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Evo 2013 Is Underway. Can Video Games Be Sport?

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By Ray Atkinson (@FilthyRay)
 

Evolution is a yearly tournament for fighting games held in Las Vegas.  It lasts until late Sunday night sometime after seven p.m.  Originally exclusive to Capcom games like Street Fighter, the tournament has evolved to include games by other developers as well.

Evo is not mutually exclusive to the United States.  Players from all over the world compete with each other in a long road to this weekend.  Winners are awarded prize money, but that amount is determined by brackets and what game is played.  All the technical jargon including the rules can be found on the EVO official page.

This year’s tournament features the following games:

  • Tekken Tag Tournament 2
  • Super Street Fighter IV:  Arcade Edition
  • King of Fighters XIII
  • Persona 4:  Arena
  • Street Fighter X Tekken
  • Mortal Kombat (2011)
  • Injustice:  Gods Among Us
  • Ultimate Marvel Vs Capcom 3
  • Super Smash Bros.  Melee

Granted that last game on the list had a bumpy road to get to Evo 2013.  Thankfully, Nintendo relented  and allowed not only Smash Bros. to be played in the tournament, but also to be streamed.

Any person who is serious about fighting games strives to get to Evo.  It’s the Super Bowl of competitive gaming.  Is it considered a sport though?

Webster defines a sport as “ (1) : physical activity engaged in for pleasure (2) : a particular activity (as an athletic game) so engaged in.”  Dictionary.com however has a slightly different definition of sport:  “An athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess and often of a competitive nature, as racing, baseball, tennis, golf, bowling, wrestling, boxing, hunting, fishing, etc.”  By that definition, competitive fighting games are definitely a sport.   

The definition of sport determined by Webster is where it gets controversial.  The words “physical activity” open the debate.  If you watch Evo, you may notice that gamers are not playing with traditional controllers.  They are playing with arcade sticks that have buttons well placed for their needs.  Fighting games are complex, but basic mastery involves memorizing button combinations.  Many games feature 10 hit combos or more.  Combine that with hundreds of moves per character, 20 or more characters per game, and that’s a lot of memorization.

Memorizing is one thing, but without proper execution it is useless.  Players have to gauge what is happening on screen and pick the right move to pull off.  Not just offensive maneuvers either.  Fighting games give the ability to dodge, block, or transition position.  It requires great skill, and Evo invites the best.

Watching the best players would make you tired.  They are pressing buttons at rapid pace, but in fluid succession.  Just mindlessly mashing buttons will get you destroyed.  The speed and the mental toughness required to play a fighting game at a high level sounds like a physical activity to me, but what do you think?

No matter your opinion, give Evo 2013 a watch.  You can check out their multistream here.  It’s like having NFL Red Zone, but free.

This is a weekly blog focused on the world of video games.  Follow the author, Ray Atkinson, on twitter.  @FilthyRay

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