League Of Legends players recognised as pro-athletes in the U.S.

U.S. State Department re-classifies official eSports tournament players

The official eSports tournaments for Riot Games' League of Legends are now officially recognised as a professional sport by the U.S. State Department.

This means that League of Legends players born outside of the U.S. will be able to live and work in America under the same visa as any other pro-sports player. Riot Games has claimed that the change is the end of a "long process" during which it had to prove that eSports was a viable and lucrative career path.

"This is a watershed moment," said Riot's VP of eSports Dustin Beck, in an interview with Polygon. "It validates eSports as a sport.

"Now we have the same designation as the NBA or NHL or other professional sports leagues. This opens the gates for other professional League of Legends players to make the transfer to U.S. teams. It's like David Beckham coming to LA Galaxy."

The first "Devid Beckham" will be Danny "Shiptur" Le, who will leave his native Canada to join the U.S.-based Team Coast. At present, only players in Riot's official tournament series are eligible for professional status.

League of Legends has proved to be a catalyst for the growth of gaming as a competitive sport. An All-Star event in Shanghai in May saw 18 million unique viewers, and Beck claimed that its viewer figures are higher than, "80 or 90 per cent of the sports covered on ESPN."

In an interview with GamesIndustry International last year, Riot Games' co-founder and CEO Brandon Beck stated his belief that eSports would be an Olympic event in his lifetime.

"It's important for companies to not just say they're excited about e-sports, but to actually make commitments: from a development standpoint and from a financial standpoint," he said. "These players have to make a massive commitment to become pro-athletes, so there has to be a viable career path for that to grow into anything."

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Latest comments (4)

Gilberto Najera Cloud Consultant, Sm4rt Security Services4 years ago
Professional?, yes. Competitive? yes. Sport? absolutely not. Aren't we lowering the bar or at least mixing things?
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David Serrano Freelancer 4 years ago
"It validates eSports as a sport."

Which nullifies those games as a form of play. I was reading Homo Ludens last weekend and Huizinga warned about the danger of this:
Now, with the increasing systematization and regimentation of sport, something of the pure play-quality is inevitably lost. We see this very clearly in the official distinction between amateurs and professionals (or "gentlemen and players" as used pointedly to be said). It means that the play-group marks out those for whom playing is no longer play, ranking them inferior to the true players in standing but superior in capacity. The spirit of the professional is no longer the true play-spirit; it is lacking in spontaneity and carelessness. This affects the amateur too, who begins to suffer from an inferiority complex. Between them they push sport further and further away from the play-sphere proper until it becomes a thing sui generis : neither play nor earnest.
This view will probably run counter to the popular feeling of today, according to which sport is the apotheosis of the play element in our civilization. Nevertheless popular feeling is wrong. By way of emphasizing the fatal shift towards over-seriousness we would point out that it has also infected the non-athletic games where calculation is everything, such as chess and some card-games.
And Larry Merchant of all people, a former boxing analyst for HBO echoed the sentiment when he said:
You play basketball, you play baseball, you play football, but you don't play boxing. Because boxing is serious stuff.
This constant push by core developers to turn games into serious stuff has only resulted in forcing most core games outside the gamut of what the average person defines as play. So I don't see the validation of esports as particularly helpful or productive for a segment of the market which is already struggling to remain relevant and accessible to the larger audience.
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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 4 years ago
Anyone want to be that this all goes south into a "follow the money"scandal in a few years (especially if this becomes an Olympic "sport")? This is utter nonsense and a waste of time when there are SO many other important things the State department here needs to focus on. Bleh...
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Jeff Wayne Technical Architect 4 years ago
A very positive step in eSports on-going development.
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