Gaming as a sport

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Political party Centerpartiet (C) used to be the “farmer’s party” and once held as much as 25% of the votes (1973). It has since abandoned the down-to-earth politics and instead sought to profile itself as the ultra-liberal party with open borders, polygamy, abolished mandatory school and many other ideas that doesn’t quite mesh with your average voter. As a result, the party got just 6% in the 2014 election.

Desperate to make some kind of play to combat the wildly unpopular December agreement (Decemberöverenskommelsen) where C and the other opposition parties agreed to support the left contrary to their few remaining voters’ wishes, it seems the party has now found a truly pressing issue: Having computer gaming recognized as a legitimate sport!

In an op-ed in Svenska Dagbladet, parliament member Rickard Nordin makes a passionate case for why computer gaming should be acknowledged alongside track, skiing or basketball. He actually cites health reasons, and suggests the “sport” should enjoy the societal support and subsidies a soccer or hockey club would.

Now don’t get me wrong here. I play games and love to immerse myself in a solid story like Dishonored, Assassins Creed or L.A. Noire. I fully recognize that first-person shooters demand lightning reflexes and strategy games require complex thinking. It takes great skill and lots of practice to gain success in competitive gaming. But of course it’s not a sport.

The “mental” health arguments put forth by C has some legitimacy. Problem is, the exact same line of reasoning can be used to classify playing the trumpet as a sport; Coordination and teamwork. And heck, the lungs get a good workout to boot. Photography? Sure, it’s a sport since it exercises the aestethics part of the brain. Soon, everything except watching WWE smackdown and eating potato chips becomes a “sport” if you just jigger the definition enough.

The current gaming scene has grown organically, without the meddling of politicians. The annual Dreamhack event in Jönköping attracted 26 000 attendees last year. Players form online communities to support and coach one another. Companies sponsor events and leagues are created according to natural consumer demand and free economic principles.

Real sports have significant overhead; fields that need to be maintained, equipment that needs replacing, teams that need to be bussed around every week. With the clear need for monetary support, and the obvious benefits to society, it makes sense to run various tax-funded programs to keep the kids active and healthy.

A gamer may need to replace his computer mouse every 6 months. Would formalizing this justify the bureacracy and involvement of politicians who, for the most part, hasn’t even seen a game since dropping a spare coin into Pac Man back in the 80s? I think not.

But apparently, the party views this as a hot-button issue to turn the political tide. Who cares that the migration bureau is facing imminent systemic collapse? Or that the term “systemic collapse” is also used when describing the employment situation? Nope. We’ll plod along as before with that stuff. The priority of the day is mucking about with computer gaming in the hopes of scoring a few quick political points. I doubt C will find any hidden 1UPs there though.

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