Is it time to push for a Digital Olympic Games?

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In the pantheon of competitive sports is there room for a universally recognised digital event?

Skill, fast reactions, endurance, strength (of mind and body) and sheer determination, five of the key caveats that the Olympians and Paralympians of this summer have shown us in abundance as they’ve competed for gold in their chosen events.

Coincidentally however (as has been discussed in detail elsewhere), there’s a lot of crossover between the requirements to compete in the Olympics and to succeed in the ever popular world of competitive videogames, so much so that the question has been asked as to whether there’s room for the inclusion of videogame competitions within the Olympic Games itself.

The traditional argument goes as such: clay pigeon shooting, archery, curling… none requires a huge amount of physical strength, but instead each relies on no small amount of skill, a natural affinity for the sport and hour upon hour of practice. The very same combination of requirements needed to get great at games, be that Super Mario or Counter-Strike.

Now, I’m not going to quite go to the same extremes, and demand videogame inclusion at the Olympics – that is unless snooker or darts ever make the grade, in which case I’ll be leading the campaign – but I could certainly envisage games players competing in their own world-spanning event, a Digital Olympics as it were.

I’m not talking about gamers competing over games of Daley Thompson’s Decathlon either (though that would be something to behold), but rather classics of the gaming world, as the best of the best compete in their chosen game across tests of endurance, speed, dexterity and so on.

Why couldn’t such an event take place in the city hosting the Olympics every four years, with a similar Digital World Championships in each intervening year as is the case in athletics? Certainly there’s no shortage of fans – just look at the game sales figures in the majority of countries across the world – and no reason, with the right organisation, why stringent rules couldn’t be brought in to ensure full equality and fairness.

The games used could be standardised and new ones only introduced after an approval process (much as in athletics), disqualification for false starts and such would of course be possible, records would have to be set in the arena to be valid and, perhaps most impressively of all, men and women could compete in events together, a first for any Olympics.

There would be a certain level of technology required to stop TV coverage coming across as tacky (see GamesMaster the TV show) and the whole event would have to be taken 100% seriously from everyone involved for it to work – something that would quickly have to established in the inaugural games – but, I for one think it could work.

I’ve come up with a few examples of events I’d want to see, including best times I’ve found online (which might not be definitive); could you see this working and if so what events would you be keen to witness?


Street Fighter

The natural fit for the Olympics’ own array of fighting events would see the best of the world’s Street Fighter veterans battle it out for supremacy. I could see disciplines – akin to the various weights in boxing – separating out those who prefer SF2, SF3, SF4 and all versions in between; while why not also consider Virtua Fighter, Tekken, Guilty Gears, etc. in answer to the myriad fighting events of the Olympics?


Super Mario World

World 1, stage 1. The equivalent of the 100 metres as competitors speed through the first stage of one of Mario’s greatest ever adventures in the fastest time possible. No need to stomp any enemies, nor collect coins, simply have Mario’s heels burning in a display of precision control and sheer speed.

Fastest time: 40s.


Dark Souls

The hardest game on current-generation consoles and players afforded as long as they need to complete it, from first enemy to final boss in a display of skill and endurance. No doubt competitors would already know every shortcut meaning that medal winners would be those able to keep their nerve in check and deliver – just like Mo Farah in his own endurance events.

Fastest time: 35m 7s (View this rather remarkable feat here).


Counter-Strike

The world’s most competitive team-based first-person shooter and so the equivalent of the likes of hockey, handball, etc. Skill, team-work and commitment all prerequisites for success and bags of excitement… enough said.


Battlefield 3

Where Counter-Strike is all about claustrophobic, quick paced exchanges BF3 can be a much more of a chess-like affair when played properly. Expect teams of experts from each country to come packing the kinds of tactics only otherwise see in the middle of a real warzone.


FIFA

Speaks for itself, football is in the Olympics, FIFA is the best football sim around right now, and we all like a good game of footy whether we’re talking actual or digital. Personally I’d be happy to see whichever is the current version as the version of choice – you never know, maybe EA would sponsor it…


StarCraft 2

Arguably the world’s most played game, especially when it comes to professional competition, and so a no brainer for inclusion at the Digital Olympics; the only question is whether we take StarCraft or StarCraft 2 as standard. Personally, if only for how much better the superior visuals would come across on TV, I’ve chosen the sequel.


Tetris

It has to be the Game Boy original of course, in a test of how many lines you can generate in a count-down scenario (largely because some players could allegedly go on indefinitely without a timer). Therefore I propose 10 minutes, 1 Game Boy and your nerve.


Donkey Kong

As anybody who has seen The King of Kong will know, there’s a never ending war going on in our midst, which sees owners of the Donkey Kong arcade game going at it hammer and tongs to record the highest ever score on a game which only has a finite number of screens and a series of known glitches to exploit, including its infamous ‘kill’ screen on level 22 should competitors make it that far.

High score: 1,090,400


Quake III Arena

The best dose of pure deathmatch is obviously a title much debated, for me Quake III Arena offers the definitive experience but, as was the case with the fighting category, I’d be willing to accept more than one category here with Halo, Call of Duty, Gears of War and so on all potential candidates for added disciplines.

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