Why StarCraft II deserves to be an Olympic sport


There will be no news today. Guaranteed. There’s some egg and spoon thing going on in London that’s going to dominate headlines. So we’re sorry.

Anyway! StarCraft! It should be an Olympic sport. I almost believe it myself, so it must be true. Here’s why.

It’s the next evolution in one on one competition.

The pinnacle of human competition is fighting: and we allow that to happen in wrestling and boxing. Two men or women grappling and punching until the other falls over. Then, over time, we introduced technology as a proxy for the grappling and punching. We stopped using our fists and introduced swords instead. We created fencing. We stopped using our swords, and replaced them with raquets. We created tennis. It then started raining, so we went indoors. We created table-tennis. The next evolution: we put a computer on the table-tennis table and play Starcraft II on it.

The table tennis ball becomes discrete packets of data, bouncing back and forth over a net, or “server” in this metaphor. The metaphor also works because “serving” is a thing you do in table tennis.

The Olympics already test skill with items

The principle of competing via technology is already ingrained into the Olympic spirit: we test athletes prowess with rifles, pistols, bows, bikes, swords, raquets, sticks, balls, boats, trampolines, and canoes. Most of these skills are a hangover from historical legacy: take the Men’s Modern Pentathlon. That bizarre event comprises running, swimming, fencing and horsing. It started life as a test of the skills of 19th century army officers. Modern soldiers don’t need to ride horses. They need to fly drones, operate radar systems, and wield complex electronic weaponry. This are skills that can be tested by computer games. And there is no greater competitive computer game than StarCraft II.

Sport is no longer just a human endeavour. It’s a technological adventure. Starcraft II, though, is an entirely level playing field.

Team GB is hotly tipped for medal glory at this years games, not just because we have great athletes, but because we spent a shedload of money on training and equipping them. UK Sport receives 20% of the UK lottery cash – and the vast majority of that is spent on training the top-tier of athletes. That training isn’t just building their muscles – it’s applying science and technology to eke out marginal gains that eventually translate into podium positions. Our athletes aren’t necessarily faster, or stronger, or even better looking. They just have the best stuff.

That makes StarCraft II the ultimate level playing field. A decent PC and copy of Starcraft II are cheap compared to the costs of equipping a top athlete. And no-one can say they have a technological advantage on the field: because every copy is identical.

That makes it about pure, unadulterated skill.

The Modern Olympics are elitist

If we allow StarCraft II into the games, we’re opening the door to many new sports. Darts. Chess. Wakeboarding. Rollerblading. Competitive eating.

I say, bring it on. The world doesn’t need the human elite parading around a stadium. It needs uniting under the banner of competition. Everyone should have their own Olympic moment.

Yet because of the IOC’s ‘rules’, there is no place in the Olympic park for you, I, or the vast majority of the population. We’re just not good enough. Not because we’re lazy (even if we are). Not just because we’re slow (we definitely are) or weak (yup, that too), or febrile (yeah, all right, no need to rub it in). It’s because Modern Olympians are super-humans, genetic anomalies that have evolutionary advantages. Take Michael Phelps: he may as well have been bred in a test-tube, so well adapted is he to swimming. His arms are longer. His legs wider. His torso stronger. He is essentially a fish, wearing a mammal suit.

I am not a fish. I am a mammal, rigorously adapted to sitting in a chair and occasionally feeling dizzy when I stand up too fast.

So elitest are the Olympics, so built to enrich the powerful, we continue to allow horses to compete. We have an event in Dressage, where we judge horses on their dancing.

Horses! Dancing! And they say StarCraft II isn’t a proper sport.

There can be only one solution. Let’s imagine a new type of Olympics. An Omni-lympics, where all the sports, from across the planet, are included. And that should include StarCraft II. And Quake. And maybe even some competitive Minecraft. And every sport under the sun.

Why does it matter

The Olympics are a celebration of achievement. I’m amazed at what humans can do; in every sporting endeavour. I have the utmost respect and admiration for all the athletes taking part. But a little bit of me looks at the work, effort, and community that gamers have created over the past years and feels a bit wistful. I’d love for their achievements to be celebrated on the same world stage as Archery.