The Winter X Games are a wrap and in addition to medals awarded for snowboarding, skiing, and snowmobiling, several gamers walked home as X Games medalists. Many athletes commented on their disdain for this fact, and Todd Richards was especially vocal on twitter on the inclusion of video games within the confines of X Games. ESPN, which recently launched an “e-sports” vertical, reached out to Todd to get a real interview on why he is so opposed to the digital revolution. But after receiving his well-thought out responses, the ESPN editors have shied away from running it. Never fear, fair viewer, Todd hit us up with the goods, and here’s the deal.
ESPN E-Sports: hey man, so I’m the new esports editor at ESPN as we just launched the esports vertical. I’ve tried reaching out to Kristi and she initially agreed to talk to me today but backed out. would you be down to answer a few questions about all this, that I think could be much better explained in length than tweets
ESPN: In length, why do you believe esports should not be at specifically the X Games?
Todd: Specifically, I don’t think that an E-sports event should be a medal event at X Games. When Ron Semio came up with the X Games, it was to showcase alternative, physically radical, edge pushing sports that were outside of the box. People got hurt, people risked it all, and have paid in limb and (on a well documented occasions) life to try and get that prestigious X Games gold medal. I don’t believe that rounds of Halo Guardians multiplayer falls into the same category.
ESPN: Do you believe the awards given to esports players in recent years has devalued the award to action sports athletes?
Todd: I do think that the medals handed out for participating in gaming league play have devalued what others have done physically. Why don’t you ask the parents of the snowmobile athlete who lost his life a few years back what they think about X Games medals being given to E Sport participants and those medals holding the same prestigious weight as the ones given to X Games athletes. Notice how I don’t confuse participant with athlete.
ESPN: Is the threat of danger required for it to be an addition to the X Games?
Todd: Yes, I do believe that there is a certain threat of danger that has gone hand in hand with X Games marketing over the years. When the X Games originally launched the “X” was not for x-treme as many may assume. X stood for the unknown, as in, its unknown if you will be walking tomorrow after qualifiers.
ESPN: Hasn’t esports gone through some of the same tribulation action sports have gone through to be accepted by traditional sports fans, why go after esports?
Todd: Look, I’m a massive gamer. I have been, since blowing hundreds of dollars learning the patterns of Dragons Lair and Space Ace at arcades in the 80s. I buy every magazine, I read IGN religiously ( even listen to Greggy’s podcasts) , and have been to E3 every year for the past 10. I consider myself deeply immersed in the culture of gaming. However, I will never confuse an actual physical activity with a virtual one. Regardless of E Sports going through the same ups and downs as snowboarding or skateboarding did in its infancy, it’s just not the same thing. Skating and snowboarding are extremely physically taxing activities. I wouldn’t say I’m “going after” e sports, just want to point out something that many of us that have competed in X Games over the years are thinking. Unfortunately or fortunately as the case may be, I’m usually the one within snowboarding to openly voice the opinion of the whole.
ESPN: The esports events hosted at X Games have brought in large viewership online, social interaction, and solid competition – should that not be enough? Or is it because the X Games is the definitive championship for action sports athletes, while esports players have several other championship events?
Todd: I think that competitive gaming has a future. The numbers do not lie as you have stated. I really have the problem with X Games using e-sports to keep viewership up instead of being maybe a bit more creative with what they have already. You are right when you say that X Games is/has been/ the definitive event for action sports athletes. Anyone who has won an X Games gold, or any other medal there, can attest to what it takes to really climb that mountain and achieve that. I personally have competed with broken ribs, rolled ankles and in near white out conditions to try and go home with the gold at X Games. I just don’t see a comparison between guys in Astro gaming headsets, coordinating rush assaults on another team in a back room of a hotel, to be the same thing. In conclusion, I think that video games are amazing. It’s a way for me to escape my reality and I use them as a form of digital therapy at times. It’s impressive what these guys are making from their accomplishments in tournaments and wish them the best of luck. I just have a problem with them getting the same X Games medals as the men and women who have to hit 80 foot jumps to try and get the same prestige.