International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach has said that eSports cannot be featured in the Olympic Games if they “[promote] violence or discrimination”.
Speaking to the Associated Press, Bach said that “so-called killer games” are contradictory to Olympic values, and cannot be accepted into the games as a sport. Bach, a former fencer who won an Olympic gold medal in the sport back in 1976, drew a line between fencing (and other Olympic contact sports) and video games. According to Bach, “every combat sport has its origins in a real fight among people”, but sport “is the civilized expression about this”, and games in which players kill each other “cannot be brought into line with our Olympic values”.
These comments follow an eSports summit held in July by the IOC and the GAISF (Global Association of International Sports Federations), which was designed to “build joint understanding and set a platform for future engagement between the esports and gaming industries and the Olympic Movement”. Although the consideration of eSports as an Olympic discipline was “not an immediate goal of the eSports Forum”, the forum does seem to have been intended as a starting point for future discussions regarding this issue.
It’s interesting that Bach’s comments don’t seem to acknowledge less violent eSports games like Street Fighter or Splatoon, many of which don’t remotely involve death (and go out of their way not to use the term). One would imagine, too, that plenty of competitive games such as Mario Kart or Rocket League may also be suitable for inclusion in the Olympic Games, but Bach doesn’t comment on these or any other non-violent eSports contenders.
This news follows the recent introduction of eSports as a demonstration sport at the 2018 Asian Games. Demonstration sports do not count towards a country’s overall medal tally in the Asian Games, but this is the first major non-gaming-focused world sporting event to adopt eSports as a competitive discipline. It’s not impossible to imagine the Asian Games featuring eSports as a full competition sport in four years’ time, so the conversation around the legitimacy of eSports in the mainstream sporting world is receiving renewed focus.
Bach’s comments also follow the recent tragic shooting at a Florida shopping mall which took place during a Madden tournament. The debate around video game violence is a long, storied, and controversial one, with many strong opinions on both sides whether merited or not. It remains to be seen whether Bach will soften his stance on eSports, or whether developers will try to create more non-violent eSports titles as a compromise, but for now, the likelihood of eSports at the Olympics is slim.
What are your thoughts on eSports at the Olympics? Let us know in the comments below!