Some of the world’s best pro gamers will soon be able to win gold medals for playing video games. That’s after the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) announced that e-sports will be officially included as a medal sport at the 2022 Asian Games, to be held in Hangzhou, China.
Their official inclusion will come after demonstration events to be held at this September’s Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games, as well as the upcoming Asian Games, taking place in Indonesia, in 2018. The OCA didn’t provide a full list of the games that would feature at the tournaments, but said that players would be competing in FIFA 2017, as well as “MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) and RTA (Real Time Attack)” games. Expect that to translate to titles similar to League of Legends and StarCraft II — assuming, of course, that the OCA can hammer out deals with developers like Riot and Blizzard.
While the Asian Games might not offer the prize money of some of the bigger existing pro gaming tournaments, the inclusion indicates that in the eyes of the general public, e-sports could be coming closer to parity with traditional sports. The Asian Games are recognized by the International Olympic Committee, and the event is reportedly the second-biggest sporting competition in the world, behind only the Olympics in the number of athletes involved.
The OCA will market pro gaming around the Asian Games alongside Alisports — the e-sports arm of Chinese retail giant Alibaba. Alisports invested $150 million in South Korea’s International eSports Federation last year, after the body pushed for e-sports’ inclusion in the regular Olympics. If things go well at the 2022 Asian Games, we could eventually see pro gamers from across the world standing on medal podiums, keyboards in hand.