Tue, Aug 28, 2018 - Page 16 News List

Asian Games: E-sports debuts as exhibition sport in Asian Games; Olympics might be next


The Taiwanese team battle against China in the final of the e-sports Arena of Valor tournament as an exhibition sport at the Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Sunday. China won 2-0.

Photo: AFP

E-sports is debuting as an exhibition sport at the Asian Games and is targeted for full inclusion in four years at the Games in Hangzhou, China.

The long-term aim is getting e-sports into the Olympics, Asian Electronic Sports Federation president Kenneth Fok said.

This seems a possibility, given that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) held a forum on e-sports just last month at its headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland.

“Our agenda is to push for the Olympic agenda,” Fok said at the opening of e-sports at the Asian Games. “This is our work and this is our passion. When? I do not want to predict.”

Fok said the inclusion of e-sports as an exhibition in the Asian Games was “a very good first step,” and that the goal was to “take down obstacles, step by step.”

Fok has strong Olympic connections. His father, Timothy Fok, was an IOC member from Hong Kong from 2001 to 2016 and he remains an honorary member.

Gamers do not argue that they are athletes, but say that they share the same drive to compete.

However, this could also be said about bridge players — a game also being contested at the Asian Games.

However, these pastimes cannot generate much income — not like e-sports.

“I think e-sports shares the same spirit with traditional sports,” said Wang Tian-long of China, speaking through a translator after taking gold in Arena of Valor. “No matter if we are e-sports players or athletes, we all fight to win for our country.”

Khien Vuong Trung, a bronze medalist from Vietnam in Arena of Valor, said that he was initially met with skepticism.

“At the beginning, my parents didn’t want me to be a professional e-sports athlete,” he said. “However, it is growing in my country and my parents also saw my love for it, so they began to be supportive.”

In addition to Arena of Valor, five other games are being played: Clash Royale, League of Legends, StarCraft II, Hearthstone and Pro Evolution Soccer 2018.

South Korea, where the gaming craze first took off, and seventeen other countries — Taiwan, Indonesia, Laos, Uzbekistan, Malaysia, China, Hong Kong, Kazakhstan, Vietnam, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Thailand, India, Kyrgyzstan, Sri Lanka and Iran — are competing.

IOC president Thomas Bach, speaking last month at an IOC-sponsored forum, said there is a growing connection between the Olympics and e-sports. He stopped short of saying if or when e-sports might make the Olympics, but he was enthusiastic about the dialogue.

“We feel the same passion for your activity as you feel the passion for our activity,” Bach told professional gamer Jake Lyon.

E-sports offers a natural appeal for the IOC, which is looking for a younger audience and revenue.

Mike Morhaime, CEO of Blizzard Entertainment, a US video games developer, told Bach at the forum that e-sports has 2 billion people worldwide playing electronic games, with 380 million watching e-sports.

“We are at an inflection point in e-sports,” he said. “Folks who hadn’t really been paying attention to the e-sports phenomenon are starting to be really interested.”

Count the Asian Games and the Olympics among them.

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