Esports now a legitimate sport and medal event in 2019 Southeast Asian Games

December 21, 2018 - 4:20 PM
Esports Interaksyon
People watch the League of Legends 2017 World Championships Grand Final esports match between Samsung Galaxy and SK Telecom T1 at the Beijing National Stadium in Beijing, China, November 4, 2017. (Reuters/Thomas Peter)

Esports are included in the lineup of competitive events in 2019 Southeast Asian Games in Clark, Pampanga, the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee confirmed Friday.

Dota 2, Starcraft 2, Tekken 7, Mobile Legends: Bang Bang, and Arena of Valor are five of the six games to be featured in the inaugural esports competition, according to a report by ESPN 5.

The sixth game is reportedly still undergoing evaluation and will be revealed in the weeks to come.

An outdated list which included NBA 2K and Hearthstone was reported in the days prior to the official announcement, prompting Joebert Yu, a member of the ad hoc committee formed for the event, to clarify the situation.

A national qualifying tournament will be held instead of directly tapping the country’s best esport players and teams. The players who will be representing the country will then be picked from a pool consisting of the tournament’s best performers.

Gaming hardware company Razer has also been tapped for the event as a partner.

The firm’s CEO Min-Liang Tan said at a press conference that he saw “phenomenal interest” from those involved in the event.

“The shortlisting of six games in such a short time is evidence that the notion of esports as a legitimate sporting event is no longer a fad,” he said.

Director for Sports of the SEA Games Organizing Committee Abraham Tolentino said that the agency had long been mulling including esports so as to “appeal to the young, tech-savvy spectators.”

The news has spread to gaming websites and outlets around the world.

Esports in the big stages

Esports was included as a spectator event in the 2018 Asian Games. With its inclusion as a competitive event in the 2019 SEA Games, gamers have the chance to help their country’s cause by adding to the medal tally.

The 2022 Asian Games is also expected to feature esports as a medal event.

The topic of elevating esports as a competitive event in the Olympics has also been a frequent topic of conversation.

The International Olympic Committee in July 2018 hosted a forum with several stakeholders in the esports industry including media, players, teams and team owners. The possibility of collaboration between the Olympic agencies was tackled at the forum, but the organizers clarified that the inclusion of esports in the 2024 Paris Olympics was not the immediate goal.

Those involved in the industry believe that elevating esports as an Olympic event would be its greatest moment.

“This is the last remaining mountain to conquer [for esports] to be acknowledged not just by the young but the entire world,” said Michal Blicharz, vice-president of professional gaming of the ESL, the biggest esports league in the world.

He however acknowledged that older audiences unfamiliar with the video game culture may not be ready for the change an esports event in the Olympics may bring.

IOC President Thomas Bach in September 2018 said that it was unlikely that esports would be included in future Olympics due to violent video games usually being featured in esports tournaments.