The last few years have seen a boom in the world of eSports. International tours, grand tournaments, millions of dollars in prize money and screen time on big-name media providers like the BBC and ESPN have seemingly put us on the cusp of a revolution that has been promised for so long. But while the likes of Overwatch, Counterstrike, Dota and Streetfighter are fine, aside from FIFA and Madden, there currently doesn’t seem to be much interest in video game versions of actual sports.
After completely missing the Bitcoin boat, I wanted to see if I could make a fortune for myself as an eSports promoter before the whole thing became a den of iniquity awash with performance-enhancing drugs and bankrolled by organised crime. And I thought I’d spotted a gap in the market. My plan was to create the perfect combination of athletic excellence and video game excitement by combining eSports and The Olympics to create….The E-lympics. And with the actual Winter Olympics taking place in South Korea, that seemed like the perfect place to start.
Immediately, however, there was a problem. The only officially licenced game for Pyeongchang 2018 was Steep: Road to the Olympics edition, which had way too hipster an attitude for my liking. Far too much flapping about in wingsuits and not enough official events and jobsworth bureaucracy. As for the 2014 Sochi games, well the only option there was a Mario & Sonic offering, and there was no way even the International Olympic Committee could be bribed into recognising a cannonballing blue hedgehog and a plumber who sometimes passes himself off as a pill-pushing doctor, as legitimate competitors. I, therefore, needed to look back even further to the Vancouver games, where I finally found what I was looking for.
Vancouver 2010 is an extremely traditional Olympics title. A selection of popular winter sports whose complexities were sculpted from the frozen landscapes on which they were born, reduced to a procession of reheated mini-games.
Accessible but exacting, they seemed like the ideal introduction to eSports, but I knew that alone wouldn’t be good enough. eSports already has a bloated roll call of famous competitors like Fatal1ty and Faker, while the Olympics has been graced by eye-catching names such as Picabo Street and Max Parrot (and you can’t get more parrot than Max Parrot). What I needed was a superstar. A hero. A Tom Cruise of the luge. The illegitimate love child of Serena Williams and Frosty the Snowman.
Lamentably, Vancouver 2010 was of little help in this regard. There was no Game Face option to insert your own likeness into the game, no character creator, you couldn’t even edit competitors’ names. So, I was forced to go off-piste. I found an avatar maker and got to work. I wanted to build the ultimate virtual Winter Olympian, part Alberto Tomba, part Eddie ‘The Eagle’ Edwards, part Torvill and Dean. And after literally seconds of painstaking craftsmanship, I had what I was looking for. The new poster boy of the Winter E-lympics. The downhill Don Juan, the Snow Gigolo: Ken Slalom.
With Ken on board, it was time to get some sport underway. First up, the blue ribbon event of the winter games, the Men’s Downhill.
Before I began, I did a quick bit of research and saw that, at the actual Vancouver 2010 Games, the Downhill was won by Switzerland’s Didier Défago in a time of 1.54.31. As everyone knows, one of the fastest and easiest ways to make a name for yourself is to break a record. If I could guide Ken to a quicker performance, surely that would create some immediate buzz.
Standing at the top of the run, with the radiant winter sunshine casting its rays on the crystal smooth snow, I felt like anything was possible. It was time for my polygonal protégé to announce his arrival on the world stage.
Ken shoved off to a chorus of cowbells and cheering spectators and began his descent cutting a dashing figure thanks to his impressive speed and rakish alpine knitwear. It was poetry in motion. The perfect mix of professional sport and Milk Tray advert. And the time: 2.23.61.
Wait, 2.23.61? THAT’S BASICALLY 30 SECONDS OFF THE ACTUAL GOLD MEDAL!
This wasn’t just bad. It was an embarrassment. Winning the Downhill, it turned out, was going to be an uphill struggle.
In retrospect, I probably should have insisted that Ken swap his scarf for one of those skin-tight ski suits to improve streamlining, but that’s not the way Ken Slalom rolls. After a couple more practise runs, I worked out that the only way I was going to have any chance of coming close to the gold time was to abandon braking all together. So on the next go, that’s exactly what I did. The consequences, were tragic.
