Tournament without sportsmanship

While coughing blood and phlegm, I missed EVO completely. Nothing unusual about that, the EVO tournament doesn’t interest yours truly. However, EVO is of interest in regards of this blog and how its seen, and this year had a peculiar event with Super Smash Bros. tournament that as a case study shows two things; video games are not a sport, and not even the participants truly see it as a sport.

The event of course is the already infamous grand finals for Super Smash Bros for Console X. At 15:00 minute mark, both players simply stop playing the game for nearly two minutes. Thus far you can argue that there was competitive play for the top spot, but at that point everything becomes a joke.

This is not sportsmanship behaviour, this is what you’d see in show wrestling. That’s what eSports is, and thus it is far from being worth entering to Olympics in any fashion.

Some have argued that the two players can dictate whatever method of playing they wish, that is their choice as top finalist. This is not true, as every sports has to have strict rules the participants have to adhere to and will be promptly punished if these rules are broken; the finalist do not get to choose who they play. No other seriously competitive field, from pool to golf, from karate to card games, from F-1 to Nascar, everyone participating are required to make their best effort to win according to laid rules and there is no room to wiggle about.

Despite the two players here were warned of stalling, they did not gain any sort of penalty outside booing. Instead, both of them should have been disqualified not just on base of stalling, but also for interrupting a match for an interview, breaking sportsmanship and unfair competition.

Why unfair competition? Many athletes are friends, but yet they don’t go easy on each other out of respect towards each other and towards the sport. These two yahoos are friends who didn’t go their extra mile for maximum effort in competition and instead chose for showmanship. Whether or not you want to call this collusion is up to you.

Of course, we also have take notice that making the competitors sit next to each other rather than apart allows this sort of interactions between the competitors. EVO should have embraced the arcade approach years back and have the players fight opposing each other, or at least with good few meters apart. Does this remove a psych element from the game? Yes, and it should, as then the players’ actual skill in the game can be concentrated more than on any theatrics. Having these two jokers separated from each other would’ve alleviated some of their antics, but somehow the two buffoons would’ve made a joke out of it anyway.

The competitors’ age does not matter, be it teenagers like with these two Smash Bros. players or forty something who has played Street Fighter their whole life. People of their age can and are competing in real sports with the right mindset and compete with others like them for the top spot.

This isn’t the first time EVO has seen these “moments” where players show off some reason. Some years back, two E. Honda players in Street Fighter IV allowed the first round of their match to time out in order to have a one-round match in order to see which one of them was better. The same should have applied in this case as with this year’s Smash Bros.; no competition means getting the boot. You can argue stalling or running away is a legit tactic that can be applied, but that has to be in proper context. Just standing and waiting for whatever reason in a battling competition should get you the boot. After all, fighting game tournaments mirror the real world martial arts competitions in spirit, and simply fucking around goes directly against that spirit.

Then again, as a profession (used here extremely loosely) being a top Street Fighter player or whatnot doesn’t bring in much in terms of finances. It’s not secret that the tournament winners often share their price money with other top players in order to keep them from living on the streets. It is an extremely stressful field and losing sponsorship is extremely easy.

Does this encompass all players and games played competitively? Of course not, yet EVO as a whole is a great example of how competitive video gaming is just a play akin to show wrestling, as mentioned. EVO needs to get back to its Battle by the Bay roots and have one rule above all; find out who is the best in a given game. This alone sets certain principle rules and required mindset. We can make jokes about Smash Bros. and their rule sets all day long, but this is universal; a fighting game tournament only exists to find out who is the best. Any actions to detriment this should be treated with extreme prejudice and cut down like a tumor.

Video games are not sports. They’re anything but sports. They certainly require large amount of skill and dedication to get good at, yet there are constantly examples how juvenile the medium is across the board. Video and computer games are a young industry, and this shows itself hard with competitive situations like EVO. There is an extreme lack maturity and class. Unlike Olympics and other real sports events, EVO has quite honestly zero respect outside its own bubble. Furthermore, this year the TV licenses were far less important and we saw no outfit censorship, because last year’s viewership was less than expected.

Video games might be the most popular form of entertainment, but sure hell ain’t the most respected. The only way you can get respect for you wannabe sports and hobby is to act like your age, stop screaming bloody hell every time you see boobies and take competitive shit seriously, no matter what sort of party game gets mixed with serious fighting titles.

Video games in Olympics?

