Go Team! – US Gov’t Declares Pro LoL Players Athletes

By Nathan Grayson on July 13th, 2013 at 9:00 am.

As a US citizen, it’s my sacred duty to hate the US government more than just about anyone, but this is still a pretty monumental occasion. No, an eagle-blood-signed document proclaiming League of Legends pros athletes doesn’t make it official in the eyes of culture that absolutely loves its arbitrary labels, but it does grant players some pretty cool rights.

Speaking with GameSpot, Riot eSports manager Nick Allen broke the good news:

“The United States government recognizes League of Legends pro players as professional athletes, and awards Visas to essentially work in the United States under that title. So this is groundbreaking for eSports. Now when [international players] come over, it’s a much easier process because they are actually recognized by the government. It’s a huge thing.”

Apparently it took a whole, whole, whole lot of lobbying on Riot’s part. Surprisingly few riots, though.

Meanwhile, speaking with Polygon, Riot VP of eSports Dustin Beck pointed out that this opens up the option for international players to transfer onto US teams. So basically, everybody’s now one big, happy, grievous-insult-hurling family.

It really is a big deal though, as these people put in serious work and deserve the recognition that comes with it – even if they don’t hit a ball, swing a stick, or walk slightly faster than most people normally walk. So bravo, USGOVT. Now can you tell Texas to stop arresting teenagers for bringing (admittedly awful) LoL trash talk onto Facebook?

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120 Comments »

  1. bikkebakke says:

    “Athletics is an exclusive collection of sporting events that involve competitive running, jumping, throwing, and walking.”

    So… yea.

    • Derpa says:

      ath·let·ics 1. exercises, sports, or ->games<- engaged in by athletes.

      So ya.

      • Llewyn says:

        The OED’s definition, in full:

        The practice of physical exercises by which muscular strength is called into play and increased.

        • Derpa says:

          OED gave me.

          North American physical sports and games of any kind.

        • charlist05 says:

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        • mike2R says:

          The Oxford English Dictionary is not an arbiter of proper usage, despite its widespread reputation to the contrary. The Dictionary is intended to be descriptive, not prescriptive. In other words, its content should be viewed as an objective reflection of English language usage, not a subjective collection of usage ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’.

          http://public.oed.com/the-oed-today/guide-to-the-third-edition-of-the-oed/

    • Rosveen says:

      A sportsperson (North America: athlete), is a person trained to compete in a sport involving physical strength, speed or endurance.

      Yep.

      • Derpa says:

        ath·lete : a person who is trained or skilled in exercises, sports, or games requiring physical strength, agility, or stamina

        Mhm

      • Cinek says:

        I don’t know how about strength, but everything else seems to be in there.

      • innociv says:

        I’m not into LoL at all, but I don’t see how something like NASCAR is more of a Sport than games. You’re sitting in a car. It requires a lot of endurance because of the heat, the long time, and you need to know your lines and how to efficiently use your tires and fuel, sure. But it’s not physical exercise, it’s more mental than anything else.

        Basketball is just a GAME until it’s played competitively. That’s the same with eSports.

        Though I would prefer calling them eSports than actually calling them “sports”.

    • shitflap says:

      Fucking pedants.
      “A pedant is a person who is excessively concerned with formalism and precision, or who makes an ostentatious and arrogant show of learning.”

    • Haplo says:

      Time to hit the ESCALATION BUTTON.

      Athlete

      Etymology
      From Ancient Greek ἀθλητής (athlētēs), from ἀθλέω (athlēō, “compete for a prize”), from ἆθλον (athlon, “prize”) or ἆθλος (athlos, “competition”).

      Έτσι… ναι

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      Don’t go that path. Discussing the etymology or semantics of the word is missing the whole thing and losing time with frivolities. Besides, as was already demonstrated by others, we can always go both ways because this isn’t an exact science.

    • bglamb says:

      There’s an interesting discussion to be had around what should and should not be considered an athlete or a sport. To my mind they key is that it should be competetive, and require a physical element, though there are enough interesting edge cases (e-sports being a particular one) that maybe the traditional definition doesn’t fit.

