Esports is slowly becoming more accepted as an Olympic Sport.  In 2021 at the SEA games there was LOL and PUBG,  then in 2022, DOTA, LOL, Dream3Kingdoms and SFV were featured at the 19th Asian Games.  For the Asian Games 2026, which will be held in Japan, it has already been declared that Esports will be medal winning games.

The Internation Olympics Committee watched over Esports week in Singapore this past June, and while Capcom managed to have SF6 demonstrations, the games that were featured, well, it kinda blew my mind.  There was baseball (WBSC) tennis, taekwondo, basketball (NBA2k23) Racing (Gran Turismo) and dancing (Just Dance).. (all replays) 

Is this the future of the Olympics? Some of it seemed pretty damn cringe while others looked pretty hype.  Either way, what strikes me that there is a real issue of deciding which games are going to be played each year, and this is serious business for the game developers.  If for example the committee wanted to stage SFV, there would arguably be a more experienced playerbase, but the companies would lose revenue on their latest game.  And then, even with KOFXV, all the training in the world can’t prepare you for a patch that rebalances the characters; imagine that happening just before the games are due to take place…

This brings us to the 2023 East Asian Youth Games, the inaugural event of this series which took place in June.  I had noticed that SNK had organised a tournament to send winners to Mongolia, but watching the performance, I feared the contestants would travel only to get absolutely destroyed.  I was to discover my prediction was wrong.

Checking the replay of KOFXV at the EAYG, I was frankly baffled at the in-game production values (with the random youtube soundtracks, which seemed to mention guns going bop bop, not exactly Olympian is it lol), but at least the physical stage and some of the bio graphics looked very polished.  They finally fixed the sound issues by the end, albeit with screen tearing.  This should have been checked beforehand but well done to the team for fixing it as best they could.

Mind you, it was concerning that the players were playing online against each other rather than simply hooked up to one machine.  Why?

The contestants were from China, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong, Japan, Macau, Mongolia and South Korea.  Japan’s Riku Saito took gold, Mongolia’s Batsaruul Jambal took silver and Haruki Arai from Japan took bronze. Congratulations to all!  However, it was a suprise to me.

I’m sure you are all wondering what happened to China?  Are their youth more focused on other games now?  What happened to the legacy of KOF in China?? Note that these players literally started playing KOFXV 3-5 months ago, so we shouldn’t be so critical of their performance, at the same time, certain “little boys” such as Xiaohai and Xian would have destroyed the competition, it has to be said.  What does that mean about the youth of today, or the fighting game scene?  It must certainly be different, and very competitive for the game developers.  What remains is that this event is boosting interest in fighting games, and that’s very important for us all.  We are keen to see the new generation rise up and become the new eSports stars for their countries.  They certainly have potential and I would hate to see it wasted.  Perhaps we can see events like this in the West too, that would be great!