Athletes, pro video game players not so different: esport insiders

Esports has ballooned in popularity in recent years, drawing fans, professional video game players

From horse riding to weight lifting and soccer to sailing, what is defined as “sports” includes a broad variety of activities. But whether professional video gaming falls under that wide umbrella remains up for debate.

Esports has ballooned in popularity in recent years, drawing fans and professional video game players from around the globe.

This weekend, thousands of people are expected to attend the International Dota 2 Championships in Vancouver, while millions more stream the event online.

Anyone tuning in will see similarities with traditional sporting events, from a stadium packed with cheering fans to well-dressed analysts in headsets offering commentary between matches.

Some of that structure has been borrowed from other sports, said Erik Johnson of Valve, the company that created the “Dota 2” game and runs the tournament.

But there’s a difference when it comes to competition.

High-level gamers are being tested on how they handle the pressure of being watched by millions of people as they compete for enormous amounts of money, Johnson said.

“It’s not a physical test, it’s a mental test for a lot of these players,” he said.

Victor Goossens is the co-CEO of Team Liquid, which won the “Dota 2” championship last year. He said his players spend up to 12 hours a day practising and studying their game, and take care of their physical and mental health in the same way a traditional athlete does.

Like any pro team, Goossens’ group is always looking for a competitive advantage, so earlier this year they teamed up with technology company SAP to develop software that would allow them to analyze their training and in-game performances.

SAP’s Milan Cerny worked with competitors in sailing and tennis before turning to the esports project. Gamers and traditional athletes have a lot in common, he said, including that both are “really, really good at what they’re doing.”

“They have a lot of knowledge about the discipline that they’re good at,” he said.

Anyone who thinks gamers aren’t athletes is misunderstood, said Dan Cybak, CEO of the Gaming Stadium, a group that’s looking to build esports facilities across Canada.

Players spend countless hours honing their eye sight, learning to control their heart rate and perfecting their skills, and they follow strict eating, sleeping and training regimes, just like traditional athletes, he said.

“They have to be on top of their game, they have to choose the right champions,” he said. “Their skill set and where their mind is at a level that a lot of us can’t play at.”

Cybak believes esports will make it into the Olympics in about a decade, and when they do they’ll become mainstream.

Justin Simpao with the University of British Columbia’s esports association doesn’t see professional video gaming as falling under the same category as hockey or basketball.

“Esports is not a real sport, but it is still a competition,” he said, adding that both traditional sports and gaming all come down to competitive entertainment.

Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Rupert Runners share memories of beloved volunteer Leslie Peloquin

Distance runner Peloquin was a Learn to Run coach in Prince Rupert for years, inspiring many

‘Ruff week over for canine owners as Prince Rupert dog park reopens

McKay Street dog park was temporarily closed for repairs after a car crashed into fence

Prince Rupert marine business adds second catamaran to its fleet

100-passenger Aurora was launched this year for the Rio Tinto Kemano tunnel project

Sustainble economy flourishing in Haida Gwaii and Great Bear Rainforest thanks to First Nations investments

From 2008-2018, funding initiatives led to more than $286 million in new investments

Kerbrat back in command of Prince Rupert golf scene

Strong putting game helps reclaim the title

MPs hear retired B.C. nurse’s petition to change compensation for fatal medical errors

Teri McGrath wants provinces to implement no-fault system for medical errors

Horgan says he’ll still defend B.C. coast after second Trans Mountain approval

Meanwhile, one B.C. First Nation has announced plans for a legal challenge

Demonstrators on either side of Trans Mountain debate clash in Vancouver

Crowd heard from member of Indigenous-led coalition that hopes to buy 51% of expansion project

Grieving B.C. mom hopes Facebook message leads to new investigation into son’s Surrey homicide

Criminal Justice Branch didn’t lay charges, concluding no substantial likelihood of murder or manslaughter conviction

WEB POLL: Would you like to see another mural go up where Zorba’s Taverna’s old one used to be?

The iconic quirky mural from Prince Rupert’s Greek restaurant was painted over this week

B.C.’s measles vaccination program gains traction in May

More than 15,000 doses of the MMR vaccine has been administered across the province

B.C. farmers concerned Agricultural Land Reserve changes choking their livelihood

Dozens voice concerns at special meeting hosted on Vancouver Island

UPDATE: Two-year-old involved in Chilliwack pool drowning has died

Toddler was reported to not be breathing as air ambulance called out Thursday afternoon

Most Read