eSports has won a major victory; after extensive debate, the United States government has decided to deem international League of Legends players as professional athletes, and will award them visas in order to play in the country.
In an interview with Gamespot, Riot Games eSports manager Nick Allen discusses the decision made by the US government after a “constant back-and-forth” case.
“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,” said Allen. “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.”
Last year, League of Legends was reported to have averaged 12 million players worldwide per day, earning its keep as the most played PC game in North America and Europe. If any game deserved to be recognized by government, it’s League. Still, the decision was not reached easily.
“This was a lengthy process; we had a lot of people fighting for this,” said Allen. “It wasn’t something that happened overnight.”
Was the “groundbreaking” decision worth it? Riot thinks so: The League of Legends Season 3 Championship Finals, taking place October 4th at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, is expected to bring in more than 10,000 people. Not to mention the millions of online spectators who will invariably be pressed to their screens that night.
For eSports in general, the decision seems like a promising precedent for recognition. As Allen puts it:
“This is a huge thing.”