Welcome to VideoGamer.com's Monday Morning Rant, our regular feature where one of the team gets to vent their spleen on anything that annoys them about the wonderful world of gaming. No subject, no matter how taboo, will be free from our cutting comment and vicious vitriol. Got that Monday morning feeling? Read on, and brace yourself for a wake-up call.
Playing video games is not a sport, and it drives me up the wall when I hear it described that way. Lumping an e in front of the word doesn't help either. It makes me cringe to hear it and makes me feel embarrassed to read it. Here's why.
What's the definition of sport? According to the Cambridge Dictionary it's:
1 [C] a game, competition or activity needing physical effort and skill that is played or...
2 [U] UK all types of physical activity which people do to keep healthy or for enjoyment.
Spot the key word here: physical. There's nothing physical about playing video games. Sure there's hand eye co-ordination at play, but you don't break a sweat playing games. I marvel at FPS players who game at the speed of light, and look on in awe at RTS players who micro manage hundreds of commands a second, but these people are not playing a sport. They are playing a game really, really well.
Every time you log on to Xbox LIVE and get your ass handed to you by a teenager in Halo 3, you haven't just participated in a sport. Whenever you battle through the lag on your way to victory on PES 2008, it's not a sport, despite it being virtual football. If you're anything like me, you play games slumped in a chair, spine curled and brow furrowed. Your mind might be on fire and your trigger finger twitching like medusa's tentacles, but your body is having the night off.
And don't start with the Wii either. Despite what you've seen in the adverts, it's the same with Nintendo's revolutionary console as it is with the 360, the PC or the PS3. Take Wii Sports for example. You might think virtual bowling, tennis and boxing requires physical effort. But you can play the games just as well sitting down and simply waving the Wii controller in front of the screen as you can while stood up. Essentially, playing the Wii standing up is the same as playing the 360 or the PS3 standing up. Why do it if you don't have to?
"But what about chess" I hear you cry. Well that's not a sport either. It's a game that requires tremendous mental acuity, yes, but it doesn't require any physical effort in the traditional sense. And no, I don't class moving pieces about a board as physical effort. "But what about darts, and snooker?" Well these games require some sort of physical technique, a physical posture. Gaming requires no physical technique whatsoever.
Don't get me wrong. I have absolutely nothing against people who play games competitively, or professional gamers for that matter. More power too them. I've seen some people do things when playing games that have made my jaw drop. But it is nothing more than it is - a demonstration of skill in a virtual environment. To call it a sport is embarrassing.
And so is the term eSport. It's like the professional gaming industry needs to somehow justify itself by doing so. Well it's not a sport. I don't need it to be called a sport to be interested, and I'm certainly not fooled. I doubt the average non-gamer is either.
My big problem with competitive gaming is that I don't care unless I'm watching a game I play. If it's a game I play myself then I'm interested in how the experts do it, whether it is a beat-em-up, FPS or RTS. I can appreciate skill with games I'm familiar with, games I've played myself. Gaming is not a spectator sport. Most people who watch sport on television or down the pub, whether it be Formula One, football or golf, are interested because they have some basic experience of what they're watching, whether it be down the park, in their own car or on the local golf course. Individual video games are too niche to be as all encompassing as a simple kick-about on a street corner.
So here's my Monday Morning Rant: Professional gamers are not virtual athletes. They're professional gamers. Nothing more. Nothing less. Time to stop pretending.