Thomas Bach, the President of the International Olympics Committee, recently remarked that we wouldn’t be seeing any ‘violent’ esports at the 2024 Olympics. According to Bach, esports are “about violence, explosions, and killing” and, therefore, don’t have a place in the Olympic games which are largely a pacifist endeavor. He’d rather see sports games that emulate the IRL sports already played in the Olympics.
Sports games just don’t draw the same viewership. Only permitting a certain type of esport would severely hamper viewership and probably not garner enough viewer interest to keep the sport in the Olympics. Barring Rocket League, I can’t think of a super-popular sports game.
Are MOBAs really that violent?
In the grand scheme of video games, no, not really. While I suppose you could make a more compelling argument for banning FPS games, MOBAs just aren’t as obviously violent. The top-down view, fantasy setting, and appearance of the characters removes a lot of the “human” violence aspects out of the game. What you may not be aware of is there already are mods for Dota 2 that cover up some of the more gruesome and disturbing aspects of the game. On China’s Perfect World’s servers, Low Violence mode is enabled to censor out blood, gore, and skeletons. Dota specifically is already equipped to handle a more sensitive audience, and perhaps a compromise could be made by enabling this mode for Olympic broadcasts.
What about Smash or StarCraft?
I’d have a hard time being convinced that SSBM is too violent for the Olympics. It’s marketed to children and is a VERY tame depiction of fighting. Considering SSBM’s popularity in addition to the nostalgia factor for some adults who would watch the Olympics, it would be a worthwhile addition to an esports broadcast. Same with StarCraft. I’m sorry, you just can’t convince me that game is too violent for television. If anything, it’s possibly too tame for non-gaming audiences.
Is there scientific evidence to support the link between video games and violence?
One of the major criticisms of video games in general is the alleged link to increased violence in kids. But when it comes down it it, the links between violent video games and violence are tenuous. Over the years, numerous studies have been conducted with widely varying results. It’s probably more complicated than simple causality. Kids consume tons of other violent media, so it’s a bit ridiculous to blame only video games.
As other critics of the Olympics’ statement have pointed out, the Olympics aren’t exactly free from violence, either. Sports like boxing are inherently violent, and just because they have a longer history doesn’t absolve them of that. While we’re at it, let’s do some studies to see if kids who grow up watching boxing and other forms of martial arts are inherently more pugnacious than other children. I doubt there would be any substantive conclusions.
Honestly, the debate over violence in esports feels a lot like old, out of touch people yelling about things they don’t understand and therefore fear, like the rampant news articles about how millennials are ruining the world. Not all video games are shoot em up FPS-es, and even those games aren’t necessarily more violent than some of the IRL sports. I believe that esports are very much like the Olympics in that they bring players of many different nationalities to the same stage and even on the same teams. If that’s not the spirit of the Olympics, I don’t know what is.