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 Is video gaming really a sport? 

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HERE in Pembrokeshire we take sport seriously! Whether its supporting local teams as they advance through country leagues or following the ins and outs of national leagues, there’s a real appetite for sports and sports coverage. While disciplines like football and rugby are still upheld as examples of traditional sporting pursuits, a new discipline has emerged in recent years that is bringing into question just what sports are in the digital era. 

eSports, short for electronic sports, is a burgeoning sector of the gaming industry and a hot topic of debate right now. As digital gaming takes centre stage and professional players are participating in elite-level competitive tournaments, the boundaries between physical sporting pursuits and those that are largely mental are becoming increasingly blurred. So, is video gaming really a sport? Let’s find out.  

An Introduction to eSports

The origins of eSports, short for ‘electronic sports’, can actually be traced back to the early days of the video gaming industry. Even before 21st century innovations catapulted the sector to the world’s stage, avid gamers were travelling on a national basis to participate in in-person video gaming tournaments and events. The term itself emerged during the late 1990s and, as gaming tech became more advanced, eSports would quickly gain momentum. 

Several key events have played a pivotal role in shaping the diverse landscape of competitive gaming. The advent of high-speed internet, cutting-edge PC technology and, of course, the constant development of groundbreaking video games since the early 2000s has launched pro gaming into the mainstream. Meanwhile, titles like League of Legends, StarCraft II and Dota 2 have emerged, providing digital realms for elite-level players to showcase their skills to a global audience.

eSports is now worth somewhere in the region of $1.9 billion and it’s an ecosystem that, much like football, encompasses international tournaments, dedicated leagues, live-streamed competitions, star players and big brands keen to sponsor household names. It is worth noting that electronic sports is actually well connected with the more established mindsports sector. Playing mentally challenging games at a professional, competitive level isn’t limited only to the digital landscape, organised mindsports events have been taking place for decades. 

The Mind Sports Olympiad is just one of many international events offering competition in a vast range of “games for mental skill”, such as chess, bridge, draughts, backgammon and Othello. More recently, the classic card game poker has been added to the list of recognised mindsports, possibly in recognition of the fact that it’s now became a lot more accessible to adult gamers thanks to the numerous ways to learn and participate in the game remotely via operators like PokerStars. In fact, the digitalisation of poker has even led many within the gaming industry to unofficially declare it an eSport, particularly since several notable eSports champions are also successful poker players. 

Pro Gamers are Athletes Too 

Speaking of eSports players, it’s all too easy to assume that the life of a pro gamer is a lot less taxing than a Six Nations rugby player or even a professional snooker player. In truth, however, professional-level gamers are athletes and follow training and performance schedules that are just as packed as those competing in physical sports. 

Sure, gamers aren’t exactly sprinting down a football pitch, but  the demands of competitive gaming require a unique skillset that takes discipline to accrue. Professional gamers must maintain mental acuity, quick reflexes, and strategic thinking — all of which are crucial elements of traditional sports, too.

Staying “in shape” for eSports involves rigorous practice schedules, strategic analysis of opponents and maintaining peak cognitive performance. Nutrition, exercise, and mental wellbeing are all integral to a gamer’s success, especially since the top-ranking players regularly need to travel to attend international championships like The International or the League of Legends World Championships

Does Categorisation Matter?

While nothing will ever take the place of in-person, physical sports events, we are living in an increasingly digitalised world and the roaring success of eSports proves changing tastes of each new generation. Ultimately, what are the attributes that truly define what’s considered a competitive sport? Is it physically, mental prowess or audience engagement? In an era where virtual arenas can draw in millions of viewers and professional gamers become household names, perhaps it’s time to reevaluate traditional definitions. 

One thing that is certain, however, is that pro gamers deserve the same respect and recognition for their dedication, skill and passion as athletes and sports players. Whether video gaming is truly a sport, or if gamers are considered athletes or not, there’s no denying the cultural impact of the former or the commitment of pro and budding eSports players.

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Community

Pembrokeshire’s ‘Pure West Radio’ celebrates sixth birthday

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THERE ain’t no birthday like a Pure West birthday! 

Pure West Radio – Pembrokeshire’s multi-award-winning radio station is celebrating its sixth birthday this month – and is ready to move up a gear when it starts broadcasting on DAB later this summer. 

Pure West, which now has a staff of 12, and a team of over 90 volunteers bringing news, sport, entertainment and information to the airwaves of Pembrokeshire, celebrated its sixth anniversary on April 4 – and decided to share its celebrations with its loyal listeners – giving no fewer than 1,100 of them free tickets to some top local events. 

For the Pure West Team the birthday was marked with a staff party at Seven Spice in Haverfordwest – but for listeners the treats were more varied. 

Pure West Radio joined forces with Ocky White Travel – itself celebrating a 60th anniversary – to give away a cruise holiday to one lucky winner. On April 3 nurse Ffion Thomas, from Johnston, was announced as the winner of the seven-day P&O cruise to the Norwegian Fjords. She is taking her mum along with her as a 60th birthday treat when the Iona sets sail from Southampton on May 18. 

And the giveaways didn’t stop there… Mark Edwards kindly shared 100 free tickets for a celebratory Silent Disco at Eddie Rocks, in Haverfordwest, that were snapped up within an hour – so a hundred more were released; Pure West Radio also teamed up with Hangar 5, also in Haverfordwest, and offered two one-hour free bounces for listeners, but again demand far outweighed expectations, so another hour’s bounce was provided. 

