The 2012 Summer Olympics was the perfect example of how much time, dedication and hard work people can put into their desired vocation. It's easy to say that the many athletes who participated worked very hard, but it is much more difficult to imagine how much they have sacrificed and the amount of time they have used to be so deadly-proficient at their sport. We can agree that these runners, swimmers, gymnasts, etc., are professionals in their respective events. This brings us to my topic—professional gamers. Would you consider what they do to be a true sport?

People nowadays associate the word "gamers" with lazy and obese people that do nothing but play and rage at video games 24/7. In reality, though, there are many professional gamers who are paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to do what they love. Just like there are national leagues for soccer and basketball, there exists one for gaming, with one of the largest being the Major League Gaming, based in the United States. Unfortunately, people look down on the gaming world, saying that it is a detrimental hobby and nothing but an addiction and an imitation sport. If a person puts a certain activity or hobby at the center of their life, would you say that he or she is addicted or committed to it?

Most people would agree that an addiction causes a person to repeat an activity to the point that it becomes habit-forming, giving the feeling that it is essential in order for that person to live their life. It also makes them less receptive to external stimuli, as they seek pleasure mainly from said activity. Both of these things could be said of both professional gamers and Olympic athletes. For example, the enormous amounts of time and training that long-distance sprinters and swimmers put into honing their skills is comparable to what professional gamers do—in this case, being passionate for a sport can also be mistaken as being addicted to it. No one can argue that Michael Phelps swims in order to challenge himself to become better and to prove himself to the world. The same can be said of professional gamers, who play for similar reasons. This can be classified as repetitive behavior, and if it becomes habit-forming, this dedication could also be said to be an addiction.

We would need more arguments than this, however, as people would then say that an addiction negatively impacts one or more parts of a person physically, mentally, emotionally or socially. In addition, ceasing that activity can cause "withdrawal symptoms". In this case, many scientific studies have found that being sedentary for extended periods of time, which can occur while playing video games, does cause a host of health problems. However, the same could be said of many forms of physical activity. Running for long periods of time can cause long-term damage to lower body joints, as well as shin splints. Chlorine from swimming can promote the proliferation of cancer and can cause and worsen acne, eczema, rashes and asthma due to the chemical fumes that arise from the water. Any long-term training for any physical activity carries inherent, unavoidable risks. In addition, as distinguished by addictions, ceasing an activity can cause withdrawal symptoms. This can occur in athletes who are forced to stop training and gamers who are deprived of video games for long periods of time.

What is the difference between someone being dedicated to something and someone being addicted to something? If you think the difference is that addiction describes someone who goes extreme lengths for something, such as a professional gamer, they are not the only ones—the Olympic athletes we have all seen have gone, and continue to go, to extreme lengths for their sports. If gamers spend days on end practicing and perfecting techniques to win while knowing they are hurting themselves, and short- and long-distance runners run dozens of miles a week regardless of heavy damage caused to their joints and feet, then the terms "dedication" and "addiction" are interchangeable. Professional gaming is a sport and a skillset, just like pole vaulting and diving; it should not be looked down upon as only being made up of lazy, addicted nerds. In the end, even though professional gaming is not a traditional sport, it does not mean that the time and work put into the occupation is any less real than the work any world-class swimmer, chess grandmaster, or NASA scientist is.

— Jan Urbano is a junior in BCMB. He can be reached at jurbano@utk.edu.