SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward has never been shy about his love for video games, and in an editorial published Thursday in The Player’s Tribune he makes “The Case for Gaming.”
Hayward has gotten attention for his video game enthusiasm before, as he wrote a blog post in 2014 saying he could crush LeBron James one-on-one… in the video game League of Legends.
Now, in Thursday’s editorial, Hayward opens by recalling an awkward conversation with a future coach about getting permission to play in a “Halo” tournament.
“Yeah … I’m on a team with some friends and there’s a cash prize, so I just want to make sure it’s cool with the NCAA.”
“A video game tournament?”
“Uhhhh, okay, let me look into that and get back to you.”
Hayward says he has always loved video games, citing older classics like “Contra” “Duck Hunt” and “Double Dragon” as well as his fondness for “The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.”
He said the fast moving puzzles foster an active mind and enhance hand-eye coordination–traits an NBA star probably knows a little bit about.
Hayward compares the appeal of video games to the appeal of competing in sports, saying that as a teenager he used to get moody based on how he’d performed while playing “Halo” online. He said he played so much his parents set a time limit on his digital gaming and would even shut off the household Internet connection to get him to go to bed.
“Some people might classify that as an addiction, but my gaming hobby didn’t hinder my development as a basketball player or student,” Hayward said. “In fact, having passions outside of sports probably made me better at them in the long run.”
Hayward goes on to make the case for competitive eSports and the people who like watching them, noting the increased complexity and strategy in current games like “Starcraft 2”. He also had some harsh words for anyone who doesn’t like the term “professional” applied to gaming.
“Now some of you might be confused as to why I’m using the term “professionals” when referring to video game players” Hayward said. “Well, in the past few years in particular, professional gaming has become a thing, and it’s becoming more and more of a thing. This isn’t even a fringe culture. It’s a movement, really. And as a non-gamer, you can either acknowledge this fact, or you can be wrong.”
Hayward said he isn’t defending gaming, because he said the activity does not need defending. He said he just wants people to recognize the way video game culture has become mainstream.
“Because whether you acknowledge or not, you’re probably a gamer,” he said. “Have you ever felt a certain rush when a perfect candy arrives and takes out multiple rows? You’re a gamer. Have you killed some time by flinging a bird into a rudimentary structure? Gamer. Have you moved even numbers around to make them add up to 2048? That’s gaming, bro.”