Are You With Me?
With the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in full swing, the spirit of competition amongst the world is alight once again! From hockey to handball, basketball to badminton, the world’s top athletes are all vying for Olympic Gold amongst 28 various sports. 28 is a far cry from the original one, a simple one-stade race (192m, or the length of the stadium). Many sports have been added and dropped from the roster of games, as even classic staples such as wrestling or tug-of-war have been removed from the spotlight. One thing is certain: the future of Olympic sports is constantly changing and adapting to the times.
The ancient Greeks who first started the Olympic Games did so in honor of Zeus. They believed that physical capability and mental discipline were paramount in honoring the god of gods. Distance running, combat, javelin and discus tossing: all of these activities were the highlights of physicality back in ancient Greece.
But we don’t live in ancient Greece. We live in 2016.
So, what constitutes a “sport?” Google defines it as “an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.” Now, let’s face it- playing videogames doesn’t require all that much physical exertion. From this definition, videogames are not a sport. But when it comes down to it, what are the Olympics all about? Sports or international competition? Don’t the Games exist as a way for all the world to come together in a harmonious act of rivalry? Why can’t videogames be a part of that competition?
Playing a videogame doesn’t require you to throw a ball or run far. But what it lacks in physical exertion, it more than makes up for in mental exertion. Knowing every inch of a map, being able to read an opponent’s play and adapt your strategy within seconds, coordinating with your own team; everything about truly competitive multiplayer gaming, I believe, honors the original Greek emphasis on capability and discipline.
If you’re a gamer, then you know about Blizzard’s class-based team shooter. If not, here’s a quick rundown: you pick one of over 20 characters, each wholly unique in their arsenal and abilities, and engage in 6-on-6 matches of attack/defend. There is no deathmatch in Overwatch; each match requires players to work together in order to complete an objective and do the one thing that matters in the game: win.
As eSports rises in popularity around the world, it’s only a matter of time before it becomes an Olympic Game. It may take until 2050, but I can all but guarantee it’s going to happen, and Overwatch is the perfect game for it. Overwatch is all about cooperation and strategy, it has a family-friendly, cartoonish aesthetic, and it features characters and locations from all over the world. The game’s built-in “Play of the Game” feature is also prime for some crazy moments, particularly if both teams are comprised of the best gamers a nation has to offer.
Overwatch is a hyper competitive game and very often comes down to the match’s last few seconds. That said, it’s still a game that anyone can enjoy, whether they are playing or watching. There’s a character for everyone, and its fast-paced high-octane shootouts are simultaneously intense and light-hearted. It’s like Blizzard combined Rainbow Six Siege with Timesplitters. Without teamwork and dedication, you’re never going to get past that guy who’s protecting his whole team with Reinhardt’s shield.
The Olympics are a testament to the human spirit of athleticism and competition. They are a testament to our physical prowess as well as to the cultures of the world. Well, gaming is one such culture. We gamers represent quite a large number of people these days, and I’m sure all of us would love to see some competitive gaming featured at the Olympics. While there are plenty of competitive games that could be played, such as Counter-Strike or League of Legends, Overwatch is inherently designed to be a perfect Olympic sport. With tight, competitive gameplay that emphasizes teamwork, an exciting and charming presentation, and global representation in its characters, Overwatch is primed for the Olympics. Hell, Blizzard even updated the game to have their own 2016 Summer Games theme.
The Olympic Games started off small, with only male, freeborn Greek citizens allowed to compete. Eventually, the Games became open to the entire Roman Empire, and today every single person from every walk of life is invited to compete. The Games evolved as our societies did; as we became more open to other cultures and ideas, so did the Olympics. The Olympics are a showcase of global skill and dedication, all in the name of honor and entertainment. Gaming is just one more sport that we have created, and if activities like Badminton or Canoeing can be an Olympic Game, then I see no reason that gamers should be left out.
Here’s to hoping we can see some Overwatch action at the Tokyo 2020 Summer Games!