E-sports: Olympics ‘focus too much on violence rather than strategic skills’ as SEA Games 2019 confirms five titles

  • Malaysian e-sports commentator Aaron Chan says gamers think about strategy more than killing or fighting
  • Dota 2, StarCraft II, Arena of Valor, Mobile Legends: Bang Bang and Tekken 7 contested as Manila Games
PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 December, 2018, 3:08pm
UPDATED : Monday, 24 December, 2018, 3:08pm

The five shortlisted titles so far announced for the 2019 SEA Games in the Philippines are sending waves of excitement among regional gamers but are unlikely to bring e-sports closer to its Olympic ambitions because of their violent themes.

The five games to be contested as official medal sports are Dota 2 and StarCraft II for PC and Arena of Valor, Mobile Legends: Bang Bang and Tekken 7, for consoles. All are likely considered to feature the kind of violence that IOC president Thomas Bach says needs to be eliminated if e-sports is to ever become part of the Olympic fold.

However, Malaysia e-sports player and commentator Aaron Chan, who goes by the handle Qontra, said too much emphasis was placed on the violence and not enough on the strategic skills required.

“I feel that non-gamers overly emphasise the violent aspect of it, while true players would prioritise the amount of skill it takes to pull off the magnificent moves displayed by some of these athletes,” said Chan.

“To players it is akin to the game of chess with a different visualisation. Certain titles may not be approved by the IOC but it does nothing to remove the competitive integrity of the game.”

Asian Games: e-sports players no longer geeks, nerds and gaming addicts

The choice of games for the November 30 to December 11 event next year was made by Singapore-based e-sports hardware giant Razer in conjunction with the Philippines SEA Games Organising Committee. E-sports will be an official medal sport for the first time at the SEA Games, having made its debut as an exhibition discipline at August’s Asian Games in Jakarta.

One more title will be announced and it is expected to be Pro Evolution Soccer, the only game likely to be looked upon favourably by Olympic officials.

E-sports may need a global split to become part of the Olympic movement

Chan, however, said the IOC is overlooking the fact that they allow real combat sports in the Olympics but are frowning upon digital fighting games.

“It’s like the shooting, which has been in the Olympics for more than a century,” he said. “Some may debate that the very image of guns itself signifies violence but as long as it is a display of skill and talent it qualifies as a sport.

“If that could apply to traditional sports, some of these e-sports titles like PUBG should be given that leeway. Tekken 7 probably comes close to combat sports or martial arts; it requires precision, accuracy and skill to manoeuvre from attack and a defensive stance to win.

Starcraft II is possibly the least violent among all the other contending titles. The arguments can go on for long, but I think it’s time to embrace e-sports and acknowledge the talents of thousands of young people globally.”

With the e-sports industry worth billions worldwide, it is unlikely the violent nature of the titles being produced will ease off. While it may appear that fighting, shooting and killing are inseparable from e-sports, Chan denies it is part of the e-sports culture.

“I don’t think it is a culture of games that they need to be violent,” said Chan. “It just happens that games are developed in such a way that is compelling for players in its gameplay rather than graphics.

“More important is the ability of a player to create spectacular moves to achieve victory.

“In fact, there are titles that have zero violence and have been proven to be successful such as the Fifa [soccer] series and Hearthstone.”

Organisers said the selection criteria for SEA Games e-sports titles was based on diversity of publishers, genres, strategic skills required and gaming platform – hence the choice of PC, mobile and console games. The five games were announced three weeks after it was confirmed that e-sports would be among the official medal contenders a the SEA Games.

Razer co-founder and CEO Min-Liang Tan said, “In the three weeks since we announced e-sports as a medal event at SEA Games 2019, we’ve seen a phenomenal level of interest from all segments of the industry, most of all game publishers.

“The shortlisting of six games in such a short time is evidence that the notion of e-sports as a legitimate sporting event is no longer a fad.”