The Olympics Just Tapped Gran Turismo Sport As Part of an eSports Trial
I know, I know, but let me explain
Now, if you just found that headline a little baffling, I can walk you through the whole thing. But first, watch this:
And as much of this as you can:
Understand one thing: regardless of what you grade Gran Turismo Sport (and upcoming GT7) as a simulation of driving, the FIA-certified Gran Turismo Championships (FIA GTC from now on) has made quite a name for itself as a proving ground for simracers all over the world. Some of them, in fact, have secured drives in real life, continuing the legacy of GT Academy that served as basis for the current tournament.
And now, the International Olympic Committee has recognized the game as part of their repertoire.
You see, eSports, or professional gaming, has surged up as the big thing among us youngsters these days, with the most popular games like Starcraft, DoTA 2, League of Legends, Valorant, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Tekken, Street Fighter, Super Smash Bros, FIFA's Ultimate Team mode and the wide world of simracing raking in billions of eyeballs, millions of dollars in prizes, and thousands of legendary players and stories that are as just as compelling, if not more, than the sports we know. And the Olympics, a corrupt mafia that doubles as an egalitarian exponent of competition, has come to recognise this movement and want a piece of the pie.
The first big-ticket event for eSports that had some level of Olympic involvement was Starcraft 2's IEM Pyeongchang 2018 event (finals here), though rumours and calls for inclusion have been cropping up earlier than that. Both the Asian Games and the Southeast Asian Games have featured eSports as non-medal demonstration and full medal events, respectively, featuring the biggest names and top stalwarts in Asian professional gaming. Now, it seems that eSports is one step closer to being a viable way to win Olympic friggin' medals.
Inaugural Olympic Virtual Series to include International Federations and Game Publishers in Baseball, Cycling, Rowing, Sailing and Motor Sport.
The Olympic Virtual Series is the IOC's biggest move forward in this space yet, with a five-event initial run from 13 May to 23 June, before the real deal Olympics starts in Tokyo. Weirdly, however, none of the eSports I just listed above are anywhere to be found, and besides simracing, the other four events aren't really as well-known to the mainstream gaming community: baseball, cycling, rowing and sailing. Not exactly what we expected, but I reckon the IOC is still squeamish about displaying warfare to a global audience composed mostly of normal people who may or may not have a low opinion of gamers as a whole, much less understand Starcraft.
On the other hand, I actually do get the inclusion of simracing in this set of events. After all, motorsport is one of the three real sports according to Ernest Hemingway, so it follows that among games, simracing stands alone. And FIA's partnership with Polyphony Digital has clearly shown its value in developing actual motor racing talent -- Igor Fraga has already reached Formula 3, and even Formula One has made mad bank with getting some of their drivers streaming events even outside of Codemasters' licensed game.
I'm happy this happened, but some apprehension is necessary when it comes to how the IOC handles this. Part of me has low hopes of them nailing it, but it's safe to say that this partnership is going to be a big boost to the cachet of simracing as a discipline, even with all the headway that's been made in titles outside of Gran Turismo. But we'll have to wait a little while longer to see how this event -- and the four others -- will pan out.