, the same sorts of general mental and physical disciplines needed by the sportsman (e.g. mental toughness, strong self-confidence, endurance, etc.) are required for Chess players to succeed. To take a prominent example, Karpov's (then-) frail physique nearly cost him twice in big matches against Korchnoi (one for the world championship, the other in a final candidates match) and quite possibly did cost him the title to Kasparov when he lacked the endurance to finish him off in 1984.

Yet despite the above, I think that Chess is not a sport. Here's why:

1. I take the following to be necessary conditions of being a sport:

# a. That it's a competitive activity.
# b. That the performance of the activity have an intrinsically physical component.

2. Chess fulfills (a) but not (b). As far as the nature of Chess is concerned, it could be played by disembodied spirits using mental telepathy or by conscious computers.

(Whether either exists is a question for another time; I'm inclined to think the former do exist and to be skeptical about the possibility of the latter, and I'm sure some of my readers think I have it exactly backwards. No matter; the point here is just that either sort of being could play Chess either without any physical activity whatsoever, or without the physical activity's being an intrinsic part of the fulfillment of the exercise.)

What I mean by an "intrinsically physical component" is easy to grasp by considering a paradigmatic case: in football, players score touchdowns by using their bodies to move the football across the field and into the end zone, field goals or extra points by sending the ball through the goal posts using only their feet. A physical object must be moved through physical space using particular bodily means.

Not so with Chess. Moving the wood or plastic pieces isn't an intrinsic part of the game - one could play an online game by moving one' s mouse or better still, not move anything to play a blindfold game. (One has to move something to state one's move, but the expressing of a move isn't itself a move.) What counts is the production of a move, and that is not an intrinsically physical activity.

3. Therefore, Chess isn't a sport.

Now, if one chooses to define a sport merely as some sort of competitive endeavor, then Chess would be let in - but so would many other activities, like put-down contests and job interviews. Nor is it enough to add to the competitiveness condition the further requirement that it's an activity where physical prowess can make a substantial difference to one's potential success: one candidate for a job may succeed due to his enhanced fitness (his healthy appearance impressed the hiring committee, his superior conditioning enabled him to successfully work longer hours at his previous job, improving his qualifications, etc.), but that still wouldn't turn job interviewing into a sport.

In sum, while Chess is in some significant ways sports-like, and physical and mental training are of great value to ambitious tournament Chess players, Chess is not a sport - at least if an activity only counts as a sport if it includes some intrinsically physical component.

His reasoning for why Chess isn't a sport could just as easily be used as an argument for why Professional Gaming isn't a sport don't you think? His justification is no doubt a very well communicated and valid argument, but where I disagree with the reasoning for Chess not being a sport is that I believe a much greater value should be placed on the skill required for one to be considered among the best, among the worst or simply among the average in their chosen competitive discipline. I'm referring to the kind of skill necessary to separate the best from the worst in a competitive atmosphere, the very same skill that exists to separate CGS Pro-Gamer Danny "Frod" Montaner or even what separates the likes of the well known Russian born Chess Grandmaster and former World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov from the rest of the pack.

I'm aware this line of thinking, as suggested by Mr. Monokroussos, likely opens up the floodgate to a lot of other things to be claimed as sports, but I think this requires one to practice a bit of leniency on the definition of what constitutes a sport no different than the leniency on the definition of what constitutes music or art. If music and art can come in numerous forms why can't sports? When Garry Kasparov, a man that is so good at the game of Chess that he was consistently ranked #1 Chess player in the world from 1986 all the way up to his retirement in 2005 thinks Chess should be considered a Sport who are we to argue? It is afterall only a testament to the great deal of pride he has for what he does and it is a wish that it be respected alongside the likes of other more accepted forms of sport.

Is that any different from the type of pride a Professional Gamer gets from doing what they love? Do they not have every right to consider what they do as a sport? Does anyone think for a second that Professional Bass Fisher Rick Clunn doesn't consider what he does as a sport? Professional Gaming without any doubt has its place in the sports category. It has exactly the type of competitive community that is often representative of a popular sport. It has a fan following as dedicated as just about any other that has been around for years and it continues to grow. There is even a Professional Gaming League such as the CGS where all the best gamers in the world receive paid salaries and are provided with a platform to showcase their talents to the world by coming together and competing in a true team format. Now if by chance televised broadcasts, support from fortune 500 companies and other forms of national recognition is a requirement to somehow legitimatize the whole thing in the eyes of disbelievers then are we allowed to say been there, done that?

As a fan of Professional Gaming for a long time I've come to realize that the experience truly isn't all that different from that of any other sport I've experienced or been a fan of. To take it a step further I would say the experience of watching a Team3D Counter-Strike match, to me, matches the same amazing feeling I had when it was time for me to watch a big Yankees game or Michael Jordan play with the Chicago Bulls. Over the years I've approached every Team3D CS match or more recently CGS League match with the same level of excitement and nervousness as I did when I was watching a Chicago Bulls game. Don't ask me why I get overly nervous whenever I'm about to watch a certain team play a game because I probably couldn't explain it. The best way I can really put it is thats how I know I'm a true supporter of that team. Call me crazy, but I always felt if I didn't catch a Chicago Bulls game or Team3D CS match from the very beginning and things went wrong that it was somehow my fault because I should've been there earlier. Anyone remember that movie Celtic Pride and just how crazy superstitious the Celtics fans were? That would pretty much be me in a nutshell. If Professional Gaming isn't a sport then I most certainly didn't receive the memo. I couldn't even begin to list all the incredible matches I've seen over the years, but I've seen incredible come from behind victories when it looked like it was pretty much over, I've seen amazing double and triple overtime matches packed full of all the things you had to see to know you weren't in the same league as the people you were watching compete. All the incredible displays of skill you've come to expect from other more mainstream sports is exactly what Professional Gaming thrives on and why it continues to grow at such a staggering pace. In Professional Gaming we've had our events that have felt like the Superbowl (CPL) and we've had our events that have felt like the Olympics (WCG) it should come as no surprise as to why it has become as big as it has now that we have the NBA (CGS). It captures all the best elements of what makes other sports great.

Contributed by Editorial Team, Executive Management Team
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