So Brandon Beck, the co-founder of League Of Legends developer Riot Games, believes eSports will be part of the Olympic Games within his lifetime. Despite the wiggle room afforded by the word 'lifetime' - Beck was named in Forbes' 30 under 30 last year - it's a bold statement, one that's had us thinking since we posted our story yesterday.
As gamers, we realise we should be firmly in Beck's camp, but we just can't see it happening. There is no argument that playing a competitive videogame to a high level requires mental and physical dexterity, and an awful lot of work. In South Korea, professional StarCraft players' training regimes focus on physical fitness as well as improving their speed at the controls.
Fighting game poster boy Daigo Umehara has also factored physical exercise into his training. "In Street Fighter, mental strength holds such a large part in one's [chance of] winning," he told Shoryuken last year. "In order to stay mentally strong, I have to be physically healthy and stay balanced, as body and mind are related to one another." The suggestion that Olympic eSports would mean a procession of obese kids standing on podiums, mouth-breathing along to national anthems with medals draped around their Cheeto-flaked forms is wide of the mark. These people are athletes.
Instead, the problem comes with the games themselves. They keep changing. While the rules of many sports are subject to change, their mechanics are constant. A football and two goals; a tennis court and net; a 100m stretch of track. Improvements in sports science, footwear and tactics might give contemporary sprinters a significant edge over their predecessors, but they're still running the same distance. They're still playing the same game that people did a century ago.
Meanwhile Capcom is unable to let a year go by without releasing a new fighting game. StarCraft II's first expansion is soon to enter beta. League Of Legends has been patched more than 70 times since its release in 2009. How can you make a sport out of something whose goalposts keep moving with such regularity?
And there are just too many games. Even if we could settle on a single iteration of Street Fighter, what about Tekken, Virtua Fighter, BlazBlue, Soul Calibur, Smash Bros and Marvel Vs Capcom? Counter-Strike's an obvious inclusion, but what about Battlefield, Call Of Duty, Gears Of War, Quake, Tribes, TF2 and Halo?
Above all, we can't see eSports at the Olympic Games because no-one owns athletics, or football, or swimming. Olympic sports are open and available to all, even though there's a financial commitment to participating, whether a ball, a racquet or a pair of trunks or shoes. They're managed by national and international federations - FIFA's doing pretty well out of football, if Sepp Blatter's canapé-fattened form is any measure - but they're not owned like publishers own their games. Games are products, not sports. It's hard to see the IOC going for it: it took 75 years for it to recognise chess as an Olympic sport, and that's still not part of the Games proper, hived off instead to the biennial Chess Olympiad. That, incidentally, has been running for over 80 years. The IOC gave its blessing to the game in 1999.
Does it even matter? eSports will continue to grow with or without Olympic backing, from the Global StarCraft League to MLG, from League Of Legends championships to the annual Evolution fighting game tournament - not forgetting the countless small local tournaments and web streams all over the world.
Beck may, in the fullness of time, be proven right. He's a young enough man, after all, and given the current pace at which this incredible industry evolves there's plenty of time for things to change. But we can't see it happen until these games are free: not just free-to-play like League Of Legends but free from the restraints of ownership; open, uncommoditised, and available to all.