US Government Recognizes Video Gamers As Pro Athletes

Maybe the question isn't whether games are art but whether they're sports.

This feels like a big deal: the US government has been persuaded to issue visas to League of Legends players who are entering the country to play in tournaments. The visas will be issued to them as professional athletes, meaning the US is now acknowledging video games as sports, not just emulations of sports.

Nick Allen of Riot Games tells GameSpot: "So the United States government recognizes League of Legends pro players as professional athletes and award visas to essentially work in the United States under that title... This is 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 recognized by the government. This is a huge thing."

I'm fascinated by this. Do professional chess players get into the country as athletes? Chess, I would think, is a better comparison for video games than actual atheletics, which require some level of actually moving around. This isn't to disparage the skill required to be a tourney-level gamer, but is just being honest - all the typing I do all day doesn't make me an athelete. 

I'm also fascinated by what this says about the changing digital culture. These kinds of questions were, a decade ago, moot and silly, but now defining those who play e-Sports - and defining them in real, border-crossing and taxable ways - is current. It's a sign of the way our lives have slowly transferred into the machine, onto the cloud. Will we ever get to a place where people are watching video game tournaments on TV? They already do it streaming online, so it doesn't seem entirely insane (assuming there's still something we understand as TV in ten years). 

This also points up the futility of trying to have discussions about video games that ask whether they're art. They're sports, they're narrative, they're time-wasters, they're creativity tools. Video game activists should be looking to expand all definitions of games, and should be looking to knock down the idea that Grand Theft Auto V is the same thing as Candy Crush is the same thing as League of Legends