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The business of cyber gaming
Publication Date : 28-10-2012
Taiwan government officials and lawmakers agreed to help establish cyber gaming, or “e-sports,” as a national sport that qualifies for government assistance shortly after a Taiwanese team won an international video game tournament in the so-called City of Angels in the United States
The Taipei Assassins (TPA) defeated a team from South Korea in the “League of Legends” world championships in Los Angeles on October 13 and took home the US$1 million (approximately 29 million Taiwan dollar) first prize. The cash is cold, and the honour is badly needed. A Nobel Prize winner as big as the European Union takes home not much more prize money than that.
Chen Yueh-hsin, chairman of a league that promotes cyber gaming in Taiwan, and the title-winning TPA have called on the legislative caucuses of the Kuomintang, the Democratic Progressive Party and the People First Party and urged lawmakers to help lobby the Sports Affairs Council (SAC) to recognise cyber gaming as a sport and establish it as a discipline eligible for assistance from the government.
Chen told the lawmakers that cyber gaming has enormous economic potential.
TPA leader Chen Hui-chung, on the other hand, said that action was needed if Taiwan did not want to fall behind neighbouring countries. The government also needs to provide guidance to help professional gamers with their long-term career plans, Chen said.
In response to their appeals, Education Minister Chiang Wei-ling told lawmakers during a legislative hearing last week that his ministry will consider establishing a special higher educational track for professional gamers, and it expects to have a proposal ready within three months.
While many people in Taiwan are grateful to the gamers for bringing honour to their home country at a time when both the government and the ruling party have little to show for their efforts, one must not lose sight of the fact that others, especially anxious parents and school teachers, are entitled to the answers to a host of related questions before the government commits itself and taxpayer dollars to helping gamers.
Playing video games is fun. Otherwise, no one would play them. Addicted players, however, are known to have hurt or even killed themselves and their grades by playing video games and neglecting their schoolwork for too long. Some have even hurt their anxious, nagging parents. Even TPA team leader Chen Hui-chung admitted to being affected by a number of game-related health issues, such as his blood-shot eyes and his strained trigger finger after prolonged practice.
In this regard, the question taxpayers might want to ask is whether they would be inadvertently paying somebody to have fun and to have so much of it that they hurt themselves or others.
As the country's topmost educational official, MOE Minister Chiang should tell us whether playing video games is beneficial to young people — especially those who want to play and attend college at the same time — physically, intellectually, and emotionally as the so-called orthodox sports do. And then, is subsidising a sport in which Taiwan can win more important than fostering athletes in the traditional sports in which Taiwan has yet to catch up, especially at a time when society as a whole blames the country's inadequate sports facilities for their poor performance?
Video games are big in the IT industry in both far-off and “neighbouring” countries and could have a positive effect on an economy, especially an ailing one. But it is doubtful whether gamers, as consumers and not as developers of the technology, can rightly claim credit. If the software engineers at an IT company have developed a superb, best-selling video game, which is then sold overseas but not locally, the company still makes money and should be grateful, primarily, to the software designers. If it is argued that the pro-gamers, as the industry's most indulgent consumers, help stimulate consumption and the economy, we may want enterprises, as the most direct beneficiaries of their indulgence, to sponsor them. And enterprise certainly will, as part of their marketing drive. There is no need for the government to take over.