By Jason Parker
December 5, 2019
We’ve spoken about the Southeast Asian Games before, and we’re going to repeat it: Esports has hit the sporting mainstream. No matter which websites decry esports as not being real, this is proof to the contrary. This week, esports made its debut during the Southeast Asian Games.
It’s the first time esports has been a part of an Olympic-recognized multi-sport competition. Sure, you can win medals at your local fighting game/fighting game major, but Olympic-recognized medals? Now, that’s a whole other matter. I’m waiting for the esports version of Kurt Angle to rise.
However, there was a bit of disaster in the SEA region, and it’s not the first time this year. A massive typhoon during this week in the northern Philippines. First, it was Typhoon Hagibis during the Rugby World Cup Japan, and this time, it’s Typhoon Kammuri.
There were 13 deaths during the Typhoon, and that’s a tragedy. Even one lost life is a life stolen away early. There were 8,750 athletes and team officials present, as well as 12,000 volunteers. Thankfully, none were injured during the event.
Gaming was a demonstration sport during last year’s Asian Games but sadly was left off the 2022 edition, which is a sad thing to hear. Perhaps it’s not too late for the Asian Games committee to change their minds. After all, things are looking good in the SEA.
Ultimately, players from nine countries traveled to compete across six days for medals in a host of games, including Mobile Legends, Arena of Valor, DOTA 2, StarCraft II, Tekken 7 and Mobile Legends: Bang Bang Hearthstone. Though there were 11 countries at the Games, with a record 56 sports, the big one is video games.
The games chosen were under specific criteria. They couldn’t promote violence or gambling. It’s curious why Tekken 7 was chosen. But, the Tekken franchise is all about a tournament, the Iron Fist tournament. So, that makes sense on a logical level.
The medalists have not been decided, but I’m just excited to see it! As a kid, this would never be an option. If I said I wanted to play card games at an Olympic event, it would be sitting in the stands playing “War” or “Poker” or something. It might be a while before the Olympic Games feature esports on a serious level, but this is a step in the right direction.
If I could add esports to the SEA Games, here are my picks:
Anyone who knows me might be shocked I included League of Legends instead of my favorite MOBA (SMITE). I love SMITE, but it doesn’t have the reach that League does. I wanted to add one more card game per represented genre (Card Game, Fighting Game, MOBA, Mobile Game).
CoD Mobile impresses me lately. I never thought I’d enjoy CoD again, much less on the phone. MTG Arena is a global phenomenon, too. There aren’t too many people that aren’t at least tangentially familiar with Magic.
Street Fighter V is going to be bonkers in the coming season, also. Every character is receiving a new V-Skill, giving it a real Street Fighter III feel, and I’m on board for that.
As a final note, Market research firm Newzoo projected the number of audiences for esports in Southeast Asia may reach 31.9 million viewers in 2019. That is perhaps more than expected with the addition of esports to the Southeast Asian Games. You’d be foolish not to capitalize on having that many more people watching your events. Whether it’s attending live or watching online somehow, that’s a considerable number.
“This is a very, very historic day because for the first time eSports will be played in the Southeast Asian Games,” said local Mayor Francis Zamora at an opening ceremony at the 5,500-capacity San Juan Arena.
We’re happy for it too, Mayor Francis. Let’s see more esports at major sporting events in 2020!