Thursday, June 30, 2022

Commonwealth Esports Championships announced | Rock Paper Shotgun

“When will esports be part of the Olympics?” is a question often asked by people desperate for approval from cultural authorities or from their parents. But some sporting events are in turn eager to piggyback the youth appeal of esports, which is why the 2022 Commonwealth Games will be accompanied by a pilot esports competition. The organizers today announced the Commonwealth Esports Championships, running in August alongside the main event. And maybe it’ll lead to more esports?

The Commonwealth Games is a quadrennial multi-sport international competition—a bit like the Olympics, but about fragments of the former British Empire. This year’s event is in Birmingham, England. And running alongside it, allied but quite separate, will be a Commonwealth Esports Championships. Organized with the Global Esports Federation and British Esports Association with support from a tourism fund, it’ll see ethletes from across the Commonwealth duking it across a variety of genres in yet-unconfirmed games.

“Commonwealth Esports Championships provides an excellent opportunity to pilot esports close to the Commonwealth Games,” said Commonwealth Games Federation president Louise Martin in today’s announcement.

“This will allow us to review the long-term relationship between the Commonwealth Games and esports as we continue to evolve and explore future editions of our event and what they could look like.”

The Daily Mail, an English tabloid who broke the news early, say Valve’s MOBA Dota 2 might be on the table. It’s not clear where they’re pulling that from. While the Daily Mail’s output is 50% shite and 40% ‘culture war’ trolling hey, this might be part of the legit 10%.

Myself, I’m intrigued by the CGF saying that “the event is set to feature exciting demonstrations showcasing Active Esports and the powerful technologies that support the convergence of sport and esports.” It would be quite funny if they mean, like, Zwift. Or I can’t think of many video games more ‘active’ than button-mashers like Daley Thompson’s Decathlon on the ZX Spectrum (which would also showcase that British Excellence In Technology everyone’s always wanging on about). I think there’d be poetry in playing Sega’s Mario & Sonic At The Olympic Games, too.

When will esports be part of the Commonwealth Games proper? I do not care. I’m perfectly happy with esports continuing as its own thing in its own form.

I like sports and I like esports, but I see them as quite different in so many ways. One of the key aspects for me is that esports go down in consumer products. The games played are an ever-shifting landscape of sequels, new games, balance patches, and new maps, and part of their excitement is in this constant change. While I’ll certainly not claim that sport is neutral and static and unaffected by rule changes or technology, the Olympic 100 meters has largely been the same for a century, and part of its appeal is a benchmark of human advancement. Throwing the two together does both a disservice. It’s fine if they’re separate. Insisting esports join ‘real’ sports always looks desperate, either for money or for validation. My high school PE teacher was a bully too, but you gotta move on.

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