For years now, we've seen regular discussions online about the value of eSports, and particularly its value as a potential Olympic event. We know they're games of skill that draw huge viewing audiences, but the line of where more physical sporting events and digital game events converge is often up for debate. Earlier this year, the president of the International Olympic Committee issued a statement to the Associated Press, explaining that the violent nature of many eSports would likely be a barrier to them appearing in the Olympics any time soon:
“We cannot have in the Olympic program a game which is promoting violence or discrimination. They, from our point of view, are contradictory to the Olympic values and cannot therefore be accepted.”
However, this statement seemingly doesn't apply to all events under the supervision of the International Olympic Committee, because the 2019 SEA games are going to feature competitors facing off for a Gold Medal in eSports for the first time.
The SEA, or South East Asian Games, is an event held every two years, where competitors from across Asia compete to win medals in a variety of sporting events. Run by the Southeast Asian Games Federation with supervision by the International Olympic Committee and the Olympic Council of Asia, the event is basically a mini Olympics, and will this year feature eSports competitions when it takes place in the Philippines.
In a statement reported by ESPN, Foreign Affairs Secretary Emeritus Alan Peter Cayetano explained that Razer would be acting as a partner for the eSports events, and video games were important to include due to the importance of eSports in the region.
"The Philippines is the first host country to stage an eSports tournament as a medal event. This lends credence to professional gaming as a true world-class sporting contest, as it engages a new generation of gaming fans," said Cayetano in an email statement. "Razer is a pioneer and a prime mover in eSports, and we cannot ask for a better partner in this historic journey."
As of right now, we know a little about the planned setup: there will be a total of six gold medals available – two for PC games, two for console games, and two for mobile games. There will be qualifying tournaments held in advance, and the first announced title is a MOBA titled Mobile Legends: Bang Bang. The rest of the games should be announced within the next three weeks, by December 15th.
This is an interesting move, as it's a fairly major sports event run under the Olympic Committee banner, acknowledging eSports as a valid part of the competitive sporting landscape. Perhaps success here may change the committee's stance on eSports at the full-scale Olympics.