We’ve written satire pieces about what could be included in the Khmer440 games in the past but now some serious games are coming to Cambodia. The country has been officially confirmed as the host of the 32nd Southeast Asian Games in 2023, and the games will be held in the capital Phnom Penh. This will mark the first time the competition has ever been played in the nation, and it is an exciting prospect. It is even more thrilling thinking about what kind of futuristic games could take place at the huge event. In five years’ time, there is a real possibility that eSports and mind sports could be included in the biennial multi-sport event. But what are these things, and why would they be on the roster at the Southeast Asian Games?
Competitive gaming, otherwise known as eSports, is becoming increasingly popular all over the world and is beginning to be recognized as a serious sport. In 2016, the global eSports market was valued at $493 million but this is projected to rise to $1.49 billion by 2020. In the past, people may have frowned on the idea of actually giving medals to people who play games for a living but with technology moving forward rapidly and the games involving much higher levels of skill, the world is starting to take note. Competitive gaming has been in existence since 1972 when Stamford University students took part in a Spacewar tournament. Since then, with the advent of the internet and more advanced computers, competitive gaming has shot to new heights.
In the 2000s, televised eSports became popular, with South Korea leading the way. The Asian country began to regularly show StarCraft and Warcraft III competitions on the game channels Ongamenet and MBCGame. Then, since 2010, online streaming services like Twitch and YouTube Gaming have helped to spread eSports to the masses, and now people even watch live eSports tournaments. The International, which is one of the biggest eSports tournaments in the world, brings in millions of viewers and, in 2016, had a record-breaking prize pool of over $20 million. As viewing figures continue to boom, it would not be surprising at all to see gaming tournaments featured in major events like the Southeast Asian Games in the near future.
Another type of challenge that may be considered for the games in Cambodia is mind sports. Mind sports have been in existence for a long time but have never been contested alongside physical sports in the same events. There have, however, been competitions which were solely dedicated to the games that test intellectual ability. These have included the World Mind Sports Games in Beijing in 2008 and the World Chess Championships, which have been contested annually since 1886. Mind sports encompass all types of games that require players to overcome their opponents through intellectual ability. Chess has long been deemed to be the paramount game for outwitting opponents but other offerings like poker and draughts are now also considered as strong games for assessing mental ability.
The International Federation of Poker won a provisional membership to the International Mind Sports Association in 2009 and has been making a case for inclusion in major sporting events due to the fact that professional players are proving that it is a game of skill rather than chance. If poker was to become a serious event, there are plenty of different casino game variants that could be used as well to keep viewers entertained such as Caribbean Stud and 3-card poker, which are popular with online gamers and offered by a variety of online casino sites.
The fact that there are already many televised poker events watched by thousands, such as the World Series of Poker, which was viewed by 615,000 people, suggests that games like this would be welcomed in the Southeast Asian Games. Draughts professionals also have a biennial tournament on odd years called the Draughts World Championships, with the World Title Match being held on even years. The event has been going since 1885 and has been dominated by Russia, who have won 18 times since 1992. Like chess and poker, draughts can also easily be practiced online nowadays. Mind sports can encompass many different games, and who knows, even Connect Four could be an option to include in mind sports tournaments one day.
The reason that it is a very real possibility that eSports and mind sports will be included in the Southeast Asian Games when they take place in Cambodia, is the fact that the Olympic Council of Asia has already announced that eSports will be a medal event at the 2022 Asian Games in China. They will also appear as a demonstration event at next year’s games. If eSports make the grade, then it stands to reason that organizers of these major sporting events may also consider mind sports. No matter what events take place though, the games are sure to be a hit in Cambodia.