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Absurd Notion: Cyber athletes are not athletes, they’re barely even cyber

Sections: Features, Games, Mac Software, Opinions and Editorials

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So, I’m driving down the highway about a month ago—I’m wondering why all the texting-while-driving PSAs I see are aimed at teenagers when the vast majority of drivers I see texting behind the wheel are middle-aged women in SUVs—when I hear a report that the U.S. government has awarded video gamers work visas so they can come the U.S. and play video games.

Oh boy. The whole “cyber athlete” thing again.

cyber athletes

The last time I covered this subject was back at Applelinks. That article, called “Computer Users Need More Balls” (because I was clever back then, don’t you know) led to death threats. I kid you not, some video game player actually said he’d kill me if he ever ran into me on the street. I know video game players can be stone freaks, so I decided to avoid him by buying a jetpack and hovering above the street where he would surely not run into me.

I’m still alive, but I’m wondering if it’s worth it to approach this subject again now that every angry teenager with access to his dad’s gun cabinet is playing video games. You see, video game players aren’t athletes. I mean, they can be, and many are, but it’s not the video games that make them so. That’s not me stating an opinion, it’s a fact, provided you’re willing accept vocabulary as fact. The committee at Merriam-Webster will tell you an athlete is “a person who is trained or skilled in exercises, sports, or games requiring physical strength, agility, or stamina.” So, unless these folks playing in the League of Legends Championships are doing so while running, dodging punches or paddling a canoe, they are not athletes.

But wait wait wait. I don’t want to have to bust out my jetpack again, so hear me out. Do you know who else are not athletes? Golfers. Bowlers. Whatever you call people who throw darts. But they all get to travel around the world to do their thing, and video game players should absolutely get to do the same thing. That’s the point I made in my last article, and still all the gamers found time in the 45 minutes their parents give them on the computer to threaten my life, so let me point this out again in bold face:

Video game players should be granted the same international competition privileges as, say, Viswanathan Anand, Rory McIlroy, and that Japanese guy who comes over here and eats all those hot dogs.

This is because video games are—like chess, golf, and eating a lot of food really quickly—games of skill. Pretty much anyone can play them, but to play them at a championship level, you need a lot of skill and the right strategies, and that comes with practice. Not the type of practice where you’re sweating through two-a-days under the mid-August sun, but practice nonetheless. And when you’re preparing for a championship run, there’s certainly an athletic mindset there. Hell, if you want to, you can even enhance your performance with Adderall like the real athletes do! Vive le sport!

Games change, after all. I imagine at one time there was some old fogey sitting on the garderobe complaining about, “Chess?! Chess?!?! Why, when I was a boy and we wanted to play a game, we didn’t push ivory figures around a board, we went out killed us a real queen, bishop and rook!”

I guess my real question, then, is why video gamers would even want to be called athletes. Chicks? Piffle! Who needs girlfriends when you’ve got your Tharja figma? Legitimacy? You don’t need it. You got legitimacy the first time you got a paycheck for uploading your Final Fantasy walkthrough to YouTube. A varsity jacket? I’ve never had one, so I wouldn’t know if they’re worth it.

See, I’m a gamer, not an athlete. I don’t relax with ESPN at the end of the day, I relax with my Macintosh or the Wii U. My interest in sports begins with the Seattle Seahawks and ends with the Minnesota Wild and there’s absolutely nothing between the two. Well, except for my kids and the local sports collective.

My son, Sam, is seven. He puts on the pads and helmet to practice tackle football for two hours with the C7 team four times a week. That makes him an athlete. When he’s done, he plays Clash of Clans on the iPad. That makes him a gamer. I’m happy when he does well in either one, because it brings him joy, but there’s no reason to confuse the two, or to pretend they’re one and the same. They’re not the same. They don’t need to be the same, as both are already legitimate pastimes. If my son grows up to play professional football for any team other than the Cowboys or Steelers, fantastic! If he grows up to need a visa to play League of Legends in whatever country the tournament’s in by then, he’d damn well better be able to get one.

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