It is widely accepted that video gaming emerged from homes and arcades into a recognized sport sometime between 1999 and 2005, but there’s still a lot of debate around what to call competitive electronic sports. Depending on the source, country, and context, it might be written any of the following ways: esports, eSports, Esports, ESports, E-Sports, e-sport, Cybersport, Virtualsports, and more. According to the Online Gamers Association (OGA), the first recorded instance of the term was “eSports” in a 1999 press release.
A quick search on Google Trends demonstrates different preferences across time and region:
In 2015, the lexicographers from Dictionary.com tried to settle the issue by incorporating the word into their entries as “esports. This was a milestone for the industry, as it was the first time the term received an official definition from a prestigious dictionary source. The Urban Dictionary and the online versions of the Cambridge and Oxford dictionaries have opted to continue using e-sport.
Because the English language has no academic or regulatory institution, whatever the major dictionaries use becomes commonly accepted. But the media and scholarly ecosystems do have governing bodies overseeing the use of language in their areas of interest.
The Associated Press style guide has followed Dictionary.com’s recommendation for “esports” since its 2017 edition. However, in the editorial world, you will find examples in any direction, even including inconsistency depending on the day. For example:
- esports: BBC, ESPN, The Guardian, The Esports Observer, and Esports Insider
- eSports: Daily Mirror, Marca, and Gazzetta
- E-sports: The Verge and Bangkok Post
This naming division is also seen in the academic world. A Google Scholar search reveals that the scientific community leans toward “esports.” However, “esports” is also the word for “sport” in the Catalan language, which undoubtedly affects these results:
|Total entries||% of total|
|Search results from Google Scholar, January 2019. The terms “e-sport” and “cybersport” were excluded from the search due to how the search engine aggregates them. The search cannot distinguish capital letters, so references from esports, Esports and eSports are grouped.|
So, how should we write it?
- To remove the universal ambiguity from the term, I propose the universal adoption of esports, based on its extensive public and academic usage.
- Regions like Russia and Commonwealth of Independent States should maintain the term cybersports, which is the way these cultures defined the sector.
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