Players of the popular game League of Legends can now be granted P-1 visas for the US, a type of visa intended for “individual athletes.” This means that the video game is now officially recognized by the US State Department as a professional sport.
The game’s developer, Riot Games, has reportedly been campaigning for these players to be considered pro athletes for some time and now it has finally happened. According to the manager of one of the game’s teams, lawyers had to go back and forth with US immigration to get this done, especially with regards to helping them understand that it is indeed a sport. The players that are granted the P-1 visa “may be admitted for five years and a team for a period of six months.”
If you’re not familiar with the eSports community, it might sound a little crazy. But it actually makes a lot of sense. League of Legends is a very popular game. It’s played by more than 40 million worldwide. But the game’s tournaments are even more impressive. Some of the biggest competitions draw thousands of fans to watch players compete in front of computers live, sometimes in very large arenas. These competitive games are also streamed online to many other fans, but in some countries they are also shown on dedicated TV channels. Like any other sport, games are also commentated on by live announcers.
Professional players that win big tournaments are also eligible to win serious amounts of money. The team that wins the League of Legends Season 3 World Championship in September will be awarded $1 million in prize money. The annual salaries for some of the best players in the game also average at around $100,000. It’s pretty much like any other sport and it’s also been around for quite some time. StarCraft, which is another popular video game in eSports, has been enjoying this sort of attention in South Korea for many years.
If you’ve never heard of or seen League of Legends, here are some images of gameplay followed by a video of one of the tournaments, which should give you an even better look at what the game is like:
What do you think of video game players being recognized as professional athletes? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!