Why esports should listen to the IOC - but not care

Whenever an International Olympic Committee (IOC) representative wades into the esports conversation, you can be sure of a few things. First, there will be outrage, as the names in our world reject the advice of a group notorious for corruption, bribery and failure. Then will come the mocking, as others point out the aging, fading demographics of traditional sport, compared with our bright, young audience in esports, before finally the same conclusion is reached, that we don’t need them (the IOC) anyway.

“They (esports), from our point of view, are contradictory to the Olympic values and cannot therefore be accepted. We cannot have in the Olympic program a game which is promoting violence or discrimination" - Thomas Bach, IOC president

Now, none of that is necessarily untrue, and if you wanted to, you could run down the list of the IOC’s failings, both moral and accidental, but there is no real value in attacking a person when you want to take their argument down. So instead, let us address his premise, that the Olympics are not about promoting violence or discrimination, and that that somehow makes esports incompatible, despite the fact he's quite happy to award IOC events to nations that enshrine corruption, violence and discrimination in law...


Now, for the purposes of this, we are going to address the three major esports, namely CSGO, Dota 2 and League of Legends. With the latter two you’d struggle to really say they promote any kind of violence that translates into reality, and the only discrimination is aimed at fictional characters based on their ability to perform in a magical MMORPG. So, no fuss.

However, the other game is probably the problem, the one they call Global Offensive. In it, terrorists attempt to plant a bomb while anti-terrorists strive to persuade them not to using calm, reasoned debate and … nah, not really. They shoot them right in the virtual head, killing them to be absolutely sure the virtual map is safe from the threat of virtual explosions, set by virtual enemies.

The repetition is obviously deliberate there, as the key to all of this - and the conversation about violent films - is the user’s ability to discern what is real and what is not. Games are less real than films in terms of their appearance, but some have pointed out that the player having agency makes the experience somehow more visceral, as if that then makes it easier to take a life.

Now, since Columbine people have been trying to find a link between the two, and to this point nobody has proven that shooting things in a game changes the odds you’ll do it in real life. Other factors, such as an abusive upbringing, certain mental conditions, isolation and so on are very much connected, but simply playing games has never been proven to make a killer, or even plant the seeds.

That doesn’t mean that CSGO can’t change for the better, but the question is whether it really should. Renaming the sides to "attack" and "defence" and replacing the word "bomb" with "objective", might help our case. Many already do make the choice to not use the word "kill", instead favouring the more family-friendly "frag", and these moves would just be another extension of that.

Now, you might find this a sickening concept, that we should bend a knee to a group of people who only tend to do the same if it’s to see if the other half of their bribe has fallen under the sofa, but it doesn’t even have to be about the Olympics.

Like a scorned ex, we should be getting in shape for ourselves, rather than to show the Olympics what they are missing out on, so all the sexy venture capital can keep pouring in, and turn into long-term net profit.

If esports continues to do so, and grow, there will come a time in the very near future where the IOC is forced to come to us, rather than deigning us fit or otherwise for membership of their club. And when you consider not only the corruption, bribery, lies and failings of the IOC, but also the consistent level of shade they’ve thrown at our world, it probably won’t be a yes, but that won’t hurt esports at all, just the Olympics.