      One thing that I think is important to note though, is that when having these discussions, there are many authorities we could turn to to help us decide. Dictionary editors, however, are not one of them.

      “Dictionary editors are historians of usage, not legislators of language.” http://lesswrong.com/lw/np/disputing_definitions/

      When trying to decide on whether we should include something in a definition (especially a new or edge case), using a dictionary really is missing the point. We use definitions to make groupings to help us communicate. Either make an argument one way or another or don’t, but don’t point to one or another word-historian trying to sum up historical usage in a necessarily incomplete sound-byte and pretend that helps us know whether or not we should call e-sports sport.

      • honuk says:

        There’s an interesting discussion to be had around what should and should not be considered an athlete or a sport.

        No. No there isn’t.

        • bglamb says:

          Each to his own I suppose. I find it interesting. There are so many cases that seem to sit close to whatever line you draw, that it becomes difficult to define a line at all.

          Things like power-walking, darts, snooker, hiking, archery, shooting, dressage, synchronized swimming etc, (just to name a few examples brought up in this thread) all push against different boundaries surrounding things like ‘running’ or ‘football’ in a way that makes it hard to see exactly what it is that the defining characteristics are.

          Like I said above, to me the inclusion of a physical element (requiring some strength, dexterity or just skill of movement) is what separates a sport from a game. But a Starcraft player is certainly unlike most pictures I have in my head of athletes!

    • Astalnar says:

      athlete (n.)
      early 15c., from Latin athleta “a wrestler, athlete, combatant in public games,” from Greek athletes “prizefighter, contestant in the games,” agent noun from athlein “to contest for a prize,” related to athlos “a contest” and athlon “a prize,” of unknown origin. Before 1750, usually in Latin form. In this sense, Old English had plegmann “play-man.” Athlete’s foot first recorded 1928, for an ailment that has been around much longer.

    • Jackablade says:

      If Chess can be officially recognised as a sport, I don’t see any particular reason why League of Legends shouldn’t be… at least if we’re arguing in terms of physical prowess required to compete.

    • Rahabib says:

      eSports is a ridiculous term. I dont know why we cant just call it a “competition” and players “competitors.” For force legitimacy with terms that make no sense. This kind of supidity is why poker and the spelling bee is on ESPN.

  2. CandyAcid says:

    LoL! I wish I could be good enough, but I’m afraid they are way out of my league, do you think in the future they will be sporting legends?

    • MrEclectic says:

      They’re in a league of their own

    • SomeDuder says:

      *Sits on couch, stuffing face with sugary drinks and cookies, controller in hand*

      “Professional athlete”

      • sockdemon says:

        Some of you guys act like you’ve never seen a darts player before!

        Seriously though! “Hurrr derrrr Kompooter gaymes ain’t no sport hurrr durr” Give it a break! I thought we were supposed to LIKE computer games on this website not be the part of society that deems them worthless.

        • maximiZe says:

          LoL of Legends actually is worthless though.

        • Dr I am a Doctor says:

          All video games are worthless so it’s not a surprise. That isn’t supposed to make you stop liking them but you should have a broader perspective. I know liking worthless things doesn’t mesh with your innate pragmatism but welp it’s too late by now

      • analydilatedcorporatestyle says:

        You try knocking a shit out when you are a 30 stone diabetic, live off processed/fast food and activity is button mashing! When gravity replaces peristalsis it’s a fuckin’ marathon I bet, not forgetting the self clean up with a sponge on a stick afterwards.

        All in all medals all round!

        • Reefpirate says:

          I suppose you’ve never watched an electronic games competition before? Perhaps you’ve never seen another person who plays video games in ‘real life’ and base your impression of people who play games on South Park caricatures?

          Jarosław ‘Pasza’ Jarząbowski is just one example of a pro Counterstrike player who could probably accidentally rip your head off.

          • analydilatedcorporatestyle says:

            Literally rip my head off, fuckin’ gerrin, I do take it that you mean literally he’d kill me and you were not trying to be humorous?

            Like the person I was responding to, they literally mean all people who play video games are obese!

