For the first time ever, esports will be a medal sport in an event sanctioned by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) after only being a demonstration event in the 2018 Asian Games. With the full list of games yet to be announced, we’re left to wonder which ones will be included. Let’s do just that.
From what has been announced so far, there will be a total of 6 esports titles in the games, with two being console games, two others will be PC games, and then two mobile games, with Mobile Legends being the first. That leaves us with 5 games, but considering the history and current state of the competitive esports scenes in the SEA regions, they should be easy enough to guess, right? Well, not quite…
Even before esports became a part of the SEA Games, many have been clamoring for its inclusion in the Olympics as the industry has been experiencing a surge of growth as of late. While proponents of the esports industry and the IOC have already met before to discuss the matter, a lingering issue has long been hanging over both parties. The IOC has been insistent that, should esports be included in any events they sanction, it should conform to the values of the committee and not promote a culture of violence and gambling.
Therein lies the problem. It would have been easy to say that major esports titles for PC that have been mainstays of SEA such as Dota 2, League of Legends, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive were easy locks to be included in the games. The IOC’s stance however casts a lot of doubt over their inclusion.
With that said, it seems that CS:GO would be the one left out due to the game’s explicit display of violence. That leaves us with Dota and LoL for the PC events. Both are very popular in SEA with many countries in the region having established competitive scenes for both titles. It should be an easy decision to include both, right? Even if both games still exhibit violence counter to what the IOC wants, the fact that Mobile Legends (a mobile game that follows in Dota and LoL’s footsteps) was the first title to be confirmed for the event lends credence to their possible inclusion. Then again, the committee might be forced to pick one out of the two since they both belong to the MOBA genre and then include a different PC game. Starcraft II perhaps? Or battle royale games such as Fortnite: Battle Royale or PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds? Would Overwatch be considered too violent as well?
A lot of the complications lie with the PC games for the event, whereas the two console games are where the IOC can really have their way. Sport simulator video games such as NBA 2K, FIFA, and Pro Evolution Soccer are all smash hits for the console platform with their own established esports leagues to boot. It’s easy to see the committee want to highlight the “sports” in esports when it comes to those aforementioned games.
As for the remaining mobile game, the early inclusion of Mobile Legends may shut the door on similar MOBA games on the mobile platform such as Arena of Valor or Vainglory. Perhaps a more casual mobile game such as Clash Royale, whose casual nature belies its huge popularity, may be considered.
With all that said, we can only wait for the official announcement on December 15 for the list of esports titles for the SEA Games. Whatever the committee’s choices may be, it’s safe to say that they will not have the easiest time deciding.