Video games as a spectator sport?

Video games today are so different than the one I played growing up—Pong. I can remember struggling with the black cords to connect it to my TV and then playing the slow, methodical game. What is Pong, your kids ask? You can show it to them here. And, I can tell you that watching other people play Pong was never much fun. But now playing video games has become a spectator sport.

eSports, defined as competitive tournaments of video gaming, often by professionals, is popping up in arenas and gaming stadiums around the country. Just like baseball stadiums, people come out in huge numbers to watch live gaming. Several universities have even added eSports programs where gamers compete against other college teams in games like League of Legends and Overwatch and some even offer scholarships for top players.

Two weeks ago in Seattle, where I live, it was so wonderful to see thousands of people come out to watch the Special Olympics. To my surprise, video gaming was included as an official sport. And, according to The New York Times, the International Olympic Committee is considering adding eSports to the 2024 Olympics.  

I have heard from many kids and teens about how much they enjoy watching other people play video games.  The most popular gamers live-stream their gameplay to millions of viewers on YouTube channels. Kids have told me various reasons why they watch others play including getting insights into how to get better and getting to “know” certain players. Meanwhile, parents are often frustrated with the bad language that can be sprouted out incessantly by many of these YouTube players.

My goal in today’s TTT blog is to help spark a discussion about why youth (and adults) might like watching video games. And, while we talk about why people enjoy watching, it is also important to discuss how many hours a week makes sense to play. I’d encourage you to read my blog piece “Why 3 hours is too much” where I talked to 3 experts who work with families around curbing excessive video game use.

For this TTT, let’s open up a discussion around video games as a spectator sport, and as a sport in general.

  • Do you enjoy watching other people play video games? If so, what are the many reasons?
  • Do you think video gaming should be included in the Olympics?
  • Do you think there is a difference between watching say a baseball game or watching people play video games?
  • How much time do you think is too much time watching someone e-gaming?