Amongst the many sports tournaments around the world, the Commonwealth Games ranks as one of the prestigious, owing to its reach of viewers and the recognition that comes with winning awards from it. When athletes want to make a comeback from a hiatus, they bounce back with winning the Commonwealth Games. Case in point is Julius Yego, who will be representing Kenya in the javelin category in the tournament taking place in Birmingham from July 28th to August 8th. The Commonwealth is a political association comprised of majorly former British Colonies and whose membership is voluntary, which enables countries like Rwanda, a former French colony to be part of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth Games enables countries to come together and celebrate each other through sports. 


Last week, two Kenyans qualified for the E-sports category of the Commonwealth Games. E-sports is a category of sports involving electronic games commonly called video games. It is part of the larger 200 billion dollar gaming industry dominated by companies like Electronic Arts, famous for FIFA video game and Rockstar Games the company behind Grand Theft Auto (GTA). These games are very popular with teenagers and young adults especially in urban and peri urban areas. There is also the culture of hiring a console for a day or night just to play FIFA and GTA. Gamers will be happy to note that E sports has now become a career of its own, where there are professional gamers who earn a living from gaming on a 'full-time' basis just other professional sports men and women like footballers and athletes. 


The E-Sports market in Kenya is not fully grown but has the potential to, owing to, one, a youthful, techno-savvy population, internet penetration and support from technology and telecommunications companies, some of which have a presence in the country like Microsoft and Safaricom respectively. While this is taking place, there has been a lot of focus to get persons with disabilities into the information technology world through various initiatives that teach basic digital literacy skills. More to this, technology and business incubation stakeholders have been vouching for more disability led startups to address challenges faced by persons with disabilities from a sustainable perspective of doing things and move away from the charity model of embracing persons with disabilities. 


Furthermore, persons with disabilities are more dependent on technology than any other segment of the population due to the level of independence brought about by technology. For instance, prior to the emergence and rise of online shopping, persons with disabilities relied on friends to do the shopping for them or find someone to accompany them to the supermarket.  But with online shopping,  a person with disability can do their shopping without involving too many participants. To persons without disabilities,  that's convenience. To those with disabilities, that's independence. 


Despite progress made in disability awareness and disability involvement, there exists pockets of low level 'discrimination', especially at the international level. Disability activists have always taken issue with why Paralympics are held separately and long after the Olympics are over, instead of demonstrating inclusion and running both Olympics and Paralympics concurrently. Even beyond sports, the term special needs has been taken to perpetuate and entrench inspiration kind of attention, which inhibits the need to see persons with disabilities as ordinary human beings who should be treated as equal as everyone else. 


With E-sports, persons with disabilities have an equal chance of proving themselves without having to use the special needs tag in the tournament. This is because in gaming, the player assumes a different form all together that does not show a disability. This means that the negative connotations linked to appearance with a disability do not apply here.

In addition, about a billion people watch each other play on platforms like Twitch and YouTube. With this, one can improve on their skill and showcase their talents much to the attention of corporate sponsors who bankroll sports personalities in the world courtesy of advertising and merchandise selling. 


Beyond the entertainment value, E Sports concepts could be integrated into education to make learning more enjoyable especially when applied to complex learning related to technology or other disciplines. Such an approach makes learning attractive and also help to develop disability conscious products on the part of technology companies.


Lets play on. Shall we?




Muriithi Ndiritu