Most parents take a dim view of their children playing computer games. With gamers now able to receive national colours for interacting with pixels, that sentiment may change. Someday, L33tk1d may be mentioned with the same revered tones as Danie Craven.
Last year, the Amateur Gaming Association of South Africa (AGASA) announced that local PC gamers would be the first in the world to be awarded national colours. The gamers in question play for a clan called Advanced Special Forces (ASF), representing South Africa at an international Battlefield 2142 online PC gaming tournament held in Taipei every year.
“It is encouraging to see how far gaming has come in South Africa,” said Brett Hamilton, managing director of Electronic Arts South Africa, at the awards ceremony to present ASF with their national colours.
Speaking at the awards ceremony for the Battlefield clan in November last year, Colin Webster, president of Mind Sports South Africa, said the team is the first of its kind to be officially recognised by the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee.
“We hope this team will be the first of many to compete internationally. In 2007, we hope to have things in place to award PC gamers with their Protea colours and be recognised alongside other sports like rugby, cricket and tennis.” Some gaming enthusiasts were thrilled by the news.
“How is virtually running around and shooting people in a strategic shooter any more ridiculous than running around after a piece of leather filled with air? Or shooting at targets with guns or bows?” says online gamer cYn.
Walt Pretorius, editor of online gaming site Headshot SA, says: “I think it is a bit premature. In the future, countries will definitely go this way, but at the moment it is not being taken seriously by people.”
However, not everyone believes that awarding national colours for the efficient use of a mouse and keyboard is a good thing.
“Sport is a competitive activity requiring physical ability, physical fitness and physical skill. Physical interaction in gaming is negligible,” argues another gamer called CaptainCrunch.
“Yes, ASF was the best in the competition and deservedly so, but did they all deserve national colours? If the Cheetahs win the Currie Cup, do they automatically become the Springboks?”
For Pretorius, these are familiar arguments. “If you can get national colours for sitting on your backside playing chess, why can you not get it for playing computer games? Both provide mental challenges to players and should be recognised as such,” he says.
With an abundance of international gaming tournaments on the horizon, debate on the merits of national computer gaming colours will not subside any time soon.