What Makes a Video Game Competitive


"From filthy child to shooting star" - this is the title of the North German Broadcasting Corporation in 2016 for a television documentary for the ARD "Sportschau" about the development of esports / esports in Germany. [1] The film shows a fundamental social change with regard to digital games, which is also clearly reflected in the coalition agreements between the CDU, CSU and SPD from the years 2005 and 2018: In 2005, video games took place against the background of shootings by young perpetrators, primarily with reference to the protection of minors Entry into the coalition agreement. So it said under the point "Growing up without violence" that a "ban on killer games" should be discussed in the grand coalition. 13 years later, the same coalition partners put video games on their agenda again, but now under the heading "Better life through progress" with a completely different thrust - and with a reference to traditional sports associations: "We recognize the growing importance of the e-sports landscape in Since e-sport trains important skills that are not only important in the digital world, requires training and sports structures, we will in future fully recognize e-sport as a separate sport with club and association law and with the creation of an Olympic perspective support. "[2]

An amazing change. In the following I will show how the discussion about video games has developed, who is involved in it and in what way and, above all, how the formation of political opinions with reference to sports culture took place.

Diversity and image change

The gaming scene is extremely diverse. There are educational games for body and mind as well as games for pure pastime. In Germany "gaming" is mostly done on the cell phone, but also on a PC or a console. The central stakeholder for the development of digital games in Germany is the Game - Association of the German Games Industry. Its predecessors, the Federal Association of Interactive Entertainment Software (BIU) and the GAME - Federal Association of the German Games Industry, launched the Digital Game Culture Foundation in 2011, whose partners include several federal authorities, first and foremost the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI), but also the Federal Foreign Office, the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media or the Federal Ministry for Family, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth. The game's activities include the annual awarding of the German Computer Game Prize and the promotion of the German Games School Championship, in which over 1,700 schools have participated since the first event in 2006.

For many people, digital games are part of everyday life today - depending on the statistics or estimates, between 34 and 44 million Germans "gambled" in 2018, as already stated in the Duden. Compared to 2017, this is an increase of between 10 and 20 percent. A similarly high rate of increase was also expected for industry sales in 2018: depending on the source, to 3.3 to 4.1 billion euros. This makes Germany the fifth largest market for computer games after China, the USA, Japan and South Korea. [3]

Due to the relatively small number of new game developments from Germany, the federal government is making available 50 million euros in the 2019 budget through the BMVI to support this branch of the economy. The Computer Game Museum is located in Berlin, and courses such as Computer Game Science (University of Bayreuth) and E-Sports Management (University of Applied Management) have been set up. A 250-page bibliography from the Federal Institute for Sports Science provides an overview of the extensive research literature on computer games in the context of sport. [4] In view of this social penetration, the increasing economic importance and the corresponding demands of various associations, it is not surprising that political decision-makers are also grappling with the phenomenon.

For a few years now, the public and political discussion has primarily centered on competitive video games - what has been referred to as e-sports since this millennium. The eSport-Bund Deutschland (ESBD), founded in November 2017, has emerged as the main contact for this special segment of digital games. It is represented in the Game Association and defines its subject in abbreviated form as "direct competition between human players using suitable video and computer games on various devices and on digital platforms under fixed rules". [5]

E-sports titles are usually divided into three categories: shooters, (real-time) strategy games, and sports or racing simulations. Real-time strategy games have the largest share of the market - both financially and in terms of the number of players and viewers. This is followed by the shooter and then the genre of sports simulations, [6] with the soccer simulation "Fifa" leading the list of the best-selling PC and console games in Germany. [7]

For a long time, video games had a bad reputation, mainly because of the depiction of violence in the shooters. After the rampage in a school in Erfurt in 2002, it became known that the young perpetrator had played the first-person shooter "Counter-Strike". In the same year a proposal to amend the Youth Protection Act was discussed in order to limit "the dangers posed by video films, computer and video games and so-called killer games". Although the term "killer games" in the draft law referred exclusively to leisure activities "such as gotcha, paintball and laser drome", it was also increasingly used for computer games. [8] Against this background, the term was finally found again in the coalition agreement in 2005 without a more detailed definition.

Subsequently, among other things, the state center for political education in North Rhine-Westphalia tried to achieve a balanced representation with the film "Gamer - between e-sport and pixel murder" (2006); [9] and the German Cultural Council put 2008 in an anthology above all Contributions from authors together who countered the focus on "killer games" and their possible negative socialization effects.[10] Ultimately, none of the proposed bans came about; instead, computer games were declared a cultural asset by the German Cultural Council in 2008.

With the development of more powerful computers and the expansion of the Internet including fast DSL lines from the beginning of the 2000s, online games became increasingly popular. Since then you no longer have to meet at LAN parties to play video games together, but can play from home with friends and strangers from all over the world. In 2007, e-sports was institutionalized internationally: In South Korea, where video gamers are celebrated like pop stars, the International eSport Federation (IeSF) was founded, which now has 54 members. With 23 national associations, Asia is most strongly represented, ahead of Europe with 20 associations.