Parry, J. (2019). E-sports are Not Sports. Sport, Ethics and Philosophy, 13(1), 3-18.
The conclusion of this paper will be that e-sports are not sports. I begin by offering a stipulation and a definition. I stipulate that what I have in mind, when thinking about the concept of sport, is ‘Olympic’ sport. And I define an Olympic Sport as an institutionalised, rule–governed contest of human physical skill. The justification for the stipulation lies partly in that it is uncontroversial. Whatever else people might think of as sport, no-one denies that Olympic Sport is sport. This seeks to ensure that those who might wish to dispute my conclusion might stay with the argument at least for as long as possible. Secondly, the justification for the stipulation lies partly in its normativity—I have chosen an Olympic conception of sport just because it seems to me to offer some kind of desirable version of what sport is and might become. Thirdly, I give examples which show how prominent promoters of e-sports agree with my stipulation, as evidenced by their strenuous attempts to comply with it in order to join the Olympic club. The justification for the definition lies in the conceptual analysis offered—an ‘exhibition-analysis’ which clarifies the concept of sport by offering ‘construals’ of the six first-level terms. The conclusion is that e-sports are not sports because they are inadequately ‘human’; they lack direct physicality; they fail to employ decisive whole-body control and whole-body skills, and cannot contribute to the development of the whole human; and because their patterns of creation, production, ownership and promotion place serious constraints on the emergence of the kind of stable and persisting institutions characteristic of sports governance. Competitive computer games do not qualify as sports, no matter what ‘resemblances’ may be claimed. Computer games are just that—games.
“Does anything count as a sport, if someone wants to call it a sport? Does e-sport count as a sport, just because someone wants to call it a sport?”Tweet
“I shall suggest six such logically necessary conditions for ‘sports’… institutionalised rule-governed contests of human physical skill “ (p4)Tweet
“The fluid and fast-paced commercialised development of computer games, and the competitive production process, place serious constraints on the emergence of the kind of stable and persisting organisational structures characteristic of sports governance.” (p14)Tweet
“it is not hard to discern the motivation underlying the efforts of those who want to claim sport status for computer games. It is the exploitation of these activities for the commercial opportunities and other rewards associated with membership of sporting bodies and access to sporting markets. Their values, in attempting to redefine these activities as sports, are transparently obvious—they seek the commercial spoils of inclusion into (or even association with) the Olympic club. They have a vested interest in larking around with our concepts.” (p15)Tweet
Our Take on it
“Are esports, sports? Definitely not! According to the author, Jim Parry, who gives an analytical definition of sports and then attempts to show how esports fall down on each criterion. Unfortunately, there are too many implicit assumptions and a lack of understanding about the practice of esports for this paper to be persuasive, most notably in the area of physical skill, and institutionalisation. We look forward to a robust take down of Parry’s arguments in a future paper” – Dr Emily RyallTweet