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Esports at the Olympics? Its Only a Matter of Time

This year, the 2020 Olympics started off with a very interesting event. The Olympics Virtual Series was a pre-show with players competing against each other in hybrid virtual sports like Zwift, a cycling game played on a stationary bike, and Virtual Regatta Inshore, a sailing simulator. This was the series debut and can be considered the first time video games have been integrated into the Olympics.

Naturally, that raises a question that’s sure to elicit a polarizing response: When will esports be officially part of the Olympics?

It’s one of those questions that crop up every so often and causes a big stir. People on both sides of the debate argue until they are blue in the face every few years. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fascinating question to ponder. But it’s simply an introduction to the two questions we should really be asking. The first of which is, what do esports need to do to finally be accepted into the Olympics?

Meeting criteria

In order for esports to be recognized by the Olympics, there are certain criteria that need to be met. The first is that the “sport” needs to have an international federation that is accepted by the International Olympic Committee, or the IOC. Esports has, in fact, had one for over 10 years. The International eSports Federation is the governing body for esports and was founded in 2008. In that regard esports is halfway there; it just needs to be recognized and accepted by the IOC.

Another important criterion is that a sport must have men widely practicing it in 75 different countries across four continents and/or women practicing in 40 countries on three continents. This standard has been established for some time in esports with about men and women in 150 countries on six continents participating.

The last prerequisite is the potential silver bullet for esports’ Olympic hopes: Any sport added to the program must be, well, a sport. Whether or not esports can be classified as such still doesn’t have a definite answer; it all depends on who you ask. A sport is defined as a physical activity that requires skills or physical prowess and is often of a competitive nature.

Skills and competitive nature are obvious attributes for esports, though its physicality is questionable. A study from the International Journal of Excercise Science shows that esports players do in fact have an increased heart rates similar to people playing physical sports. However, another study from ScienceDirect states that while players do exert themselves while playing games, it is not enough to qualify as a sport.

Ultimately, the IOC would be left to decide whether or not esports could legitimately share the stage with events like curling or live pigeon shooting. But on paper, they already check all the boxes. It’s simply a matter of the old guard recognizing that and making a modern call.

Who needs whom?

Esports is very close to qualifying as an Olympic sport on merit alone. However, the question of whether or not esports should be in the Olympics tends to be myopic. It is actually a two-way street. What we are forgetting to ask is, when will the Olympics realize it needs esports.

While we have debated every uncle and recreational softball coach about the legitimization of esports, the industry has found major financial success. According to a report from Reuters, the esports industry is expected to hit over one billion dollars in revenue in 2021. This will be a 14% increase from last year.

The viewership of esports alone should make the IOC heavily consider adding it to the roster of sports. During the 2016 Olympics, NBC had about 27 million viewers during the event. This is quite the accomplishment when you look at it in a vacuum. Unfortunately for the Olympics, we won’t. That same year the 2016 League of Legends World Championships had around 43 million viewers.

Esports Tournament filling up an entire stadium

A study conducted by Newzoo states that 76% of esports viewers are choosing to watch esports competitions over watching traditional sporting events. Clearly, esports is a huge force in the competitive world and is eating the competition alive.

This doesn’t even stop with the Olympics. Competitive video games are taking big steps to legitimize themselves in the eyes of the public. Nintendo announced in May that it is partnering with PlayVS to help make games like Splatoon 2 and Super Smash Bros: Ultimate official varsity sports in high school. It’s a major development that makes it clear that the industry will only gain more traction in the coming years.

The relationship between the Olympics and esports is an interesting one. Some claim that esports has more to do to legitimize itself by the standards that the Olympics holds. However, in many respects, esports already do meet these standards and have not stopped growing since the industry began. To many people — especially in the younger generations — esports competitions have surpassed the Olympics. Why should esports fans worry about what the IOC considers a sport when esports dominates the market and towers over many sports in terms of fans, and viewership?

In order for the Olympics to stay competitive and be attractive to younger viewers, it may have to bring esports into the fold. It might be the only way for the Olympics to maintain relevance in these modern, electronic times. The question is no longer if esports will become part of the Olympics; it’s when.

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Game

The Tokyo Olympics’ parade of nations had a videogame soundtrack

The Tokyo Olympics opening kicked off early this morning, and the parade of nations, where athletes walk through Japan’s Olympic stadium, had a Japanese twist. A medley of videogame music, orchestrated, formed the soundtrack for the parade. 

It all kicked off with the main theme from Dragon Quest — which sounds pretty Olympian outright — followed by hits from Final Fantasy, Monster Hunter, Nier, Sonic, Chrono Trigger and, er, eFootball. (That’s the new name for Pro Evolution Soccer, in case you missed it.)

There are some notable omissions — no Nintendo songs (Pokémon? Mario? Zelda?) being the biggest one — but some Street Fighter II songs might have fitted well into the competitive theme. Maybe the latter was too violent? 

The march hasn’t quite finished, and we’ll try to embed a video here when we can. The USA will be the third-to-last country to march, as it’s hosting the Olympics soon in LA — you might be able to catch the final parts of the march on the NBC live stream.

