Could the Island Games Get an Esports Competition?

The Island Games are always an exciting time for residents of Jersey. A festival atmosphere takes over the island, just like it does in other competing islands, territories, and nations. The last time Jersey welcomed athletes from the likes of the Isle of Man, Gotland, Bermuda, and Orkney was 2015, but nearby Guernsey was the last country to have hosting duties back in 2023. 

Since the inaugural Island Games back in 1985, Jersey has picked up an impressive 1819.3 medals (the other 0.7 of a medal was shared with Iceland), making it the most successful participant in the history of the event. 

Unlike some other major multi-disciplinary athletics tournaments like the Olympic Games and the Commonwealth Games, the International Island Games Association allows the host nation to choose which sports will be taking place at their event. This means that each running of the games has a slightly different combination of competitions. 

For example, swimming and athletics have featured at all 19 past Island Games, but squash has only appeared four times, while ten-pin bowling is a sport that’s appeared twice. Does this mean, then, that esports could one day be added to the Island Games?

What Are Esports?

Esports are competitive video games where players compete through a computer, console, or smartphone rather than on a field, pitch, or course. There is some debate about whether esports should be categorised as sport but, by most metrics, esports do tick all of the boxes. Regardless, esports have been enjoying a lot of growth in popularity and scale in recent years, making this entire debate somewhat moot. 

There are many different categories of esports, including first-person shooters like Call of Duty and strategy titles like Dota 2. You can also find esports for digital recreations of physical sports like Formula 1, football, and cricket with games like F1 23 and EA Sports FC. 

There are also some sports that blur the line between esports and physical sports, and the most notable of these is poker. This is because the skills required to play online poker and live games are very similar, allowing players to (more or less) seamlessly switch between the two formats. 

For example, switching from online to live tournaments will present some challenges as these two are played somewhat differently. Online tournaments can often be much faster paced thanks to the regular turbo and hyper turbo options, while live tournaments require players to practice their patience much more. 

Could Esports Make It into the Island Games?

Since we know that hosts of the Island Games can choose their list of sports, could Jersey or another island add esports to the mix?
Right now, the International Island Games Association has a list of 18 different disciplines that hosts can select ranging from archery to athletics. Currently, esports is not one of these 18.
For Jersey or another island to select esports, it would first require the association to accept esports onto its approved list. Sadly, at present, there does not appear to be any serious conversations taking place to do this. 

There is precedent for such a move, however. In 2018, the Asian Games in Jakarta and Palembang introduced esports as a demonstration event. At the next games in 2022, esports were upgraded to medal events with a total of 21 being awarded across seven different competitions. The esports featured were Arena of Valor, Dota 2, Dream Three Kingdoms 2, League of Legends, Peacekeeper Elite, EA Sports FC Online, and Street Fighter V. 

In 2018, a different mix of games were included for demonstration purposes only: Clash Royale, Hearthstone, StarCraft II, and Pro Evolution Soccer. 

How Would Jersey Fare in Esports Competitions?

As we know, Jersey is a powerhouse in the Island Games, having racked up the biggest medal haul of all participating islands. However, that doesn’t tell us how it will fare if esports were added to the tournament. 
According to Esports Earnings, Jersey currently ranks 140th in the rankings of nations and territories when it comes to total prize winnings. This puts it directly behind the Isle of Man in 139th place, as well as Gibraltar in 106th, the Faroe Islands in 127th, and Greenland in 124th spot. 

With that in mind, it’s unlikely that Jersey will push for an esports event in the Island Games any time soon.

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