Pro Gamers Are Athletes, Says US Government

Pro Gamers Are Athletes, Says US Government

Pro gamers may now travel to the United States on the same visas given to professional athletes, thanks to a long lobbying effort by Riot Games, the makers of the eSports staple League of Legends.

Riot told GameSpot about the effort in a video interview published yesterday. “It was a lengthy process,” said Nick Allen, the eSports manager for Riot. “We had a lot of people fighting for this.”

Allen called the decision “groundbreaking for eSports; now we can start looking at international players when they come over. It’s a much easier process because they’re actually recognised by the government. This is a huge thing.”

In the video, Allen goes into further detail about Riot going back and forth with the government, ultimately providing evidence that pro gaming was a sport.

So there it is: professional gaming is a sport, according to the US government, the same way the US Supreme Court said video games are works of art. Next time someone scoffs at you, you may trot this out and watch someone stammer and twitch.

US government recognises League of Legends players as pro athletes [GameSpot]


  • Eh, I don’t know. I’m still held back a bit from calling “pro gamers” athletes. Especially when athletics is mostly about physical strength and endurance, whereas gaming is sitting in a chair.

    Or maybe it’s mainly because of the negative and poisonous attitude that usually surrounds gamers.

    • i am an armchair athelete

      it takes endurance to sit in this chair for days on end without eating or crapping you know

      fear the strength of my abdomen

      • Aww! You know they are on a disciplined diet of Pizza Hut and McDonalds and mum’s home cookin’.

    • You’re missing an important part of this article. ProGaming teams are now recognized under the same VISA as athletes, which will make them traveling to competitions significantly easier. It’s not saying that gaming is an athletic activity, it’s purely the technicality of getting the visas to enter the country.

      Gaming being a sport doesn’t mean that it’s a physical sport. It’s on the same kind of page as professional shooting as a sport; that doesn’t involve running around and general fitness.

  • This is really awesome news. I think this will help pro gamers in many ways. It’s hard enough making big money with eSports and now that it’s easier to get a visa to the US it should attract more players to compete at the top… When you think about it pro gamers are athletes without question. They train hard and must be in top phyical and metal condition to compete.

    • There are a ton of fat “pro gamers” The hell you talking about, being in top physical condition.

  • Now we need to start shifting athlete to mean ‘competitive sport player’, and sport as a form of sorta-pacifist competition. So we’d have esports, p(hysical) sports, m(ental) sports and d(exterity) sports, depending on the main focus(since pretty much every sport is going to include elements of several).

  • Good news for competitive gamers I guess.

    But how come we’re not sticking to the term ‘eSport’? Since it would be useful in the English language to have a different word for something that requires physical effort compared to something that’s limited to thumb movements, mouse clicks and keyboard presses.

    I just don’t know how I can tell my family that I’m a ‘sports athlete’ when I’m just winning games of CoD.

    • I just don’t know how I can tell my family that I’m a ‘sports athlete’ when I’m just winning games of CoD.

      You’ll notice the article just says “athlete”, not “sports athelete”.

      Esports and regular physical sports are different, in the same way email and regular mail is different. You still receive mail, but it’s different. In the same way the players are still athletes, but different.

      • One is physical, takes effort, feels more rewarding and has substance… the other imaginary and only happens ever on the internet?

        • One is physical, the other is virtual.

          Both take effort, although one primarily mental and one primarily physical.

          Both feel rewarding, otherwise why on earth would anyone pursue gaming as a career? Professional gaming tournaments came about by the same process that sporting tournaments came about. People wanted to find out who was the best and gathered to do so. These then grew as the player base and interest in the competition grew.

          As for substance, what do you mean by substance?

          • Sorry, I love my games but I’ll never equate any gaming competition as an athletic one. I just can’t. Consider it ignorant if you will but it’s just not within me to do so. When I think of an athlete I consider someone at the peak of their physical prowess. As Mike Tarno below says, eAthlete, I can do, but Athlete, no.

          • A competition is a competition.

            Finding out who can run the fastest is – at it’s core – no different then finding out who can gank the best. The reason that these competitions exist is not to find people at their physical peak, it’s to find people who are the best at something.

