SINGAPORE (AFP) – Growing concern over health standards in e-sports has prompted a new federation to pledge to address the problem, as players fall victim to conditions ranging from wrist injuries to obesity, stress and diabetes.
The retirement of top Chinese player Jian Zihao, better known by his gaming handle "Uzi", sent tremors through the booming sport, whose revenues are predicted to reach US$1.1 billion (S$1.52 billion) this year, according to industry analyst firm Newzoo.
The 23-year-old, hailed as an icon of the League of Legends game, stepped away from e-sports in June, saying "chronic stress, obesity, irregular diet, staying up late and other reasons" had given him Type 2 diabetes. He also had a hand injury.
However, Uzi's case is far from isolated in a sport where professional players can perform up to 500 moves a minute, according to the American Osteopathic Association, and train for hours a day.
A report published by the association last year said e-sports' "sedentary nature" meant "musculoskeletal injuries of the neck, back, and upper extremities" were likely for athletes, also flagging concerns over gaming addiction and social behaviour disorders.
Alarming warnings are nothing new for e-sports, which has met with a mixed welcome from the sporting establishment despite its wildfire popularity, as witnessed by the hundreds of millions who follow big tournaments online.
Attempts to join the Olympics have so far faltered, for reasons including a lack of cohesion between competing companies, the changing nature of games and basic questions over whether gaming can be considered a sport.
Chris Chan, president of the Global E-sports Federation (GEF), a new body backed by Chinese gaming giant Tencent, said credibility was a problem, with health and well-being one area that needs attention.
"It's about time that in e-sports we looked into all this," he said.
Chan said the Singapore-headquartered federation, which launched in December and has a focus on "holistic health", has already set up an "education, culture and wellness" commission to guide its work.
"We've got some very prominent doctors, who are sitting inside sharing with us," he said.
Coaches do sometimes think of health. Ahead of e-sports' SEA Games debut last year, physical exercise was part of regular training for many teams.
But Chan said competition between different industry bodies meant important issues, from player well-being to corruption, were not being fully addressed.
"We're all pulling in different directions now," he said. "Nobody's addressing the diversity… the fair play, the health."
He said GEF was aiming "to be a platform for the ecosystem to bring some credibility to the sports".
The body has been joined by dozens of national federations from around the world, and last month announced a collaboration with the Olympic Council of Asia to promote e-sports in Asia.
However, it remains uRead More – Source