esports are pokies for millennials: an outlet for miserable people to feed the best days of their lives to a screen.
Sport is supposed to bring us together, to teach us to work with others, to learn and grow as individuals, and make us physically and mentally fit. Gaming is not sport — and just as playing the pokies can be a damaging hobby, playing video games can have ruinous consequences.
We are in the grip of a loneliness epidemic. Now is not the time for our major sporting codes to be investing in something that only pulls people further apart: video gaming is socially isolating, it disrupts character development and stunts people’s ability to survive life beyond the screen.
Video gaming is socially isolating, it disrupts character development and stunts people’s ability to survive life beyond the screen.
I’m not saying that gaming or esports should be banned, but rather that we need to interrogate their role in society. Not only do they speak to the emptiness that is a product of our increasing reliance on technology, they offer insights into the future of our working lives, as more jobs are automated or carried out remotely. It’s a pretty sad sign of the times that one of Australia’s rising gaming stars Marcus Gomes didn’t make it as a professional soccer player so he "turned to FIFA to fill the void.”
esports aren’t going to replace the real thing any time soon, but the fact that major sports organisations and owners are investing in them speaks to the money - and cynicism - at play. Gamers have already begun speaking up about the unfair compensation and lack of job security. While professional gamers often live and work together as teams, this togetherness is barely social. Some teams expect them to ‘train’ for14-16 hours per day. Psychologists have marked this kind of devotion as ‘Internet Gaming Disorder’, because of its all-consuming affects on players’ lives, with documented cases of withdrawal, malnutrition, child neglect, and even death.
The gaming life is being sold as an aspiration to vulnerable young people, when it is little more than a battery farm.
Beyond money, there is a reason sports owners have jumped at esports: the level of control over workers is tantalising. Gaming becomes the totality of players’ lives, and earning is largely predicated on how much they work. Not only are they made to live with their colleagues, their lives are monitored and controlled by bosses. Players are ultimately characters: their skills are controlled by the medium, and the individual self is eroded - and if someone wants to ‘take a knee’, like NFL star Colin Kaepernick, they are easily replaceable.
The gaming life is being sold as an aspiration to vulnerable young people, when it is little more than a battery farm. In addition to serious questions about the welfare of professional gamers, the rise of esports speak to the destructive nature of our digital world. As more and more jobs are automated and globalised, as we increasingly see communities crumbling and we feel alienated, eSports offer a terrifying glimpse into the future of work for all of us.