Tony Estanguet, the co-president of the Paris Olympic bid committee, seems to know there is some kind of writing on the wall and has held talks with the eSports representatives and the IOC about them joining the Olympic games in 2024. While he argues that digital prowess should be considered a legit sport if Olympics is to maintain its relevancy. Estanguet should look elsewhere first and begin to work on removing the corruption and the financial strain the games cause to a nation.

The idea of digital games in Olympic games is not too far-fetched. After all, the two do share the core common root in games and competition. However, despite their spirit common ancestry, the two beasts are very much different in the end. Olympics have a history on themselves that fetch respect alone, and in the core still aim to celebrate the physical fitness of the human body. Albeit with the healthy help of helping substances and loads of less than clean money. Nevertheless, sports does include activities like chess, but that never got into Olympics by that merit.

It’s all about money, really. If this news bit is to be believed, an eSport star makes money than your average Olympic athlete. With electronic game industry eclipsing Hollywood and movie industry at large in worldwide revenues and cultural impact to the point of political agendas being driven into the sub-culture through sheer force, it’s no wonder Estanguet would like to give this newfangled thing a careful, close look.

Not that the idea hasn’t been amused before, but that’s exactly why modern eSports scene has come to be. Not because it was regarded as sports worthy the Olympics to begin with, mind you. Money goes where the viewers are, and it would seem the newer generations do not value seeing people doings traditional sports (if you will in this context) on-screen, when they could see professional video game players raking in bucks and points like no other. Perhaps the biggest difference is between Olympics and eSports tournaments is that anyone could become a good player with few months time put into a game and compete in a tournament, whereas an Olympic athlete has to live the life. It’s not an easy life either, and not everybody can become the world champion in 100m dash. However, the chance of becoming a damn good Counterstrike player is much more attainable goal.

If electronic games would enter the Olympics via eSports, there would be further shift to appease the broadcasting companies and such even further than what they already are. Outfit bans would become a common practice within these tournament circles to adhere to the high standard Olympics and their broadcasters would demand, which would still be ridiculous considering the same channels would be airing gymnastics, swimming and hurdles, all sports with people in rather skimpy outfits. If eSports would enter Olympics, you can bet on companies changing their designs to fit these standards from the get go rather than sticking to their guns. After all, if we’re to count games as a form of art, then they should be able to present anything the author/s intend without censorship. What a riot.

Thomas Bach is on a high horse when he questionsed whether or not eSports would stand to Olympic rules and would respect the values of sports. They lost that long time ago themselves, but it’s the front what matters the most. He also mentions that the implementation of Olympic rules should be monitored and secured, which more or less can be shortened into They have to change to fit out agenda. The Olympics committee doesn’t see video games and sports and within this generation they never will. Furthermore, there is no reason to see video games as sports to begin with.

I bet there is behind the doors talk about gaming maturing or needing to mature before it can take its place among the higher cultural phenomena like the Olympics. As I’ve argued before, this is a fallacy and video games do not need, should not, prove themselves to be like other media formats or games to stand on their own. The value of games as themselves can not reach its mature point until its hardcore consumers start masturbating over it as art or sports, literal storytelling or other such forms included, and begin to treat electronic games as they are. It’s not going to happen over night or in a week. There needs to be a paradigm shift with time. Electronic games need to achieve similar status to that of poker (or cards in general), where it is universally accepted as a valid form of entertainment where there are possibilities of serious competition while offering the player/s to have a solitary game against the deck/game itself.

No, video games should not be included into the Olympic games. If anything, eSports should create its own official Olympiad similar to Chess Olympiad. Hell EVO essentially is that for fighting games, and they even offer Special Olympics equivalent with the inclusion of Smash Bros. I know, that’s a terrible joke, but I know at least one you chuckled. This format could be easily expanded and included in a larger event, where you could have all the big names in town within the same Olympics-styled event, with e.g. Starcraft being played all the while you have people competing for the next high score result of Donkey Kong. It is a possibility, it just would take loads of money to be organised. Seeing how much money there is overall within these competitive gaming circles, it wouldn’t be a far fetched idea.

We could throw in an additional question whether or not there is a need for such an event. Video games shouldn’t need to be validated through Olympics, or an Olympics like event. Would it be better, in the end, if eSports would stay in somewhat similar form as it is now and naturally evolve to whatever shape it’ll be in the future? Whatever the direction may be in the future, rest be assured either one will shape how the games will look and play, with distinct lack of that original artistic intent being replaced with intent of making the games more sports-like (e.g. overly balanced, but not fun fighting games) and sticking to rules set by a committee outside electronic games industry.