Similarities between Sports & Esports

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What does esports encompass? When we talk about esports and gaming there is often a misconception of what those two terms actually mean. A common question parents are asking is "Why does my kid like to watch other kids play video games?". Accepting gaming as a legitimate profession is difficult for many.

As a society, sport is a broad term that refers to all the different types of sports that we play: from hockey, track & field, and basketball to games considered more activity based: rock climbing, golf, and shooting. Some sports require exceptional physical endurance, while others require precision and concentration.

If we think about esports in the same fashion, as an all-encompassing term, the similarities arise.

TEAM VS INDIVIDUAL
Just like in sports, some esports are competed as teams, while others are individual feats. Esports like Overwatch, League of Legends and CS:GO require teams of 5-7 players. Teamwork is just as important in these games as they are in traditional sports, like soccer or hockey. Different players have different positions: defence, attack, sniper or support. Their character has the skills to fill a specific this position. The team's communication and strategy are critical to success, which in this case is defined as  defeating the opponent.

Individual esports such as Hearthstone: a collectible card game, Super Smash Bros. or eFIFA: where one player controls the entire team, require different skills and mentality. Your reaction time is important, working in cohesion with attentional focus. Like most individual sports, there is more self-pressure, and a larger need for mental skills. The mental capacity of these esports athletes require the same abilities as individual athletes. For example, eFIFA that players have quick decision making skills, the ability to read the game and act/react accordingly and the ability to fight off the mental fatigue that comes from playing and training. Just like in traditional sports, the mental aspect of esports is critical to a player’s success. The ability for a player to be able to push through frustration or self doubt, dig yourself out of a slump and maintain focus under high pressure circumstances are all crucial skills that esports require.

COMPETITIVE VS RECREATIONAL
People participate in sports for a variety of reasons. Some enjoy the social environment with friends while they participate in an intramural league, others just want to stay in shape, and some have dreams of Olympic Gold or raising the Stanley Cup above their head. This is also true with esports.

The majority of esports players are in it for the recreational component. Whether as a social activity with friends, or as interactive entertainment, most esports players just play to enjoy themselves.

Just like in real sports less than 0.01% of esports participants ever make it to the pro-level. League of Legends - the most popular game worldwide - has only 545+ professional esports athletes, while on average 67 million play the game monthly.

Coming back to the ‘why do my kids watch other kids play video games?’ question, another way that esports players make money is through Twitch. Twitch is a streaming platform that allows viewers to watch esports players compete in their designated esport. There are 27,000 twitch partners broadcasting weekly to make a living, out of the 100 + million monthly twitch users.

OVERUSE
A common struggle for all athletes, as they transition from competing in a sport for fun, vs training to win is professionalizing your training. A common example is in lifestyle sports like Rock Climbing, Surfing or snowboarding. Athletes in these sports usually partake in them because of the lifestyle - laidback, outdoors and the sport itself is the fitness base. However, as these athletes turn professional, the activity lifestyle changes to one of intense training. All of a sudden your activity of passion becomes scheduled and supplemented with sports science, gym training, and intense coaching sessions. This is why many of the best athletes in lifestyle sports remain recreational…

In the early stages of professionalizing training, many challenges can arise, new injuries may appear, fatigue and underperformance, overtraining and overuse. These happen to traditional sports athletes, but also esports athletes as well. The inaugural season of the Overwatch League (OWL) has recently come to an end. One team, the Shanghai Dragon’s went winless in their 40 match season. To prove it wasn’t for lack of training the team posted their training schedule. Training 72+ hours a week, starting their days at 10:30 am until as late as midnight, is much more intensive than any traditional sports training schedule. Athlete’s are typically training in sport 4-6 hours a day, and partaking in other training 1-2 hours a day. The Shanghai Dragon’s OWL team could take a lesson from traditional sports. Clearly the effects of overtraining took a toll on these athletes.

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At a high level, esports has many similarities and parallels to the traditional sports industry. These three examples show how, at a granular level, there are many similarities in the soft skill development and training between esports and traditional sports.

Stay tuned for STG’s Guide to Esports Part 3: The Esports Ecosystem