            A cyclist is a completely different type of athlete from a power lifter. It’s not about how they’ve trained to become the best, simply that they have trained to become the best and now they’re going up against each other to find out who is the best.

            EDIT: Let’s have some perspective here. One of the greatest sportsmen our country has ever seen is Shane Warne. A man who famously feasted on baked beans while on tour.

          • I just don’t think I’ll ever recognise them as such. I don’t see why it’s so important to you both (well, less so you trjn you’ve only said two things and both are well said) but moreso whitepointer, I think you’re just going to have to accept it and move on.

          • I’m arguing because I love sports. The reasons I mentioned are why I love sports and why I watch eSports.

            If you limit it to just physical prowess, you’re missing all of the beauty that is sports.

          • Not at all, I compete in sports on an amateur level frequently in martial arts. I enjoy watching sports on a weekly basis as well. Sports such as driving etc calls for a high level of fitness and endurance, mental aptitude and reflexes due to the inherent dangers the driver faces. I just see no minimum ‘standards’ an esport competitor must attain in terms of their chosen field to compete. Not one asides the games lowest possible settings.

          • @weresmurf What about snooker, darts, lawn bowls, bowling?

            Anyone can learn to ride a bike. Not many people can climb a mountain on one like Andy Schleck.

            You can be very good at basketball but still not good enough to compete at NBA level.

            You could rock up at a local tennis tournament and get your ass handed to you, just as you could turn up to a Street Fighter tournament.

            The minimum standard is being able to hang with the best. Every competition has different standards for that, most of them are not physical.

            EDIT: Also, athlete is a very restrictive term that doesn’t include most sportspeople anyway. An athlete is simply someone who compete in athletics. A cricketer isn’t an athlete. A rugby player isn’t an athlete. An F1 driver isn’t an athlete. A Starcraft player isn’t an athlete.

            The term “athlete” here is simply because the language around giving these visas chooses to use that term. Anyone who competes in a recognised competition is listed as an “athlete” for the purposes of that visa.

            My girlfriend’s dad was classed as an “athlete” for similar reason while playing bridge.

          • Again, sorry, not gonna change my mind no matter what you say, we’re done with the conversation, it’s just pointless. Just accept the fact I’m not going to. It’s not going to change your life that I don’t and trying to change my mind isn’t going to really do anything other than frustrate you that I won’t think of someone clicking on a mouse as an athlete.

            So, time to move on, I won’t be replying to any msg’s after this, not because I dislike you, I think you’re a good bloke but because there’s nothing to say after this, I have an opinion, you have yours, I respect yours, you should respect mine as I respect yours.

          • The problem is that you haven’t really made an argument. You’ve just stated an opinion and said that you’re not going to change your mind.

            I’m a pretty argumentative guy and when it comes to opinions, I honestly believe that an opinion that cannot be justified isn’t worth listening to. Agreeing to disagree means nothing. I know that I’m not going to change your mind but I genuinely enjoy explaining why you’re wrong :p

          • No, because I cant be ****ed arguiing over something so stupid.

            I don’t see them as athletes.

            You do.

            Case closed.

            Agreeing to disagree means everything, it means you’re a reasonable person who respects others opinions as well as your own. It means you understand that winning in life isn’t everything and that sometimes its better to compromise, shrug your shoulders and walk away rather than making yourself look like a stubborn git rather than keep on going when one person is being completely reasonable and you’re not. If you cannot respect anothers right to their opinion, well, that shows a pretty big character flaw that’s going to impede you in life in a big way.

            Life goes on.

            And we move on.

          • Your argument is that they don’t count as athletes because they don’t do anything physical.

            You’re obstinately refusing to acknowledge that the definition of athlete used here, for the purposes of visas, is someone who competes in a recognised competition.

            If we’re going to argue semantics about what makes someone an athlete, it is someone that competes in the field of athletics. Not a sportsperson that completes a physical task for a living.

            That you don’t recognise gamers as competitors like sportspeople is a separate argument that I’ve also provided examples against. You don’t think there is a minimum level of entry, which you seem to believe must be physical. I say that the minimum level of entry is the same as that for any “real” sport. Which is that you must be able to potentially beat the other people you are competing with.