Rounded a particularly tight corner at full pelt, I hit a crest and something went badly wrong. I lost control of Ken who went airborne, missed the next gate and crashed head-first into the orange safety netting marking the edge of the course. On the slow motion reply, he looked like an incredibly handsome torpedo. The aftermath, looked like a cross between a Saw film and a Wham! video. And as the paramedics/clean up team rushed in, I did what any respectable event promoter would do….I ran away.
With Ken no longer able to ski (or breathe) without assistance, I decided to cut my losses and move on to something much less dangerous: ski jumping.
eSports currently boasts an impressive sizzle reel of spectacular highlights. What I wanted, was a moment worthy of joining the likes of Justin vs Daigo from EVO 2004. And what could be more attention-grabbing than the sight of a man leaping to gold at the same Olympics that ended his father’s career.
That man was Ken Slalom II. #SonofSlalom.
Ski jumping is perhaps the most complex of all the games in Vancouver 2010. A competitor’s final score is made up of a combination of style points and distance achieved. You need to judge the wind, time your push off and launch points, balance your skis in the air and stick your landing. This time, my target score over two jumps was a colossal 283.6 points set by Switzerland’s Simon Ammsnn, the actual 2010 Large Hill champion.
For an hour and a half I practised linking together each of the individual elements that would combine to make the perfect jump. Finally, it was time for my first official attempt. I sent Ken Jr. rocketing down the ramp, shot him into the skies and returned him to the ground with an assured landing. It was as good a jump as I had ever produced and it scored me a 145.3. If I could reproduce something similar with my second effort, I would have done it.
For my second run, the pressure was intense and, unsurprisingly given the magnitude of the moment, the nerves got to me. I misread the wind, pushed off at an inopportune moment, got my skis all skew-whiff in flight and had to wrestle desperately with the analogue sticks to avert a crash landing. I waited in anticipation for the final score to come in. Had I done enough? The result was a total of 281.3. An agonising 2.3 marks off my target.
By now, I don’t mind admitting that positivity within the E-lympics hierarchy was running at an all-time low. But no one becomes an E-lympics legend by quitting after a couple of failures. So I mustered the courage for one last try, this time, in the Women’s Aerials.
For this event, I needed to find a new, female competitor of international calibre, at incredibly short notice. The chances of achieving this looked virtually impossible, but, after chatting with Ken Jr, it turned out he actually had a sister no one had ever heard of before who was actually a world class aerialist (?)
Her name, was Kennita.
I know, what are the odds, eh?
No matter how good Kennita was, the task facing her and I was a step one. Aerials requires competitors to launch off a near-vertical ramp and fling themselves around in the air, trying to perform the most complex tricks possible. It’s a sport for those who think bear-baiting has got too safety-conscious.
My first few practise runs basically saw me leaving Kennita dangling upside down in the lower atmosphere, but I regarded them as successes as they were fatality free and provided a grounding in the coordination hell of rotating analogue sticks in different directions necessary to execute different moves.
After a while, though, things began to improve, and I was able to pull off the easy and medium difficulty jumps with a degree of competence. Time, however, was starting to run out, so I decided to go for broke and commence my official attempt.
My first effort went well. A respectable Back Full-Double Full with a 3.525 degree of difficulty saw me score a 93.1. As competent as it was, though, after doing some very rough maths, I realised it meant I was going to have to attempt a Back Lay-Triple Full-Full to have any chance of beating the actually Vancouver 2010 winning mark of 214.74 set by Australian, Lydia Lassila. It was the hardest jump available, one I had tried just a few times before, and only ever landed once.
Defiantly, I slid down the approach slope and hit the ramp. As I performed a thumb-based version of River Dance on the controller, Kennita went soaring into the sky, tumbling and pirouetting like an elegant force of nature, before plunging back to earth. When she landed, I punched the air with delight and disbelief. The score was an incredible 222.6. Forget the haters, forget the months/weeks/minutes of torturous training, forget Kennita, finally, I had done it. ME! I had proven that an E-lympic athlete was greater than a real one and that all other e-Sports should knee before my creation. The E-lympics were all about inclusivity, perseverance and equality, and thanks to them, I had become a god.
DEFINITELY A WEAK-END.
N.B. – Following the withdrawal of the E-den Project from consideration, if you know of a place beginning with the letter ‘E’ that would like to host the next E-lympics in Summer 2020, please contact your local politician and ask them to put forward a formal offer. The most bribe-laden bid package will be declared the winner.