Video games have seen a drastic rise in popularity since the late 1970s, and this trend is unlikely to stop any time soon. With the development of competitive gaming and global competitions that promise millions in cash prizes, many are now debating if video games should be classified as a sport.
Traditional sports enthusiasts will completely deny the idea, as video games lack the typical physical element that defines most sports. On that front, it’s hard to argue with them. If you look up “sport” or “athlete” in most dictionaries, you are bound to find some mention of physical exertion in the definition.
However, many on the other side of the argument point out that competitive gamers need to put in just as much practice, effort, and dedication as traditional athletes. Recent studies have also shown that competitive gaming can be just as demanding on the body as some traditional sports.
A third argument, sitting somewhere in the middle, suggests that video games don’t need to be a sport. They lack the physical exertion required to be a traditional sport but still demand refined motor skills, fast reaction times, and high levels of strategy.
In that regard, the particular strains and demands of competitive gaming form an experience that is unique to e-sports.
Whatever side of the debate you land on, it’s something that parents and teachers need to consider. Recent studies have shown that playing video games regularly can be incredibly beneficial for certain aspects of child development (read source).
Aside from improving hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills, they also teach puzzle-solving skills and can be a valuable tool for helping children to learn teamwork.
Reasons why video games should be a sport
Whatever your opinion may be of video games, there are plenty of compelling arguments for why it should be counted as a sport. There are also plenty of people who are keen to see video games recognised for their benefits.
1. The physical demands of competitive gaming
Perhaps the most compelling argument for why video games should be classified as a sport would be the physical demands of competitive gaming.
A recent study conducted by the German Sports University in Cologne has shown that professional gamers exhibit high levels of physical strain during competitions, comparable in many cases to traditional sports.
The study found that during a competition, a gamer’s heartrate could reach 160-180 beats per minute, which is roughly the same as that of a marathon runner. Players would also exhibit levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, that was comparable to that of an F1 driver.
In addition to this, the level of tactical understanding necessary to win some of the most popular competitive games is enormously complex, forcing the player to react quickly to their opponents and to create strategies on the go. As a result of this, competitive gaming activates multiple areas of the brain at once.
On top of this, competitive gaming also requires highly refined motor skills, with a level of hand-eye coordination that far exceeds any sport. Gamers at this level would interact with their mouse on an average of 400 instances per minute, which is roughly four times the speed of casual players.
For more information, you might be interested in reading a blog post we published last year, titled; are video games good for you.
2. Teamwork and communication
Just like any other competitive game, video games can be an excellent tool for teaching children how to work together.
With younger players, offline multiplayer games are generally the best option, as they allow for a more controlled environment. Arguably, the golden standard for this is Splatoon. Both games in the franchise are designed to emulate a similar environment to games like Call of Duty but without the online chat element.
In Splatoon, two teams of four are pitched against each other, and to win the game, players must cover the arena in as much of their team’s coloured ink as possible.
Although a player might be able to get away with being independent in the early stages of the game, once a player reaches the higher levels, teamwork becomes crucial for winning. In addition to this, the game also encourages strategy and refined motor skills.
Other games that are excellent for building teamwork in younger players include:
- Smash Bros
- Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker
- Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered
- The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes
For older players and those ready to enter into online play with voice chat, the following are also good options:
- Monster Hunter
3. Developing useful skills
Over the years, many studies have been conducted looking into how video games affect behaviour, cognitive development, mental health and intelligence in children. The results show that there are many benefits to playing video games regularly.
One of the most consistent findings is that video games are beneficial for cognitive development. Children who regularly play video games tend to have a higher IQ, on average, than those who don’t.
Studies have also shown that regularly playing video games improves spatial recognition, multitasking skills, problem-solving skills, and perception. It also improves cognitive flexibility, which allows someone to respond to challenges quickly by switching between strategies.
Other such studies indicate that young children who play video games regularly score higher in academic achievement, socialization, and mental health.
There have also been studies that suggest that video games may promote creativity. If in any doubt, take a look at some of the structures that children have made in Minecraft.
Arguably one of the most important benefits of playing video games, though, is that it teaches children persistence. A 2013 study conducted by Matthew Ventura found that college students who regularly played video games were more likely to persist with challenging cognitive problems than students who didn’t.
Many video games are designed to increase with difficulty and to challenge the gamer as they progress. When faced with a particularly challenging puzzle or enemy, a player can expect to face the same challenge again and again. However, if they keep going and adapt their strategy, they will eventually win.
That said, many parents also have concerns with regards to video games. Allowing children to play games that are too mature for them can have a negative impact, but the same counts for most other things. Another concern is that too much time spent playing video games can lead to an addiction, but this can be mitigated with set gaming hours.
Consoles such as the Nintendo Switch even have built-in functions to help parents with this. Parents can download an app that allows them to decide set hours for gaming on the console. If these hours are exceeded, the app will enable parents to send a reminder to the console, and if this still doesn’t work, parents have the option to shut down the console remotely.
Another compelling argument for seeing video games as a sport is the inclusivity it offers. Recent studies have shown that just over 20% of casual gamers are disabled in some way.
Although physical or mental disabilities might make it difficult to join in with some traditional sports, many find that video games level the playing field. Someone who struggles to walk, for example, may find they have no trouble excelling in a game of Smash Bros.
In addition to this, it gives children something to bond over and can help children with mental and physical disabilities to make friends with their peers.
Studies have also shown that video games are beneficial to the development of children with autism. It can help them to develop crucial social skills, flexibility, and motor skills. In addition to this, it teaches them to be more comfortable with making mistakes, which is an essential part of the gaming experience.
Reasons why video games shouldn’t be a sport
Most of the arguments against video games being counted as a sport seem to come from the position of traditional sports enthusiasts. Since video games lack the typical physical elements found in sports such as Rugby, American Football, and running, many argue video games aren’t the same thing.
Although plenty of gamers are adamant that this doesn’t matter – it is something parents should take into account.
In spite of all the benefits that video games offer, it doesn’t take away from the fact that most video games do not encourage children to be active. As children risk becoming more sedentary, this is an essential factor to consider.
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