The argument on whether or not eSports is a real sport has existed for years, with no clear-cut answer. This debate is even more prominent now with the advent of large scale tournaments and million dollar prizes, as well as broadcasted programming mirroring that of traditional sports television. Still, can we really fit eSports into the definition of a "real" sport?
Recently HBO's Real Sports With Bryan Gumbel published a clip to YouTube discussing whether or not eSports is in fact a sport or not. While the video quickly turns into a dig on nerds (frankly it's pretty insulting), it does bring up a good point: what constitutes a sport?
According to the American Heritage Dictionary published first in 1961, the definition of sport is: 1) An active pastime; diversion; recreation or 2) a specific diversion, usually involving physical exercise and having a set form and body of rules; a game. Really by either traditional definiton of the word sport, any video game, card game, or tabletop game would be included in the term.
But as we know, words evolve and change over time. The definiton of sport according to Dictionary.com is: 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. While you could certainly make the argument that mouse clicks and moving of the fingers and thumbs are athletic, it would be difficult to make it stick.
Then again under this definition bowling and fishing are considered sports, but many view them as not "real" sports either.
Another method we commonly use to decide whether or not something is a sport is through the Olympic Committee. If it's not approved by them, there's no way it could possibly be called a sport. Unfortunately you also hear frequently from people who use this definition that Curling isn't a sport.
Interestingly, the Olympics are run by an umbrella organization, SportAccord, that organizes both Olympic and non-Olympic sports federations. Of course, they have their own definition and categories of sports. Sports can be categorized under the following: primarily physical, primarily mind, primarily motorised, primarily coordination, and primarily animal-supported. As far as eSports is considered, many games at the competitive level read like a game of chess, a mind sport. While video games may not fall under the physical category, they definitely fit into a primarily mind-oriented sport.
Arguably one of the most interesting methods of recognizing eSports as a sport is through the recent change to travel and work visa grants regarding professional athletes. Back in July, the United States recognized professional gamers as athletes, which gave them the chance to come from abroad and compete on American teams using a P-1A visa.
So are eSports really a sport? Will they be acknowledged as a "real" sport? Who knows. Chess was finally recognized in 1999, and people seem more reluctant to recognize video games. But with the momentum eSports is gaining, it may just be a matter of time.