The 2022 Asian Games is set to have a significant esports presence and that’s really good news for Korean stars such as Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok.
The Asian Electronic Sports Federation is collaborating with the Olympic Council of Asia to feature eight official medal events at the 2022 Asian Games. This will see esports stars from across Asia given medals in an Olympics-recognized event.
The list of games includes many prominent esports titles, as well as some favorites within the Asia-Pacific region:
Alongside the eight medal events will be two demonstration events for AESF games named Robot Masters and VR Sports. No other details were given on these games and they will not count towards medal counts. Arena of Valor and PUBG Mobile will both have special versions made to accommodate the Asian Games’ competitive format.
Esports being a medal event in the 2022 Asian Games was previously announced in 2020 but it was unknown which games would be a part of it. Confirmation of multiple major esports in Dota 2, League of Legends, and Street Fighter V ensures that some big names will likely be a part of the event.
The inclusion of esports in the 2022 Asian Games is a major moment for the esports industry. The Asian Games is one of the largest international sporting events in the world and is widely considered to be behind only the likes of the Olympic Games and the World Cup. Having a major sports body in the Olympic Council of Asia put its seal of approval on esports after some questionable takes on the matter by the International Olympic Committee is a positive sign in regards to esports’ long-term future.
That said, the Asian Games will hold an incredible significance to Korean competitors like Faker. The inclusion of esports in the 2022 Asian Games as a medal event offers Korean players that earn a gold medal the opportunity to get an exemption for their mandatory military service.
South Korea requires all men to serve time in the Korean military between ages 18 and 28. This is a major trouble for competitors and artists of all sorts as it effectively shaves at least three years off of their top earning years.
Exemptions from service are often given to individuals who win gold in international sporting events. The most notable example of this is baseballer and 2008 Olympic gold medalist Hyun-Jin Ryu who pivoted from Korea’s KBO League to the MLB in 2013 at age 25, something that likely wouldn’t have been possible with two seasons out of commission. This has been controversial to some degree as it’s seen as giving the rich and famous a pass.
In League of Legends, nobody has been able to restart their esports career after leaving to serve in the military. It’s not impossible to still be successful in esports after leaving for the military, with Dota 2 pro Park “March” Tae-won having his best competitive year in 2019 after being out of commission from 2016 to 2018. That said, players like Faker reap major benefits from the opportunity to avoid those career hurdles.