In addition, Pure West Radio joined forces with The Palace Cinema, in Haverfordwest, for a free showing of Shrek – the Movie – but, yet again, a second showing had to be booked to accommodate all those who wanted tickets. 

And sports fans haven’t been left out of the party – Haverfordwest County AFC, media partners of Pure West, have supplied 100 free tickets for the Bluebrids final home game of the season against Colwyn Bay to the broadcaster’s listeners. 

“Our birthday celebrations were immense,” said Toby Ellis, Station Manager, “We gave away 1,100 free tickets to local events to make sure our dedicated listeners and followers were able to join in the party… putting a smile on the faces of more than a thousand Pembrokeshire people. 

“And while the birthday celebrations are winding down – Pure West Radio – the only radio station based in Pembrokeshire – is gearing up for the next phase in our story. 

“The licence for DAB broadcasting is in place – and we hope to go live within the next few months. 

“We’ve expanded our staff and are currently looking for a full-time show producer – so anyone interested should email [email protected] to find out more, and we have some new sponsors – Ocky White Travel is now the official sponsor of Pure West’s daytime show and Folly Farm sponsors the breakfast show. 

“And we’ve teamed up with yet more Pembrokeshire businesses who are taking advantage of our huge reach to spread their message across the county. 

“There really is something for everyone on Pure West Radio – tune in via app, smart speaker and check out our website for the latest going on in Pembrokeshire, he added.” 

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Crime

Suspended sentence for distribution and possession of child abuse images

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IN a controversial decision at Swansea Crown Court, 20-year-old Euwyn Draper of Goat Street, Haverfordwest, has been spared prison time despite admitting to possessing and distributing indecent images of children.

The court heard that Draper pleaded guilty to charges involving 74 Category A images — the most severe — along with 102 Category B and 385 Category C images. These were amassed and shared over a period last year, with specific distributions occurring on November 4, 2022.

Prosecutor Sian Cutter detailed that the investigation began with a raid at Draper’s residence on December 21, 2022. Although Draper was not present, and initial searches of his devices at his home returned no results, subsequent actions led to his arrest at his workplace. Upon confronting law enforcement, Draper immediately acknowledged his awareness of the reasons for their presence, lamenting, “I know why you’re here. I don’t do it anymore. I’m sorry.”

Further examination of his phone revealed not only the indecent images but also concerning internet searches and conversations indicating a focus on children. Notably, Draper had sent one image of each category to a contact named “Ralph” via WhatsApp.

Despite these admissions, Draper, who has no prior convictions, denied a sexual interest in children during his interview.

Representing Draper, defence lawyer Dan Griffiths stressed the defendant’s recognition of the gravity of his offences and highlighted his client’s age and immaturity at the time of the offences. The court also considered the prolonged period since the arrest to the trial, a span of 16 months.

Judge Geraint Walters addressed the court, underscoring the public’s disdain for such crimes and the harsh reality behind the images. “These are real children, they are not actors,” Judge Walters emphasized, condemning the market that drives such exploitative material.

Ultimately, Draper received a suspended sentence of 12 months for distribution and six months, concurrent, for making the images. Over the next two years, he must complete the Horizon programme and 30 days of rehabilitation activities. Additionally, Draper will be registered as a sex offender and is subject to a sexual harm prevention order for ten years.

Judge Walters concluded with a stern admonition for Draper to commit to rehabilitation and to move past this “dark phase” in his life, marking a pivotal moment for the young defendant and the community’s ongoing battle against such digital crimes.

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Community

The Harbourmaster: Special rail excursion draws crowds to Milford Haven

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MILFORD HAVEN witnessed an extraordinary event yesterday as a special charter train, operated by UK Railtours, made a unique visit to the town, drawing in 500 railway enthusiasts. Departing from London Paddington, the 13-carriage train, which included both first class and standard accommodations, travelled off the usual passenger routes to provide a scenic journey along the south Wales coast.

Starting the day with pick-ups from various locations including Slough, Reading, Swindon, and Bristol Parkway, the train ventured through the Severn Tunnel into Wales, showcasing a series of rarely used freight tracks. Notably, the locomotive switched at Newport to a pair of GBRf Class 66 freight engines, enhancing the experience for those on board by traversing tracks seldom seen by passenger services.

The journey took passengers through Cardiff, Bridgend, and Port Talbot Parkway, deviating at Court Sart Junction to follow the diversionary Swansea District line. The train paused at various locations including Llanelli and Haverfordwest, where passengers enjoyed a 90-minute break while the train was serviced.

A major highlight of the trip was the exploration of the seldom-visited Robeston branch, a treat for the rail enthusiasts who filled the train to capacity, necessitating a waiting list for hopeful travellers. The venture concluded at Milford Haven, where passengers disembarked for a photo session before the train commenced its return journey to London, including a final scenic pass via the Swansea Avoiding line and the Bishton flyover.

Local Councillor Nicola Harteveld of Milford Haven Town Council expressed delight at the influx of visitors, noting, “What an incredible sight at Milford Waterfront today with passengers enjoying our local scenery. It’s a testament to the unique charm and appeal of special rail tours.”

First class passengers were treated to The Great British Breakfast and a four-course dinner, while a buffet car served those in standard class, ensuring all passengers enjoyed their journey with comfort and style.

This tour, fully booked in all classes, underscores the continuing enthusiasm for unique rail experiences in the UK, combining a love for heritage rail with the exploration of less-travelled tracks. As the train made its way back to London Paddington, the participants reflected on a day filled with adventure and picturesque landscapes, leaving them with memories of a rare rail journey along the historic and scenic routes of Wales.

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