Earlier this month, organizers of the upcoming 2024 Olympics in Paris indicated that esports may be a part of their games. The president of the International Olympic Committee now says not so fast.
And if it does happen, IOC President Thomas Bach says it may not involve esports’ most popular games. In an interview with the South China Morning Post, Bach went on to express some views of video games that sound like they came from 1994.
“We want to promote non-discrimination, non-violence, and peace among people,” he told the Morning Post. “This doesn’t match with video games, which are about violence, explosions and killing. And there we have to draw a clear line.”
If he’s going to be a nonviolence purist then, yeah, this definitely means no Counter-Strike or Overwatch and probably means no Dota 2 or League of Legends. What would be acceptable? Esports resembling sports that are played in real life, such as soccer or basketball.
If that’s so, then I can tell you what will happen right now for esports’ Olympic debut. Nobody will watch. Not in the numbers that make having them along as a medal sport worthwhile. Not to disparage EA Sports’ push into esports, but none of the numerous number-tracking services for Twitch list sports titles in its top 10. Not FIFA, not NBA 2K, both global bestsellers.
Bach’s offhand comment also fairly raises the question of why the hell anyone would watch a video game representation of a sport already contested in real life in the same Olympics. And it does matter who and how many watch these things. The Olympics can puff out about its values and philosophy and whatnot, but it is a multibillion-dollar sports promotion, and the networks who pay so handsomely for rights to broadcast these events expect that the ones the Olympics chooses will be attractive to advertisers.
Bach also rightly raised concerns that there’s no real global sanctioning body — similar to FIBA, FINA or the IAAF— for the IOC to work with to coordinate esports’ entry. That’s a sturdier complaint than “games are violent.”