Government should stop subsidising e-sports, it’s not real sport

If children want to play e-games and their parents let them, that’s fine. But it is not the government’s business to promote and subsidise it

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 April, 2018, 1:27am
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 April, 2018, 1:51am

I love watching American Ninja Warrior, the smash hit television game show featuring near-impossible obstacle courses for contestants. There is also a version of it in Japan where the world’s reputedly most difficult course is located.

It’s basically extreme sports porn, watching super-fit people perform at levels I would never achieve in a million years. So when one of its stars, in town as part of the Hong Kong Sevens, speaks, I prick up my ears. Other parents should too. Why are local kids playing little electronic characters on computer screens when they could be physically doing it themselves, asked Noah Kaufman?

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“It’s so easy to get a watered-down version of action and adventure on your video console,” he said. “But when you have a real life ninja obstacle in front of you, it’s real and visceral. We want to show kids it’s way more fun if you use your own body.”

Exactly, that’s the difference between real sports and fake ones like e-sports. But our “me-too” government has bought into the hype, so much so that it handed over HK$35 million to organise the city’s first gaming festival in August last year. If the gaming industry wanted to promote its products to young people, why did it deserve a taxpayer subsidy? It’s because the Tourism Board and the government were foolish enough not only to pay for it, but also to help promote the propaganda that e-sports are real sports.

I am not fanatically against children playing computer games. But given a choice, I would prefer my own to go out and play real sports. And the government promoting gaming is at cross purposes with its other, more medically correct messages and campaigns to encourage people to exercise physically.

A survey conducted by Baptist University’s Centre for the Advancement of Social Sciences Research in 2016 found three out of four children under the age of 12 don’t have enough physical exercise. Another survey by the Hong Kong Stroke Fund last year found that more than half of secondary school pupils don’t have a proper diet under World Health Organisation guidelines.

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E-sports are not just about playing computer games, but a youthful lifestyle. I think it’s fair to assume it doesn’t promote proper physical exercise and healthy eating for the vast majority of gamers.

If children want to play e-games and their parents let them, that’s fine. But it’s not the government’s business to promote and even subsidise it.