DETROIT – When people think about athletes, they generally think about people in tremendous physical shape with unattainable bodies and astounding strength. However, the growth of eSports has helped to turn that perception on its head. There is no specific physical trait that typically identifies an eSport athlete.

The closest thing most eSports athletes have to an identifying physical characteristic is that many are likely to have pale skin from spending a lot of time indoors.

The New American Dream

While eSports certainly aren’t restricted to the United States, the dream they let users fulfill is much like the American Dream. It is the dream of possibility. We all like to think that we have the potential to accomplish anything. While that is true to a degree, there are some things that seem to be a bit beyond our reach.

Becoming a starting forward in the NBA probably isn’t in the cards if you are four feet tall, no matter how hard you work at it. However, with eSports, some doors that seem closed start to open up.

One of the reasons for the quick rise in the popularity of eSports is that people view becoming an eSports star as something within their grasp. While the top eSports athletes, like top athletes in any sport, have skills that the majority of people would not be able to match, it is a lot easier to imagine that with enough practice, any of us could reach the top.

We can all see ourselves in the seat with a controller. Even if you don’t have the dexterity to make it, you can at least picture it far easier than visualizing dunking over LeBron James.

What Is a Sport?

Of course, there is much debate over what qualifies as a sport and who qualifies as an athlete. Participants in eSports are not the first group to have their identity as athletes questioned. It is a debate that will rage on forever. When poker started being shown on ESPN, it created a bit of a stir.

Many people will never accept any activity where people sit around in a stationary chair as a sport. Physical exertion is a must for some when it comes to defining sport. This raises the question of how much physical exertion is required for a sport to be a sport.

Bowling, darts, and billiards are three activities where participants are slightly more recognized as athletes than players of poker or eSports. However, they still face a lot of scrutiny. Golfers receive a bit more recognition, but their place as athletes in a sport is still questioned by many.

Then there are people who question the validity of things like horse or car racing as sports. There is plenty of movement but the majority of the work is being done by beast and machine. The role of the human is certainly critical, but their equipment outshines the jockey and driver.

There are also questions regarding how to categorize a sport that has nothing to do with physical exertion.

There is no question that gymnasts, figure skaters, skateboarders, and ballroom dancers need to be in great physical shape to compete at the top of their field. However, many people still don’t consider these sports. For some people, a sport must have a clearer scoring system.

These activities all receive scores from judges based on criteria. However, there is a lot of subjectivity to this scoring. While all sports have some sort of officiating crew that ends up making calls that are sometimes questionable, the point system for a sport like basketball is much more clearly defined than the system for these sports. The ball goes through the hoop, and points are scored based on where the shot was taken.

Of course, even when it comes to things that nobody questions are sports, there are some participants whose athleticism is lacking. Bartolo Colón is a perfect example. A very talented pitcher in baseball who was in terrible physical shape.

With so much debate and so little agreement on what makes a sport and an athlete, it seems unlikely that eSports will ever be fully recognized as a sport. However, it also seems quite clear that they belong in this category just as much as so many others.

A New Betting Avenue

Another thing that has contributed to the rapid rise in popularity of eSports is that it has opened up a new set of games for gamblers. With the ability to check live odds for eSports and other sports and the growing legalization of sports gambling, eSports has taken hold at just the right time.

Becoming an eSport Athlete

If you want to become an athlete but know that you will never have the physical conditioning for it, consider eSports. While you could also go with one of the other fringe sports with limited physical activity, eSports also allows you to become whatever kind of athlete you want. You can run in the winning touchdown. You can hit the walk-off home run. You can drain the buzzer-beater. You can score the extra-time goal.

With eSports, you can do it all. Even if you don’t have the skills to go pro, you can still experience these exhilarating moments on a smaller scale. The world of eSports opens up endless possibilities.

This guest column was written by Laureen Arnott.