Sept. 5, 2017

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Interregulation: can the prohibition of violence in sports be applied to sports video games?

by Camille Feuillat

The Olympic Committee has just taken a stand: "sports competition" video games are contrary to the "Olympic values", because of their violence.

Can we do anything else? More or something else?

The case is a gap. Indeed, sports activities are regulated in the most traditional way, by administrative texts, administrative supervision, delegations, judicial control. There are rules, both legal and ethical. The most sophisticated rules have been developed, notably on "permissible violence" and that which is not, for example in the field of boxing or rugby, through the notion of "rules of the game".

Video games are at first sight quite different.

They are regulated by other bodies of rules and other regulators, such as the Regulatory Authority for Online Games, when they are played in the digital space.

But the Regulator of online games does not at first sight have competence to apply the "rules of the game" in the perspective of what sport is and the particular integration of the distinction between permissible violence and inadmissible violence.

Assuming that it extends its competence to that dimension, the fact that the blows carried are only "virtually" should necessarily modify the contour and the application of the rules, transforming this regulator of games into a regulator of sports.

Conversely, assuming that the sports regulators are concerned, it is necessary that the analogy between "game" and "sport" should be strong enough for the extension to take place legitimately.

The criterion that poses the problem is precisely le notion of "violence".

Read more below.

And the president of the Olympic Committee has just rejected the analogy, on the grounds that in sports video games, there is a great violence, even a possible death for players acting through virtual characters, which is contrary to the "values Olympic ". The conclusion of the syllogism is therefore that there can be no competitions of such games in Olympic games, because of their violence.

The financial stake is important, and these sports video games have already integrated Asian sports competitions, at the request of the video game industry.

But the response of the chairman of the Committee of the coveted Olympics is clear: "Violent video games have ‘no place at the Olympics’, but e-sports are still in the running".


It will be observed in the first place that the ground of refusal is not the distinction between the virtual and the "real", but the intensity of the violence. However, some "physical" sports also reach very high levels of violence (and are also refused in the context of the Olympic Games).

Secondly, the continuum between the virtual and the "real" becomes more and more fluid. For example, a single regulation has been called for on the Games, whether in the physical space or in the digital space.

With the digital space increasingly allowing the user to be an "actor", the regulation will have to integrate directly the activities that will have to be considered not as "shown" but as "practiced".

Interregulation press, then.

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