Cyber athletics

The US government now grants “athlete visas” to gamers and competitive gaming is shown on the ESPN channel. This fascinating New Yorker article explores the rise of the ‘cyber athlete’ – read it in full here:

“It’s not a sport,” John Skipper, the president of ESPN and, by extension, the emperor of contemporary sports, has declared, referring to gaming in general. “It’s a competition.” He added, “Mostly, I’m interested in doing real sports.” That “mostly” was an acknowledgment that the network has nonetheless begun hedging its bet against a cyber-athlete insurgency. In July, ESPN2 aired a half-hour program previewing an annual tournament for a game called Defense of the Ancients 2, or Dota 2, thereby enraging football and basketball fans who would have preferred round-the-clock speculation about off-season roster moves, and who vented on Twitter: “None of these people are anywhere near athletic,” “Wtf man. This is our society now,” “WHAT THE HELL IS HAPPENING ON ESPN2?,” and so on. Meanwhile, the winners of the Dota 2 tournament took home a total of five million dollars.

A month earlier, in June, I had my own first exposure to gaming-as-sport, at an ESPN event: the X Games, in Austin. It was an inadvertent discovery. I had gone to see the skateboarders and BMXers, so-called action-sports stars, and found that many of them were incredulous at being asked to keep company with joystick jockeys. For the first time, X Games medals were being awarded for Xbox proficiency. There was a pleasing irony in the circularity of the kvetching. Here were traditional outsiders, some of them outspoken victims of childhood bullying, who, twenty years ago, were dismissed by the jock establishment for bringing their alternative fashion sense and disaffected miens to an Olympic-style competition. And now, secure with their corporate sponsors and honorary square jaws, they, in turn, were sneering at a new breed of outsider arrivistes: nerds!

Categories: Rethinking The World

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