Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee, has voiced his opposition to including violent e-sports among the sports contested at the Olympic Games. Speaking to the AP on the occasion of the 2018 Asian Games, where demonstration e-sports tournaments were held, Bach said that “We cannot have in the Olympic program a game which is promoting violence or discrimination ... They, from our point of view, are contradictory to the Olympic values and cannot therefore be accepted.”
Bach is himself a former Olympic fencing champion, and he’s surely aware that boxing is an Olympic sport too, but he thinks combat sports are different. Accepting that every combat sports has its root in real fighting among people, he argues that “sport is the civilized expression about this.” Whereas games that involve “killing somebody” are apparently beyond the pale. An uncharitable reading of his words might be that boxing and fencing are familiar and therefore acceptable, whereas games are played out of a black box (tastefully decorated with LED lights, of course) and not something he himself has ever partaken in.
It’s far from obvious that e-sports fans even care about the Olympics
Without Bach specifying which e-sports he classifies in his “killer games” category, it’s hard to offer a counterargument. Though it’s still worth noting that the most popular multiplayer competitive games have highly stylized violence that’s usually inflicted by and to mythical creatures. In Valve’s Dota 2, for example, you can be Zeus and smite an undead zombie with a skill called Thundergod’s Wrath. Or you can be a Crystal Maiden and summon a snowstorm around you that brings down a hail of ice shards upon your enemies. These acts of hostile manipulation of the elements can hardly be said to be encouraging people to punch each other in the face. Boxing, on the other hand, can.
In any case, the established e-sports already have thriving professional leagues, and it’s far from obvious that many of their fans even care about inclusion in the Olympics. It would be a final mark of acknowledgement that these digital competitive endeavors are indeed sports, but for a majority of fans, it’s probably not necessary.