Blood and violence damaging eSports' Olympic bid, says Alisports boss

Andrew MARSZAL
eSports made its debut as a demonstration event at the Asian Games

Blood and violence in video games is preventing the acceptance of eSports at the Olympics and Asian Games, the head of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba's sports arm said Sunday.

ESports, which are played and watched by millions worldwide and are gaining mainstream acceptance, were a demonstration event for the first time at the Asian Games in Jakarta that concluded on Sunday.

But plans to grant eSports full medal status at the Games' next edition have been placed on hold, and the International Olympic Committee has expressed reluctance to admit them.

"It has to fit the spirit and the value of the Olympics. The content should not be violent," said Zhang Dazhong, founder and CEO of Alisports, which helped to promote the demonstration event.

"Blood in video games is the problem. The line to violence can be blurry but when it comes to blood it's easy to define," he told AFP.

Although describing the Jakarta events as a "success", Zhang said OCA chiefs had objected to the number of violence-based games and requested more sport-related titles such as Pro Evolution Soccer to be chosen in future.

Online battle games such as League of Legends, Clash Royale and Arena of Valor were among those featured.

"We need to get more sports-related games in," said Zhang.

The OCA's objections were echoed in comments by Olympics chief Thomas Bach in Jakarta Sunday.

"We have to draw very clear red line saying that no game which is contrary to the Olympic values can have a place in the Olympic podium," he said.

- 'A time to start and finish' -

Tournaments of various styles of video games have grown in popularity worldwide in recent years, with shooting, strategy, and fighting for multi-player teams evolving into major arena events.

Asia has lead the boom, with China the world's largest gaming market.

Alisports is backing the charge toward full medal status for eSports.

But eSports face additional obstacles to their full admission at the next regional Olympics, Zhang admitted.

One logistical hurdle is that eSports lack a single international federation.

"It's a reason that restricted this sport's promotion globally, so we hope an association will be established soon and can help set up a global standard," he said.

Additionally there are health concerns over the non-athletic nature of the competition.

Beijing said last week it would restrict the number of video games released, and take steps to curb playing time by minors to address growing rates of childhood short-sightedness.

According to Zhang, the more regulated world of eSports would not be affected.

"Video games are entertainment, people may get addicted to play for a long time," he said. "But for eSports, a competition will have time limits and rules. There is a time to start and finish."

- Lukewarm support -

Launched in 2015 with the aim of cashing in on the rapidly growing world of electronic sports, Alisports has invested millions in video game tournaments.

The 2022 Asian Games will be held in Hangzhou, the city which hosts the headquarters of Alibaba, parent company of Alisports.

"We are also helping the local committee to build a huge eSports arena just for the eSports at the Asian Games," said Zhang.

Despite the backing of one of China's largest corporations, eSports are still receiving only lukewarm support by government officials

State broadcasters did not show any eSports events from Jakarta in China -- even though the nation's gamers dominated the event.

Zhang said Beijing had shown its support for eSports by sending a national team to participate, but admitted government officials were still wary.

"It lies on the fact that there is no accepted distinction between video games and eSports," said Zhang.

"So from the government side it is easier not to broadcast."