Esports; Where Do They Belong in Prep School Sports?

Esports, also referred to as electronic sports, receives mixed comments about the validity of its ‘sport’ status. Personally, I believe that esports qualify as a different type of sports. The Oxford Dictionary defines a sport as, “an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment” (Oxford Languages). Despite not seeming like other conventional, physical sports, there are many parallels between esports and physical sports. These similarities make esports a true contender to be a part of prep school athletics. 

At first glance, the atmosphere of a physical competition with cheering crowds may seem extremely different than watching and participating in a virtual competition. Despite this, it’s worth highlighting the similarities of the entertainment both esports and physical sports offer to fans. Both fulfill the definition requirement of an activity requiring exertion in order to entertain others on a team or by one’s self. Just like the Super Bowl or March Madness season, esporting events have garnered high attention and fan engagement. Believe it or not, esports has a very large following of fans with various LAN (local area network) events or online streams. These streams often average over 100,000+ live viewers on popular live streaming websites such as Twitch and Youtube Live. For example in 2019, popular video game Fortnite held a ‘world cup’ which Epic Games, the host, described as, “the culmination of ten weeks of $1 million Online Open Qualifiers. Over 19,000 fans attended the three-day Fortnite World Cup Finals in person at the sold-out Arthur Ashe Stadium.”

For the requirement of physical ability and skill, it is undeniable that physical sports and esports require different skill sets and training regimens. Traditionally, an athlete training for a sport such as football would complete a weightlifting routine and train their agility and cardio. Yet, gamers have to practice certain skills with the same rigor and concentration as other athletes do. For a player practicing for an esport such as Valorant, a player could work in various aim training agents in order to heighten their aim as well as reaction speed. These players would physically exert precise movements on an input such as a mouse and keyboard or a controller. Similarly to pool, esports require precision based skills and less physical attributes. Although esports players may not all look like Los Angeles Rams’ 6’1” 280lb Aaron Donald, both train and practice for their respective sports. 

Further, as esports players compete in teams for team-based games or as individuals for a certain team, collaboration is an important part of esports and team chemistry is a vital asset to a successful team. For example, the popular Rocket League team NRG, bought a house for their players to be able to spend time together to boost team chemistry and morale. Often, esports players are contractually bound to a team similar to how professional athletes sign with athletic teams in certain leagues. In tandem with this, colleges have started to recognize esports as a valid career with over 120 colleges on board with the esports movement such as the University of California Berkeley, Ohio State University, Northeastern University, and other elite colleges as well. Playing as a team builds friendships and builds a positive environment for players. 

Esports parallel traditional sports in many ways and require a different set of abilities for a player to succeed in. With many colleges believing in esports as well as players making good livings for themselves, I feel as if it is important for prep schools to give students a chance to build communities as well as to pursue their potential careers in esports by opening up an esports program.