The Southeast Asian Games 2019 featured a mix of competitions that included esports tournaments taking place alongside traditional sports.
The SEA Games 2019 featured Dota 2, Starcraft II, Hearthstone, Tekken 7, Arena of Valor, and Mobile Legends: Bang Bang. This marks the first esports medal event in a multi-sport competition approved by the International Olympic Committee. Sanctioning esports as a medal event at the SEA Games could be the IOC testing the waters in regards to expanding its efforts in esports.
The Philippines hosted this year’s SEA Games. A total of 5,630 athletes participated in 63 different sports including gymnastics, weightlifting, and wrestling.
Arguably the most exciting portion of the SEA Games’ esports contests was the Dota 2 grand finals between Team Philippines and Team Thailand, which saw the Philippines make a huge comeback and take the gold medal.
Team Thailand opened with early aggression and pushed Team Philippines’ backs against the wall with a 17-kill lead. Team Philippines regained some hope in the game after its Phantom Lancer came online, which allowed the squad to take a crucial team fight and turn things around.
Team Thailand tried to push high ground but its Drow Ranger was caught out of position with no buyback. Team Philippines took advantage to turn the tables, leveraging its kitted Razor to melt Thailand’s defensive structures. That mistake cost Thailand dearly and allowed Team Philippines to take gold.
Despite SEA Games, esports in the Olympics remains far off
By the end of the event, Team Philippines won three gold medals in Dota 2, Starcraft II, and Mobile Legends: Bang Bang. Team Thailand came in second by winning gold in Tekken 7 and Arena of Valor. Team Malaysia took first in Hearthstone. Overall, Team Philippines ranked first with a total of five medals while Team Thailand was very close behind with four.
In 2018, the IOC discussed the possibility of esports as a medal event in the Olympic Games. Officials were deep in talks about including esports as a demonstration sport at the 2024 Paris Olympics, but IOC President Thomas Bach told fans that some games were not compatible with Olympic values. Bach pushed back against the violence that takes place in some popular esports titles, while others took umbrage with women being highly sexualized in video games as a whole.
Intel will host an esports event supported by the International Olympic Committee next year. Gold medals are up for grabs in the Intel World Open at Tokyo, Japan. While things seem to be moving in the direction of esports being featured in the Olympics at some point, this is still years away from becoming a reality.