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Aaron Waite Aaron Waite
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A Sporting Chance

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Give competitive games a spotlight

I remember when I made the mistake of saying that NASCAR wasn't a sport. It was said in passing, during my tri-sport jock years, and obviously, at 16 years old, you know everything.

I tell you what, NASCAR fans descended on me like flies on a log of crap.

'IT TAKES SKILL TO DRIVE A CAR THAT LONG! HAVE YOU EVER SEEN A FAT NASCAR DRIVER? NO, CUZ THEY GOTTA BE FIT TO HOLD A CAR IN PLACE AT 200 MILES PER HOUR! IT'S A SPORT, DAGNABIT!'

It didn't really strike me right away, but I eventually came to acknowledge and appreciate the incredible mental strain that goes on during a NASCAR match.

Now, that doesn't mean it's not a complete and utter boring sport to watch, but it IS a sport. It's a competition that pits mind vs. mind at ridiculous speeds. Just because there's not burly men in tights slamming into each other over and over again doesn't mean it's not a sport.

It's the mental aspect that's been pulling me into esports over the past years. Now, obviously, being a 'Halo' fan, I'd been aware of Major League Gaming, but I'd never really gotten into watching any other games at a competitive level. The biggest change for me came when I started fully throwing myself into competitive play and realized that just pure skill can only take you so far. You have to immerse yourself in every single aspect of your game of choice, you have to know each polygon of geometry, memorize animations frame-by-frame and practice difficult maneuvers and split-second decisions. It is an incredibly draining process.
As I trudged through the hellish transition period from scrub to competitive player, I started watching other games being played at professional level for inspiration, and I found that every player that was at that level of play had put in that dedication. They took their natural talent and pushed it. They played consistently and improved themselves.

And yet, we have this common conception, this fun little title of 'esports.' Calling it 'esports' is almost the equivalent of putting a sweater on a dog and saying, 'Awww, he thinks he's people!'

Quite honestly, I feel that more professional gamers can carry the title of 'athlete' than most of the spoiled, sorry excuses for competitive players that populate the major leagues of traditional sports.

Let's take 'Starcraft II' for example. If you're going to play 'Starcraft II' at the highest possible level, you are going to have to dedicate eight hours of game time a day, minimum. What are most NBA players doing for eight hours a day? Here's a hint: it's not working on every possible element of their game. There is a massive amount of mental stress that weighs on you daily as you practice. Traditional sports generally don't change over the years, so the same sport you played as a kid is still the same sport you play now, whereas professional gamers have to adapt to new patches or even all new games every few years.

I'm not saying that playing against the likes of Lebron James takes less skill, I'm saying that if you measure the skill needed in both sporting realms, you'll find that they're even. And I think that's worth letting 'esports' out of the basement and into the mainstream.

Aaron Waite would like to give a shoutout to the Maine Fighting Gamers' Alliance. See you on the virtual field, gents.

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