Over the years, video games have evolved from a novel form of entertainment into an intense, highly competitive sport. Tournaments are held across the country and around the world pitting gamers of all backgrounds and ages against each other in a struggle for victory, respect, and cash. Hundreds, if not thousands of individuals are privileged enough to consider themselves professional gamers, earning substantial amounts of money for being the top players of their particular game of expertise, with a range encompassing all of the consoles, the PC, and even the arcade. Along with this monetary reward comes a limited, but very real level of fame. Take the Ogres for example – they aren’t household names, but ask any serious Halo player about the brothers and watch their eyes light up as they recall the first time they witnessed Halo’s twin juggernauts in action.

Our generation has witnessed the birth of so-called “cyber athletes,” or competitive gamers who consider their video game talent and expertise an athletic skill. But can they really be considered athletes? Is gaming really a sport? Well, a sport is commonly defined as a competition in which an individual or team plays within a set of rules in order to beat their opponent(s). Using this definition there is no doubt in my mind that gaming is a sport. Though not yet widely acknowledged, it may not be long before you see highlights of Halo matches on ESPN’s Sports Center.

Some argue that gaming requires no physical exertion therefore it cannot be considered a sport. Consider chess, no doubt a mental game, but considered a sport nonetheless. How about billiards? In a great game of billiards the “athletes” compete to conquer their opponent, yet when was the last time you saw one pool player tackle another? Gaming requires a great deal of concentration and teamwork. A gamer’s hands and eyes must be well-coordinated and conditioned to handle the strain of constant play. Their reflexes must be high in order to react in microseconds to counter the actions of their opponent. This requires both physical and mental stamina on the part of the video game athlete.

Critics call competitive gaming a small and limited practice, but they fail to realize the true scope of this new sport. Tournament prizes can reach tens of thousands of dollars and major cities play host to the hundreds of gamers who attend each event. Gigantic computer gaming tournaments are held annually in Las Vegas and world championship tournaments are often held in southeastern Asia. Corporate sponsors are now commonplace in these leagues and with the multi-billion dollar video game industry growing so rapidly, there is little doubt that professional gaming will continue to expand. Wherever there is money up for grabs, there will be people to compete for it.

The average Joe who dreams of fame and fortune as a professional athlete can now reach that goal through video games (although on a much smaller scale currently). It’s only a matter of time before gaming is widely acknowledged as a legitimate full-time sport. MLG recognizes gaming’s rising importance in our culture and seeks to provide a venue that allows gamers to meet in person, battle for rankings and money, and create a professional community that furthers the expansion and potential of this sport.

Robert “BlanK” Walls

You can contact BlanK at BlanK@mlgpro.com. All opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Major League Gaming or its affiliates.