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Should pro gamers be considered athletes?

John D. Sutter, CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • CNN story on pro gaming and addiction stirs conversation
  • Commenters compare pro video gamers to athletes and Olympians
  • "Would you claim that Phelps is addicted to swimming?" one commenter asked
  • The comments follow a story about MarineKing, one of the best "StarCraft II" players

(CNN) -- Should the world's best video game players -- those who earn six figures and play professionally -- be considered athletes? Are they on par with Olympians?

People who read CNN's recent story on pro gaming and gaming addiction in South Korea raised these questions in comments threads, on Twitter and over e-mail.

Many criticized CNN for highlighting the dark side of video gaming in that country, instead of celebrating the achievements of the world's best e-sports athletes. Specifically at issue was the story of MarineKing, one of the world's best "StarCraft II" players who, in the past, worried his parents and teachers because he practiced sometimes for 20 hours a day. They flagged him as a potential gaming "addict," but his parents now support his quest to be the world's best at the strategy game he loves.

Furthermore, they regret having pushed back against their son's passion.

Open Mic: South Koreans take on gaming
South Korea gaming: Skill or addiction?

How do you draw the line between obsessive, unhealthy behavior and a drive to be the world's best? Should pro gamers (or chess players, for that matter) be put in the same class as track-and-field stars and gymnasts, who also go to extreme lengths to get in shape for competition? Many pro gamers in South Korea, for example, are required to run, swim and lift weights as part of their training.

Here's a look at what some of you had to say. Comments may be edited for brevity and clarity:

On the training schedules of pro gamers vs Olympians:

"Would you claim that Phelps is addicted to swimming? Simply because someone works hard at something that is not what you view as a traditional sport does not mean their work is not real, and difficult. I dare you to compare top e-sport athlete's training regimens to top Olympic athletes training regimens. I wouldn't be surprised in the least if their schedules were similar." -- Justin Ahn, 22, from Waterloo, Ontario

On MarineKing as an athlete:

"To me, MKP (MarineKing) represents many things. He represents dedication and skill and perseverance. He is one of the best in the world at one of the most difficult endeavors that has ever existed and he is beloved by his fans for good reason. To mention him in the same breath as something bizarre like addiction is to belittle everything he has worked for and everything we as a community value." -- Twitter user @kevinflo, over e-mail

On passion/love vs. addiction:

"They make money doing something they love, which takes hard work, perseverance and sacrifice. What a terrible addiction." -- CNN commenter "Shivy Deo"

On when that passion goes too far:

"We all know that most pro gamers started because they became addicted to gaming, not because they played every now and then. And it was their addiction and their willingness to spend most of their time in front of a computer that made them so good and eligible to become pros. Also, it's not because you make money doing something that makes it OK (just look at gambling). You can rationalize it as much as you want but an addiction is an addiction, period. It means that your life is not balanced and therefore it means you have a problem. Are there other (more conventional) professions in the world like that? Of course there are. But two wrongs don't make one right." -- CNN commenter "diiggas"

On the skill required to be a pro gamer:

"This article did not truly distinguish the difference between game addiction and professional gaming or even gaming as a hobby. I do no(t) believe the article shows the amount of skill needed to be one of the best in the world or how truly big professional gaming has become." -- Justin Pringle, 24, from Augusta, Georgia 

On "physicality" being an important part of athletics:

"I wouldn't call them athletes. The one common denominator with all Olympians is the physicality involved. Even the word athlete refers to physical activity. I have no issues with video gaming, but the Olympics just seems to be the wrong venue." -- CNN commenter "t0of1y"

On video games as physical challenges:

"Their reflexes (physical) approach the zenith of human capability." -- CNN commenter "Fnordian72"

We would love to continue this conversation, so please let us know what you think in the comments section of this post, or message CNN Tech on Twitter or Facebook.

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