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The Olympic Virtual Series is a Compromise No One Wants

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The Olympic Virtual Series promises to bring the most boring possible video games to the Olympic-adjacent stage.
The Olympic Virtual Series promises to bring the most boring possible video games to the Olympic-adjacent stage. | Photo courtesy of the International Olympic Committee

The International Olympic Committee has announced a new video game-focused event called the Olympic Virtual Series, fulfilling a kind of Faustian bargain for esports advocates.

All the games in the series will be based on real-world sports. Baseball, represented by the World Baseball Softball Confederation, will be played in Konami’s eBaseball Powerful Pro Baseball 2020. The Union Cycliste Internationale will have cyclists race in a cycling sim called Zwift. World Sailing will hold competitions in sailing sim Virtual Regatta. The Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile will hold races in Gran Turismo. Finally, World Rowing will hold open format competitions.

Never heard of most of those games? You’re not alone. Gran Turismo is the only one with any prominence in the gaming sphere. Presumably the hardcore fans of each game’s real-world counterpart are aware of these simulations; maybe they’re even excited to see Zwift on the Olympic stage. Good for them. But don’t they already have, you know, actual cycling?

Who is the Olympic Committee trying to please here? Not a single esports fan cares if rowing esports will be an Olympic event, and I’d bet a majority of rowing fans don’t either. So why bother?

The Olympic Committee’s proven hesitant to incorporate traditional esports such as Counter-Strike: Global Offensive because of the violence involved. Fine. But it can hardly expect to have its cake and eat it, too. This new series is for neither esports fans nor traditional sports fans. It’s yet another innocuous, vaguely insulting decision from an out-of-touch legacy establishment.

Presumably there will be some esports advocates stoked for esports of any kind to appear anywhere near the Olympics. If you’re one of them, I’m begging you: raise your standards. Esports doesn’t need the Olympics, especially if it’s going to be on these terms.

But for all those virtual rowers out there, have at it. The show starts May 13 and continues through June 23, just before the big boy Olympics kick off in Tokyo.

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