Can Esports still be itself in the 2019 SEA Games? 

A couple of years ago, the possibility of Esports making an appearance in the Olympics seemed like it was simply and highly unlikely. But now that it is set to become a medal event in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games, it’s no longer unlikely. At the same time, it’s no longer a simple matter as well.

Ever since the International Olympic Committee (IOC) first met with proponents of the esports industry, one of the things the committee has been insistent on is that esports, should it make an appearance in an Olympic event, must conform to the values of the IOC. That means apparent displays of gambling or violence, which is common among many esports titles and other video games, will not be allowed by the IOC in their events.

We have already touched upon this when we first speculated on what esports titles we will see in the 2019 SEA Games, but it seems that things go much deeper beyond the IOC’s aversion of displays of violence in esports.

READ MORE: Which esports titles will we see in the 2019 SEA Games?

When the IOC held an executive meeting earlier this month in Tokyo, IOC President Thomas Bach said that rapid technological changes may bar esports as we know it now from making an appearance in the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Bach said that, according to experts that the IOC has talked to, esports will look completely different in five years. “Virtual reality and augmented reality will play a much more important role and will more or less have taken over technology-wise,” he said.

The IOC president went on to say this explains the fact that there is a “clear tendency [why they] say it’s premature to speak about the inclusion of such games into the Olympic program.”

“If you were to include one of these games we know now for ’24, the young generation in ’24 may say, ‘This has been played by my grandfather. What is this?’” he added.

Esports, as we know it now, were built on the titles that players have been competing in since the industry’s infancy, such as Dota 2, League of Legends, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, among many others.

For Bach, the IOC, and many others outside of the esports industry however, esports as we know it is not exactly something they would like to see.

Bach also said, “There is agreement [that] we can’t, and we should not, ignore the growth of the egames industry and the interactivity of it for the young generation.”

His use of the term “egames” touches on how most of those outside the world of esports have been seeing it differently. For them, Dota, LoL, CS:GO, and the like are not sports, but are still just games. There was even a German politician who wanted the term ‘esports’ to be ‘exterminated.’

This is exacerbated later on when Bach commented that there were fewer problems about including sports simulation games in an Olympic setting in contrast to most other esports titles.

This will all come to a head once the esports titles to be included in the SEA Games are announced on December 15. Since the games are sanctioned by the IOC, we can expect that the committee will have a hand on what titles are to be included.

Will there be a compromise? Will we see the esports titles we have come to know and love? Or maybe more of the sports simulation games that are in line with the IOC’s stance? Can esports still be itself as it enters the Olympic stage? Or will it will have to change as it accommodates the interests of those outside the industry?

Whatever the case may end up being, esports in the 2019 SEA Games will surely affect the path the industry will take towards a less than certain future.