The rise of competitive video gaming has not gone unnoticed by the Olympic committee. As more young people embrace the interactive pastime as a professional activity, gamers were hopeful that esports would finally receive recognition at the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris with games like CS:GO, Overwatch or League of Legends. The committee, however, shot down the idea last week, stating video games promote violence.
In early August, Tony Estanguet, the co-president of the Paris Olympic bid committee said the organization was considering adding a video gaming tournament, with the prospect of giving players the opportunity to compete for Olympic medals.
At the time, Estanguet told the Associated Press that the committee wanted to better understand why esports were so popular and that they didn’t want to say “no” without first researching the possibility.
“We have to look at it because we can’t say, ‘It’s not us. It’s not about Olympics,'” Estanguet said. “The youth, yes they are interested in eSport and this kind of thing. Let’s look at it. Let’s meet them. Let’s try if we can find some bridges.”
The proposal for turning esports into an Olympic event was first argued by Blizzard’s former chief creative officer Rob Pardo. He pointed out that much like physical sports, competitive video games required competitive skillsets and most professional gamers have “lightning quick” reflexes allowing them to perform upwards of 300 actions per minute while making decisions on the fly.
According to marketing research firm Newzoo, esports is expected to pull in as much as $696 million in 2017, with a large chunk of money coming from brand investment. The firm estimates there to be 148 million esports enthusiasts worldwide, and that 22 percent American male millennials watch esports, putting it on equal footing with baseball and football.
The numbers are only expected to swell as professional sports teams like England’s Manchester City, the Philadelphia 76ers, and Netherlands’ Ajax invest in professional esports teams.
Despite good arguments for esports’ inclusion, including increases in potential revenue and viewership, the International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach has shot down the idea. In an interview with the South China Morning Post, Bach decried video game content for being too violent.
“We want to promote non-discrimination, non-violence, and peace among people. This doesn’t match with video games, which are about violence, explosions and killing. And there we have to draw a clear line,” he said, adding that games involving violence opposed “Olympic values.”
He suggested that games that mirror those in real life, like soccer or basketball, could be considered, but declined to explore other possibilities. It is worth noting that several popular esports games, including Rocket League, do not feature violence — and those like Street Fighter V are only about as violent as boxing, taekwondo and jiujitsu.
Given the 2016 Olympics’ low ratings, esports could have been the silver bullet the Olympics needed to boost ratings.