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HBO's 'Real Sports' debates the merits of eSports

Samit Sarkar (he/him) is Polygon’s deputy managing editor. He has more than 15 years of experience covering video games, movies, television, and technology.

During a debate on whether eSports is a sport on last night's end-of-2013 round-up episode of HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, the panelists didn't just say no — they laughed eSports, its fans and gamers altogether out of the studio entirely.

The discussion followed a feature story on League of Legends and its Season 3 World Championship by Real Sports correspondent Soledad O'Brien, a segment that aired in the monthly show's October 2013 episode. (HBO Go subscribers can watch the full episode here.)

O'Brien's story was respectful of eSports as a fast-growing field in the gaming sphere. But the roundtable segment last night dismissed eSports, with panelists including Mary Carillo, Frank Deford and Bernard Goldberg cracking jokes about Star Trek conventions and the millions of fans who watched the Season 3 World Championship online being "crazy."

The clip above is an excerpt from the full discussion; the episode is not yet available online.

In an interview regarding her original story and the year-end roundtable, O'Brien told OnGamers that she personally believes eSports is a sport, saying, "Anything that has a high-level dedicated structure, business model, prize money and an elite competitive level is a sport." But she added, "Whether or not eSports is a sport isn't important," because the global success of League of Legends and the competitive environment in eSports make that discussion moot.

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