            I don’t respect your opinion because you made it before entertaining the idea that it is wrong. I am willing to entertain the idea that I am wrong but you have not given me any reason to think that my definition is incorrect or why there must be a physical barrier to entry for something to count.

            So, if you want me to respect your opinion you must define sports in a way that justifies why there must be a physical component. Then you must consider other games that are acknowledged as sports, like bowling, where the level of physical exertion required is actually lower than that of a game like Starcraft (which requires finger strength, endurance, reflexes and muscle memory).

            Like I said, I’m an argumentative sort. That means I enjoy arguing.

            So who is being obstinate? :p

          • @weresmurf Agreeing to disagree only means something if both sides acknowledge the other has made reasonable points but not convincing enough points to change minds.

            Sometimes an argument is just a good excuse to explain your feelings on a matter and give yourself and opportunity to learn more. That’s why I don’t like unjustified opinions. If you go into an argument saying “this is what I believe, I’m not changing my mind” then what’s the point?

            What’s the point of having an opinion that can’t be changed? That doesn’t seem very fun.

          • Nup Ive got my opinion youve got yours and quite frankly youre getting way too cut over all this. Chill a bit. Seriously. Nite dude.

          • Politely here, I do see esports as a valid sport. To clear up a few things. I do see them as sports men and women, the same as I see snooker, lawnbowls, darts and synchronised swimmers as sports men and women. However sports and athletics are still two different yet similair categories. Both are competitive yet one denotes a heavily physical category. One an be a world class sportsman but not a world class athlete. The worlds best lawnbowler is not in the same league as Usain Bolt. Therefor, this takes nothing away from the bowler, for he/she is a sportsman/woman, the cream of the crop, usain bolt is an athlete, the peak of humanities physical prowess. I see Esportsmen as amazingly well trained sportsmen and women too, but again, the term athlete denotes one at the peak of their physical prowess trained in a physical sport. The term athletics denoting a physical competition but sport indicating any competition. I don’t see anything really wrong with viewing it that way and I don’t see anything derogatory about that. I think people get too hung up on wanting too many labels for gaming honestly, such as GAMES ARE ART!!! I get it’s a respect thing and acknowledgement for effort and achievement but sometimes it comes across a little, honestly, almost silly.

        • One is physical, takes effort, feels more rewarding and has substance

          So you think these top players of games like League of Legends and Starcraft II just magically became good at the game without any effort?

          You might look at a top SCII pro gamer and think “Congratulations, you have great micro at SCII. Cool story bro.” But I can just as easily say to an Olympic sprinter “Congratulations, you ran really fast. Cool story bro.”

          Both require lots of work and effort, just different kinds. And as others have pointed out, the big difference with eSports over physical sports is that eSports are more of a mental game rather than a physical one.

          Also, would it surprise you to know that there are actually a reasonable number of injuries related to pro gaming?

          • Sorry man you’re not gonna change my point of view no matter what you type. I would therefor by what you typed, equate a player of one of those games, with a chess player. Are they ‘mental athletes’ sure, but they are by no means physical ones. I understand one has to be smart to play them, have innate patterns of logic, reasoning and such, but again, I don’t equate it with something like track and field, martial arts, swimming and such. Sorry.

          • I’m not trying to change your point of view per se, I just want you to answer the question. Do you think top pro gamers magically got good at the game without any effort?

            Because you seem to believe that’s the case.

          • Nice assumption. Everyone has to practice everything in life. I had to practice drinking a shitload of beer as a younger man to be able to down a carton before I’d pass out. Does that make me a beer athlete?

          • I didn’t assume anything. You said this:

            One is physical, takes effort,

            If that doesn’t translate to “It’s easy to be good at games” then I don’t know what does.

          • Actually that was in reference to emails vs written letters but way to pluck stuff out of context 😛

  • I’m gonna go ahead and disagree with this one too. Athleticism requires for a level of athletic ability. That’s where you get on a track or out in a field, and run fast, throw hard, or jump high. Not twitch fast and input 300 actions per minute. Now we’re gonna have a plague of fatties training at their desks deluded that they’re athletes, that their rolly polly physiques can also be defined as “athletic”. Well, good work US government. Participation awards all round.

