The pressureâ€”if you can call it thatâ€”is on to bring competitive video gaming to the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Ted Owen, head of the Global Gaming League, is making his pitch to the Chinese government in the hopes of getting video gaming accepted at the event as a demonstration sport. If he is successful, video games can proudly take their place alongside such activities as roller hockey, military patrol, and korfball, all of which have previously been on Olympic display under the demonstration sport heading.
Owen has not actually contacted the International Olympic Committee (IOC) yet, but he claims that the Chinese government has been supportive of the idea. Owen argues that, with interest in the Olympics showing signs of waning, the time has come to add contests which will demonstrate an appeal to the younger audience. He points to the success of snowboarding as an example of just the kind of enthusiasm competitive video gaming might bring to the party.
I don’t know how to break it to Owen, but the difference between watching an actual snowboarder and watching someone play ESPN Winter X Games Snowboarding is kind of like the difference between reading a book and watching someone read. While there are no doubt some who will take issue with that analogy, I don’t think I’m alone in suggesting that sitting on a couch watching someone play Halo 3 while the Xbox 360 gathers dust in a corner takes the concept of sloth to a whole new level. With baseball and softball due for removal after the 2012 games and numerous established sports fighting to be added, competitive video gaming faces an uphill battle at best.
For those unfamiliar with the concept of demonstration sports, you may be forgiven, because none have appeared at any Olympics since 1992. They work just like regular Olympic events, except the medals don’t “count.” In other words, they are real medals in every way except the most important: they aren’t recorded as Olympic wins, they do not add to a country’s medal total. Although demonstration sports were relatively common during much of the 20th century, the concept has lost favor in recent years due to the fact that IOC rules require demonstrations to be treated just like “real” Olympic competitions, making them a huge hassle with very little payoff.
Should video games beat the odds and end up on the Olympic roster, the road will be paved for other unappreciated games to be added as well. Surely poker deserves a spot, especially considering the recent surge in the popularity of Texas Hold’em. Billiards and golf have been waiting for a while, and their television success can’t be denied. Rock, paper, scissors may not have television support, but the game already has a recognized world championship competition, which for the time being puts it ahead of video gamingâ€”at least on an organizational front.
Owen promises that, should the Chinese government back him while the IOC turns him down, he will arrange his own video game competitions “right by the stadiums” so they may “bask in the glow of the Olympic light.” He may want to book the space soon. With the number of people likely to show up in Beijing for the Olympics, he’ll be lucky to get a hotel room if he waits too long, let alone event space. Then again, perhaps he can reserve something in the land of The Sims.
News source: ARS TECHNICA