Interviews & Opinion

OPINION: The games industry needs to stop caring about being in the Olympics

OPINION: The games industry needs to stop caring about being in the Olympics

After a few years in the industry, you notice some stories that just keep coming around time and time again.

'Is [this new sector] killing [this old sector]?' (Not today, but maybe in the future)

'Should we have scores on reviews?' (Yes - not everyone has time to read your 2,000-word essay about something people will have forgotten about in six months)

'A few projects with massive budgets in this genre bombed. That game type must be totally dead now' (There's still an audience and money to be made, but there might not be the commercial potential to justify huge huge budgets)

'Netflix and Spotify have revolutionised TV and music - could subscription services do the same for games?' (Yes, and they will in the next few years)

And then there's whether video games should be admitted into the Olympics. News broke this week that the competition's organisers have once again snubbed video games as there were concerns about the violence our medium is so famous for.

"We cannot have in the Olympic program a game which is promoting violence or discrimination," said International Olympic Committee president and gold medalist Thomas Bach.

"They, from our point of view, are contradictory to the Olympic values and cannot, therefore, be accepted."

He continued: "Of course every combat sport has its origins in a real fight among people. But sport is the civilised expression of this. If you have egames where it's about killing somebody, this cannot be brought into line with our Olympic values."

This provoked a pretty typical reaction from the games industry - how video games aren't violent, 'look at titles like Rocket League and Overwatch' and generally how unfair this decision was.

But the reality is: we absolutely should not care.

For its entire existence, the video games industry has wanted to be seen as legitimate. Once the domain of bedroom coders and niche enthusiasts, it has ballooned into one of the biggest entertainment mediums in the world. Hell, we're the fastest growing gig in town, but we've had a hard time shaking off the early, crude stereotype of a predominantly basement-dwelling male audience playing violent games.  

Games have already had a massive impact on the world, but our medium is a young and insecure one. Every time someone - even people in this industry - asks: 'But are games art?' I roll my eyes because yes, clearly they are - or at the very least can be.

We crave the validation of other, more established, industries. We want our storytelling and world-building to rival that of books, TV shows and films. We want to be seen as on the same level as The Wire or Crime and Punishment or - yes - Citizen Kane 

And we want to be represented at the world's biggest sporting competition.

But why? We already have our own esports leagues. Pro-gaming tournaments already garner huge audiences, both in arenas or via streaming platforms. Newzoo reckons 380m people will watch esports tournaments this year - a figure set to rise to 557m by 2021.

The games industry is growing at a sizeable pace. The sky truly is the limit for the upward curve that our medium is currently on. In a decade or so's time, the people on the Olympic Committee will likely be avid gamers or at least understand the sector because right now there is a colossal cultural - and generational - divide.

The success of something like Fortnite is an indication of the groundswell of enthusiasm and engagement that there is with video games.

In the future, that audience won't be kids watching games YouTubers or streamers in their bedrooms. They'll be adults demanding this form of content in a mainstream capacity.

Change will happen and I honestly believe that in time, video games will be part of the Olympics. But for now, we should stop craving external validation and just remind ourselves of our strengths and what we are already doing well. 

Moaning about video games not being part of the Olympics is the equivalent of someone in the 90s - halcyon days before the Marvel Cinematic Universe - complaining about comic books not being part of mainstream culture. 

All of which is to say, our time will come. 

PCGamesInsider Contributing Editor

Alex Calvin is a freelance journalist who writes about the business of games. He started out at UK trade paper MCV in 2013 and left as deputy editor over three years later. In June 2017, he joined Steel Media as the editor for new site In October 2019 he left this full-time position at the company but still contributes to the site on a daily basis. He has also written for, VGC, Games London, The Observer/Guardian and Esquire UK.