    • Chess players are able to enter on the same visas and I can guarantee that participating in any gaming event requires more physical exertion.

      It’s not about exertion though, it’s about competing in a recognised competition. By granting LoL players access to this visa, the US government is recognising Riot as organisers of a legitimate international competition in which the competitors will want to enter America to compete.

      I don’t think any professional gamer considers themselves to be an athlete. I also don’t think getting into an argument about what counts as a sport really makes any difference.

      Either you accept that professional gaming is a legitimate pursuit and that the organising bodies should be encouraged to allow international players to compete or you don’t.

      EDIT: Also, I would say that the majority of pro-gamers are of average physique. There are very in shape gamers and very out of shape gamers. Do you really believe that people who spend most of their time gaming are fat? Seems a weird view for someone commenting on a gaming site to have.

      • EDIT: Also, I would say that the majority of pro-gamers are of average physique. There are very in shape gamers and very out of shape gamers. Do you really believe that people who spend most of their time gaming are fat? Seems a weird view for someone commenting on a gaming site to have.

        You’ll find most pro gamers, at least the ones which are part of professional teams, are actually in very good physical form, because their teams enforce a very strict physical component to their training. They recognise that it’s not healthy to be sitting in front of a computer screen all day, and the teams which are paying these guys obviously want them in peak form and so part of their training regime is to actually work out and stay active.

        Remember we’re not talking about the average gamer here, we’re talking about guys that play for a living.

        • On the Korean teams, sure.

          Just look at the Evil Genius team. They have Justin Wong (who is obese) and Incontrol (who is a power lifter), Huk (a high school wrestler still in good condition) and Ricky Ortiz (who is best described as a waif). There’s the whole range.

          • InControl doesn’t actually play anymore (not seriously anyway), he’s more of a caster/commentator now. The players that actually compete in tournaments, including Huk, Stephano, ThorZaIN and even IdrA (up until he was released by the team of course) are all in good physical shape, because it’s enforced by the team. Team Liquid is much the same story (apart from Ret, but even he’s making an effort recently).

          • That’s why I was using SC2 players as examples of fit players while the fighting game guys as the other examples.

            EG has players from pretty much every major game and only the SC2 ones make an effort to be in shape, largely because of Incontrol.

  • Why is everyone bitching at this? seriously, all they are doing is allowing them to travel on a different visa. ffs, its not like its affecting anyone else, so stop the useless bitching over nothing

    • But I’m reading a gaming site and I have all these opinions welling up inside of me. What else am I supposed to do? Tell my wife?

      • Give me one good reason why these people being classed as athletes so they can access a visa will affect anyone at all?

          • The pro gamers getting the visas now of course will be affected, but everyone else will not.

          • Fans get to know that there is one less hurdle for the players they want to watch.

            Sponsors get to know that the players the fans want to see can be there.

            Other organisations, like Blizzard, can now try to do the same for their players.

          • Wouldn’t this extend to other games by default? Or is it PURELY ‘League of Legends’ players that get this recognition?

  • Competitive gaming do get physical injuries i.e sore eyes, back cramps, neck and wrist sprains. So I don’t see why not make them athletes besides even professional chess players are recognised as athletes.

  • Just call them professional gamers and name it esports overall then provide the same rights as pro athletes just like this US govt. decision. Job done.

  • There is a physical aspect to gaming.

    Hand eye coordination. This would land fairly close to shooting/archery which does not require impressive strength or athleticism to complete in.

    • Shooting may not require strength or athleticism, but have you ever drawn a composite bow before? It most definitely requires non-trivial physical strength and the ability to keep tensed muscles still and precise.

      • Even shooting really does require a fair bit of strength. If you can’t absorb the recoil you can’t hit a thing. Which is no small feat.

  • Until a bunch of gamers can gang rape a school girl and get away with is because they are gamers..

    Gamers will never be equal as sports people.

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