In addition to all the changes brought about by Covid-19, another thing that makes the Tokyo Olympics special is the first-ever Olympic Virtual Series. But it didn’t seem to cause much of a stir, despite Hong Kong’s efforts to shine on the racing track.
Taking place from May 13 to June 23, the OVS – made up of virtual sailing, cycling, rowing, motorsport and baseball – aims to reach new Olympic audiences while also encouraging the development of physical and non-physical forms of sport.
Hong Kong virtual racer Standford Chau became the first Hong Kong racer to compete in the final on June 23 after qualifying second in Asia, finishing 11th out of 16 competitors.
The news is undoubtedly encouraging amid the government’s efforts to promote the local e-sports industry in recent years, such as allocating HK$100 million to Cyberport for e-sports development in the 2018-19 budget.
However, the general public’s understanding of the development of e-sports still requires improvement, a recent survey showed.
The survey, which was conducted by a research team from Hong Kong Baptist University’s sport, physical education and health department, interviewed about 1,500 respondents aged 15 or above between April to December last year via phone to understand the public’s opinions on the development of e-sports in Hong Kong.
In addition, a questionnaire survey was also conducted across 2,100 tertiary and secondary school students to understand the nature of their participation in e-sports.
Among the 1,500 telephone survey respondents, 72 percent of them said they support the development of e-sports in Hong Kong, while 69 percent of them said they believed the government should subsidize development.
However, 19 percent of respondents had no knowledge that e-sports will be part of the Asian Games next year and almost half considered e-sports to be the same as video games.
More than half of the respondents disagreed or strongly disagreed with the view that e-sports is a genuine sporting event, and nearly half did not agree with the statement that e-sports should be an official event at the Asian Games.
The survey also found that a lack of resources, undesirable development prospects and a lack of development policies for e-sports are some of the factors causing student respondents to be reluctant to devote themselves to a career in e-sports.
E-sports development has become increasingly worthy of attention, especially during the pandemic, as people worldwide went into home quarantine.
According to Nielsen, the League of Legends Champions League game alone has logged some 35 million viewing hours and 550,000 viewers at one point, the highest in four years.
The Report on Promotion of E-sports Development in Hong Kong issued by Cyberport says there are more than 300,000 e-sports players in Hong Kong, showing that there is no shortage of local talent.
For example, in the FIFAe Nations Cup 2021, Hong Kong teams defeated China and played against their archrivals, South Korea.
“E-sports is a major global development trend in the electronic technology, sports and entertainment industries,” said Chung Pak-kwong, a professor at HKBU’s sport, physical education and health department team and the research team leader.
“The government should seize the opportunity to formulate a policy for the development of e-sports in Hong Kong, and deploy more resources to the upgrading of hardware as well as encouraging educational institutions to offer academic programs related to the industry to cultivate e-sports professionals.”
Like other athletes, e-sports players are also limited by age and need to think about their future after retirement.
The career of e-sports players depends on the surrounding industries of e-sports, and Chung sugested the government consider statutory regulations for the e-sports industry.
“The government should also formulate subsidy schemes for training and competitions, as well as a retirement protection plan for professional athletes so that young people will be confident in devoting themselves to the e-sports industry,” he said.
(This article was published at The Standard on July 6, 2021: Education: The cursor is in your court )