With some help from Nikkan Sports, here’s the full tracklist. 

– Dragon Quest “Overture: Roto’s Theme”

– Final Fantasy “Victory Fanfare”

– Tales of series “Sorey’s Theme – The Shepherd”

– Monster Hunter “Proof of a Hero”

– Kingdom Hearts “Olympus Coliseum”

– Chrono Trigger, “Frog’s Theme”

– Ace Combat “First Flight” 

– Tales of series “Pomp and Majesty” 

– Monster Hunter “Wind of Departure” 

– Chrono Trigger “Robo’s Theme” 

– Sonic the Hedgehog “Star Light Zone” 

– Winning Eleven (Pro Evolution Soccer) “eFootball walk-on theme”

– Final Fantasy “MAIN THEME” – 

– Phantasy Star Universe “Guardians” 

– Kingdom Hearts “Hero’s Fanfare” 

– Gradius (Nemesis) “01 ACT I-1” 

– NieR “Song of the Ancients”

– SaGa series “The Orchestral SaGa – Legend of Music”

– Soul Calibur “The Brave New Stage of History”

Hopefully, a kind soul will make a Spotify playlist for us. Please?

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Game

The Olympics Opening Ceremony Featured Video Game Music

The opening ceremony for the Olympics this year welcomed its athletes with iconic video game music. During the Parade of Nations, each country walked out to songs from video games. Many recognizable songs were used from games such as Final Fantasy, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Chrono Trigger.

The 2020 Olympics kicked off today in Tokyo after being delayed due to the pandemic. The opening ceremony featured a suite of gaming music, which had users on social media on an Easter egg hunt to identify each track.

DID THEY REALLY PLAY KINGDOM HEARTS AND FINAL FANTASY MUSIC AT THE OLYMPICS?!?

YES LOOK pic.twitter.com/x8tlnRhDKD

— Maku (@TropicalMaku) July 23, 2021

The first song that played during the ceremony was Overture: Roto’s Theme, a song originally found in Dragon Quest III. Dragon Quest is one of the most popular video game series in Japan where many people will take time off of school and work to purchase and play the newest installment in the series. Dragon Quest III is considered the game that helped solidify the series into the hearts of the culture, so it is only fitting that the Olympics would use its version of the memorable opening theme for its opening ceremony.

There were 19 songs that were included for this opening event from over 15 different Japanese video games. Star Light Zone from Sonic the Hedgehog and the Main Theme from Final Fantasy might be the most recognizable songs and games that were played during the ceremony.

Tokyo Olympics now genuinely rocking the Sonic Star Light Zone theme ???? pic.twitter.com/BAxs0b8eDE

— Andy Robinson (@AndyPlaytonic) July 23, 2021

Square Enix was the most represented company in the list of songs. At least seven of its video games were included in the opening ceremony with certain games like Kingdom Hearts and Final Fantasy having multiple songs played. Capcom and Sega both had multiple songs played in the ceremony as well.

Interestingly, the Olympics did not include any first-party games made by Nintendo. There were no songs from Super Mario, the Legend of Zelda, or even from the Pokémon series.

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Game

Tokyo 2020 Olympics Opening Ceremony had a video game surprise

The Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics have officially kicked off, albeit a year late and without live spectators. Gamers who watched the Opening Ceremony of the event and the Parade of Nations were greeted by something they probably weren’t expecting: a soundtrack filled with video game music. Many took to Twitter to call out songs they were familiar with as tracks from games like Sonic the Hedgehog and Dragon Quest played during the event.

While it was surprising at first to hear video game music at the Olympics, it makes a lot of sense when you think about it. After all, Japanese studios have a long history of making games and franchises that go on to become hits worldwide, and many of those games were represented at the 2020 Olympics.

Nikkei Asia actually put together a full playlist of all the video game tracks in a thread on Twitter, and there are indeed some verified bangers on there. All of the songs come from Japanese games, with a few studios in particular well-represented on the list. With songs from Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, NieR, SaGa, and Kingdom Hearts on the list, Square Enix is arguably over-represented, if anything.

Music from games belonging to other studios is on the list as well, though perhaps not to the same level as Square Enix. We see a couple of songs from Capcom’s Monster Hunter series, while Sega has music from Sonic the Hedgehog and Phantasy Star. Other games represented in the Toyo 2020 Olympics playlist include Ace Combat, the Tales series, Gradius, and Soulcalibur.

Strangely, there’s no Nintendo music on the playlist Nikkei has put together, even though Nintendo is undoubtedly the most recognizable Japanese developer in the world. Sadly, it looks like the IOC wasn’t able to get permission to play Nintendo’s music (or just didn’t think it would be a good fit), but regardless, we’d say that the list the IOC came up with is a pretty solid representation of the Japanese games industry.



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Game

Today’s Google Doodle is a Full Olympics Video Game

Google has released its most ambitious interactive Doodle yet: A full sports video game inspired by the Olympic games. Champion Island Games stars a calico cat who competes in seven different sporting events on a colorful island.

