Esports are being misrepresented in the Olympic Esports Series
Olympics are showing a disconnect and lack of knowledge on how to showcase competitive video gaming
On March 1, the International Olympics Committee (IOC) announced the start of their Olympic Esports Series. Participants are competing in nine different events for a spot in the live, in-person finals held in Singapore from June 22 to 25. This succeeds the Olympic Virtual Series back in 2021, which attracted over 250,000 participants from 100 countries.
Archery, baseball, chess, cycling, dance, motorsport, sailing, taekwondo, and tennis comprise the nine events taking place this year. This is an increase in activity from 2021, which only had baseball, cycling, rowing, sailing and motorsport, totalling five events.
However, these events for this year’s series have gotten strong reactions. Many feel confused and let down by the game variety as they are just the virtual versions of existing Olympic sports, and others say the selection is a “slap in the face” as the games are not highly regarded in the esports community.
As someone who has been involved with esports and recently participated in a large esports event, I think the IOC should’ve done more.
Among the games the committee listed, there’s only two names I recognized on it: Gran Turismo and Just Dance, leaving me wondering if there were any boundaries the IOC didn’t want to cross.
Seeing how the committee was able to get Gran Turismo and Just Dance, they may have faced some difficulty getting more established titles. I doubt violent content would’ve played a big part in the lack of big titles considering ice hockey and wrestling are still Olympic events.
Even then, the glaring problem is the nine events either already exist as their own Olympic event or could be made into one. It’s not like you need a computer to play chess, when a physical game board can be set up. A game that’s older than the Olympics itself and has no difficulty to set up in person.
Despite this, there’s plenty of options the IOC could have looked at to fill the esports series with games fans are more familiar with and showcase them to a larger audience.
One specific game I would recommend is Rocket League, which is basically soccer but played with vehicles. This game would be familiar to those who don’t play video games to follow what’s happening while remaining unique enough to be an esport.
Another game to recommend would be Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. With a diverse roster of iconic characters even people who are not into video games are familiar with characters like Mario and Princess Peach, the game has the recognition it needs to attract an audience.
In addition, some of the listed games could have been replaced with similar ones that better represent the esports world. For example, taekwondo could’ve been the Street Fighter series or Injustice franchise, two games I consider to be the most ideal representatives for this genre of gaming. They’re both recognizable without the shock value of something like the Mortal Kombat series.
Competitive Pokémon could even be an esport at the Olympics. I’d argue the entire world knows what Pokémon is and how its battles work, and is a game that would be awesome to see at the Olympics.
Overall, the Olympic Esports Series needs to better represent the games played by those in the esports community, and I hope to see some progress from the IOC in this aspect for the years to come.