Earlier this month, it emerged that the 2024 Summer Olympic Games could mark the first time in the event’s history where esports will be among the events contested. New comments from the president of the International Olympic Committee, however, suggest that there would be fairly stringent restrictions on what sort of games would be admitted.
“We want to promote nondiscrimination, nonviolence, and peace among people,” IOC president Thomas Bach told the South China 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.”
Bach’s stance suggests that many of the most popular competitive games would not even be considered for Olympic competition. Even a game with the lighthearted visuals of Overwatch, or as detached from reality as Dota 2 would likely be too violent for the IOC’s tastes.
The alternative doesn’t sound particularly palatable, as the committee would rather include video game versions of sports already contested at the Olympics, according to a report from Polygon. Mainstream sports games aren’t particularly popular in terms of high-level competitive play — certainly not to the same degree as titles like Starcraft II and League of Legends — so this wouldn’t be a great way to showcase the upper echelon of esports competition.
There are certainly games that don’t revolve around violence that could provide a compelling experience for spectators. Rocket League immediately comes to mind, even if Bach might take issue with the explosions that occur when one player boosts into another.
Esports are already becoming more mainstream, but a spot at the Olympic games would serve as a huge step forward in terms of mainstream legitimacy. It may not have the desired effect if the wrong games were selected, and Bach’s comments don’t inspire much confidence that titles would be chosen for the right reasons.
It’s very important for an institution like the Olympics to maintain its core values of nonviolence and peace, but in this particular situation, those beliefs might unfortunately prevent esports from being done right if events do end up being added to the schedule in 2024.
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