The Video Games of the Olympic Games: esports Day? - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

Home Top Ad

Post Top Ad

The Video Games of the Olympic Games: esports Day?

Chris Morley goes for gold without leaving the sofa.
With the Winter Olympics scheduled to get under way in Beijing on February 4th - this year marking the first time a city that has previously played host to the summer Games also getting its mitts on their frosty counterpart - we thought we'd have a go ourselves. Although with no extensive training regime needed, unless you fancy a quick warm-up before picking up a controller and diving into a look back through the various Olympic themed video games that have been released across the years. To get us underway, though, we're looking to the future and if the worlds of PE and PC might finally find themselves colliding...

The Olympic Games as we know them were first contested in Athens in 1896 (their modern format inspired by the ancient Greek event held at Olympia from 8BC to 4AD), following the formation of the International Olympic Committee by Baron Pierre de Coubertin in 1894. It might be something of a surprise given the seemingly relentless modern focus on going for gold medals that the Baron saw things somewhat differently. Among the ideals he sought to put forward in reviving the event was this philosophy...
“The important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle, the essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”
Pierre would in fact earn a gold medal of his own in literature for a poem titled Ode To Sport at the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm where the arts were given a place alongside the sporting events. This practice carried on until London hosted for the second time in 1948.

Take a running jump forward to 2022 and could we be about to see a similar if even more literal blurring of the lines between athletes both real world & virtual? Given the rising popularity of esports the idea of inclusion has been on the IOC agenda since 2017, when the first summit was held to recognise them as a potentially legitimate event within the Olympics.

The conclusion drawn appeared to suggest that...
"Competitive 'esports' could be considered as a sporting activity, and the players involved prepare and train with an intensity which may be comparable to athletes in traditional sports."
So if you always preferred PC to PE, there is still hope. The lack of a global regulating body appeared to be something of a problem in the eyes of current IOC President Thomas Bach though (himself a former gold medallist in fencing), alongside concerns over finding games which fit in "with the rules and regulations of the Olympic movement".

It would seem that talks are ongoing, but a significant movement came in 2018 when representatives of Blizzard & Epic Games invited along several prominent esports players to help the IOC...
" gain a deeper understanding of esports, their impact and likely future development, so that [they] can jointly consider the ways in which [they] may collaborate to the mutual benefit of all of sport in the years ahead".
The Winter Olympics in South Korea that year served as something of a testing ground with exhibition events held in partnership with Intel. And Asia does seem to be esports' most enthusiastic supporter, with Japan's government putting its weight behind campaigns at the time to get them included in Tokyo's own hosting, citing the country's track record in the video game industry. Indeed, in something of a coup for the country, the first ever licensed Olympic video game was given the honour of carrying official patronage on Japan's shores only when Konami released Hyper Olympic '84 for arcades, a tie in to that year's Los Angeles Games......

Broadly speaking, Hyper Olympics served as a sequel to Track & Field, with the addition of seven new events into proceedings - archery, pole vault, skeet shooting, swimming, triple jump, vault & weightlifting - and although neither title were the first Olympic track-and-field video games released (they were preceded by Olympic Decathlon in 1980 and Activision Decathlon in August 1983), Hyper Olympics was the first to officially connect the two, forming the origins of a long series of licensed tie-ins and the blurring of the real and virtual Olympic sporting worlds. Something we will explore throughout this series of articles.

In our dash to the virtual finish line of this article though, we return to esports and probably the surest sign yet that they'll eventually find a place within the wider Olympic family came in 2021 and the launch of the Olympic Virtual Series. This was the first step in part of a plan on the IOC's agenda to encourage "development of virtual sports and further engage with video gaming communities." IOC President Bach was apparently satisfied that the values of the Olympics would be upheld, so five sports signed up to be part of it - baseball, cycling, motorsport, rowing & sailing.

"The Olympic Virtual Series is a new, unique Olympic digital experience that aims to grow direct engagement with new audiences in the field of virtual sports. Its conception is in line with Olympic Agenda 2020+5 and the IOC's digital strategy. It encourages sports participation and promotes the Olympic values, with a special focus on youth."
Coming up, we will head back to Barcelona '92 and its video game tie-in Olympic Gold, before that though there will be a pre-event pitstop to pay tribute to the "Dream Team".

On your marks....

No comments:

Post a Comment

Post Top Ad