The Doodle coincides with the opening of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Video games are already a large part of the event this year, as the opening ceremony featured music from Japanese video games like Dragon Quest.

Champion Island Games stars a female calico named Lucky who lands on a sport-filled island. There are seven different sports strewn around the island, each of which is presented as a unique minigame. There’s a Dance Dance Revolution-esque swimming rhythm game and a Tony Hawk-like skateboarding event, to name just two. Players get a scroll for winning in each event — you’ll have to play to see what happens when you get all seven.

There’s a surprising amount to do in the game. There are several little sub-quests scattered around the island. Players can complete tasks to fill a trophy room. All in all, it’ll take players at least a half hour to fully complete the game.

Notably, the game features gorgeous animated cutscenes that look like they arrived straight out of an anime. The animations were created by Studio 4°C, which made the game alongside Google.

According to Google, Champion Island Games is the largest interactive Doodle the company has ever made. A making-of feature notes that most Doodles are the size of one of the game’s sports, making it a surprisingly robust undertaking.

Champion Island Games is available to play right now by heading over to Google and tapping on the Doodle. It supports both mouse and keyboard controls, as well as mobile ones.

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PlayStation Now welcomes Red Dead Redemption 2, Nioh 2, and Olympics 2020

There has been a lot of focus on game streaming recently, but sometimes nothing beats good, old-fashioned gaming directly on the console or PC. Of course, there’s a nearly limitless selection of games than you have time to play them all, let alone have the funds to buy them all. With a PlayStation Now subscription, however, you can enjoy both kinds of gaming and have an ever-growing library of titles. This July, that catalog grows with the addition of noteworthy sequels to award-winning franchises, as well as a new game that will let you virtually live one of the world’s biggest upcoming sports events.

God of War may be known for its brutality, but it has also been lauded for its narrative. It all started in Greece with the well-known pantheon, but the latest title dumps Kratos and his son Atreus in the hard world of Norse gods and monsters. Which, of course, means more kinds of gods and monsters to finish off.

Only loosely connected to the famed Yakuza series, Judgment takes on a different atmosphere in the form of a detective story. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Yakuza game if there weren’t any fights with the underground crime network of Japan. Another uniquely Japanese title is Nioh 2 that takes you in an alternate and otherworldly version of Sengoku-era Japan to battle the yokai that threatens the world above.

An entirely new game to be added to the PlayStation Now list is the official video game tie-in to the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Sports fans will be able to take part in over 15 official events in realistic-looking venues for the summer Olympics. The game also supports multiplayer so you can make it a global event just like the real Olympics.

Although PlayStation Now is commonly regarded as a game streaming service, it also offers the option for downloading some games directly on PS4 and PS5 consoles. Unfortunately, it seems that the critically-acclaimed Red Dead Redemption 2 is available only for download, and that fact isn’t sitting well with some PS Now subscribers.

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Security

US charges six Russian intelligence officers with hacking Ukraine, 2018 Olympics, and Skripal investigation

The Justice Department has charged six Russian intelligence officers with involvement in an extensive hacking campaign, including the notorious Petya ransomware attacks that targeted Ukraine in 2015. According to the indictment, the efforts also targeted the country of Georgia, the French elections, the 2018 winter Olympics, and investigations into the poisoning of former Russian military officer Sergei Skripal.

Many of the specific incidents in the indictment have been previously reported, but no law enforcement agency has publicly charged Russia’s GRU with orchestrating the attacks. Russia’s primary military intelligence agency, the GRU has previously been associated with a wide range of cyberattacks dubbed “Fancy Bear” by private-sector researchers. In this case, prosecutors even pin the operation down to a specific GRU building located at 22 Kirova Street in Moscow, which the indictment refers to as “the Tower.”

The indictment follows previous prosecutions concerning GRU campaigns against the 2014 Olympics or the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 campaign. One of the six defendants, Anatoliy Kovalev, was also named in the DNC indictments. But Monday’s indictment reaches further, alleging an international campaign of cyberattacks and political influence campaigns to further Russian national interests.

The most devastating of the attacks came against Ukrainian power grids in 2015. The first attack compromised internal networks at all three of the country’s major energy distribution companies, rendering computers inoperable and leaving more than 200,000 people without power in the dead of winter. The following year, a subsequent attack was launched against the country’s Ministry of Finance and State Treasury Service.

As with previous indictments against foreign hackers, Russia is unlikely to extradite the defendants, and it is unlikely that they will ever stand trial. Nonetheless, the new prosecution is a significant milestone in the ongoing efforts to hold the GRU accountable for its digital attacks.

The indictment is the result of more than two years of investigation by the FBI, a point that was emphasized by agents who worked on the case. “The exceptional talent and dedication of our teams in Pittsburgh, Atlanta and Oklahoma City who spent years tracking these members of the GRU is unmatched,” said Michael Christman, FBI special agent in charge of the Pittsburgh field office, in a statement. “These criminals underestimated the power of shared intelligence, resources and expertise through law enforcement, private sector and international partnerships.”

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