      • vivlo says:

        If you play Lol sitting in a couch, eating, and playing with a controller, you’re gonna have a bad time. Especially at a pro level.

        • Screamer says:

          Not really, he will be able to fling insults back without any trouble! You are considered a pro if you can make your opponent cry by claiming you are sleeping with his mother.

    • Screamer says:

      The must be trol-LoL-ing?

  3. Siamese Almeida says:

    Of course it took lobbying — otherwise any number of video games would and should have been chosen as eligible for the title. How about Quake Live? Or DOTA 2? It takes but a cursory glance to see that DOTA requires a lot more skill and team coordination than LoL.

    Not that any of this matters as America will crumble into a complete police state in less than 20 years while you’re busy wasting time with video games.

    • Cheradanine Zakalwe says:

      That’s a very pessimistic way of looking at it.

      To me, its a precedent of what’s hopefully the first of many esports to be officially recognised. Future esports (and existing ones) now have a relatively clear idea of what they need to achieve to be officially recognised, or at the very least can argue for it on that basis. It seems that the obvious basis is simply size/salary, so there is no reason why other esports won’t be recognised eventually.

      • Mario Figueiredo says:

        But one can also argue if salary has anything to do with sports, we must immediately end the Olympic Games.

        It is true however that this defines a bar and other sports may aim for this kind of recognition. What I ask you is however, how dubious do you think this recognition is?

        • Cheradanine Zakalwe says:

          I’m no expert on this stuff, so I couldn’t really say. I’m more drawing parallels to what I know of the transition from amateur to professional cricket.

          Esports at this stage reminds me of the transitionary period between the two. The absolute top teams are generally able to play games full time (but not all of them) while the lower level teams (but still considered part of the top league) treat it as a very serious hobby. Does this mean that having a full fledged league of salaried players should be an indication of it being recognised as a sport by the government? I’m not sure, but I can’t think of a better bar by which to define it.

          • Mario Figueiredo says:

            The problem I see with this decision is that it seems more like a form of gaming (ignore the pun) the system than an actual validation of video games competition, which would have been much more far reaching and contemplate other eSports, regardless of their success. As Nathan points out, one of the convenient results of this is how apparently easy it now becomes to move LoL players to US teams. Do note that this is actually very(!) powerful Visa. Athletes have it easy when it comes to move to another country. A whole lot more easy than say, a salaried man or even an investor.

            If you think a bit about it, the fact you can’t really formally justify this decision is indication enough that this is probably an unfitting governmental decision. We expect legislation to be formally justified either by common sense or in the actual letter of the law. A whole lot more interesting — and worth of praise — would be the announcement that players of eSports in general would have been considered athletes. There would have been a clear recognition of the genre.

          • Cheradanine Zakalwe says:

            The problem with what you’re saying is that videogames, by and large, are amateur. Not worthy of granting a visa over. To me the distinction is a league where all players are salaried “reasonable” amounts (think minimum wage for the given country or something equivalent to) in a league. I know that dota 2 hasn’t quite reached this – but i believe Lol has at the top levels. I don’t follow lol, so please correct me if I’m wrong.

          • Mario Figueiredo says:

            Hmm… nope. I didn’t say or imply that. Quite the contrary.

          • Cheradanine Zakalwe says:

            “A whole lot more interesting — and worth of praise — would be the announcement that players of eSports in general would have been considered athletes. There would have been a clear recognition of the genre.”

            ???

          • Mario Figueiredo says:

            Well, by that time I had searched the web for more information on this and, unless my searching skills betrayed me, this seems to only affect LoL. No other eSports. So, say you are a Dota, FIFA, TrackManian or Warcraft III “athlete”. You won’t get any recognition among the US government.

            Recognizing eSports in general would be a whole lot more interesting. Whether one would agree or not with it, there would be a clear indication of the social and cultural significance of these games.

        • scim says:

          I think you are looking for more than what’s actually there. The only thing this does is that it allows players & teams who compete in this league to have an easier time acquiring the required visa from the US government if they need to participate in an LCS event. For example, one team has had to miss one of their players for 10+ weeks because he couldn’t get the required visa via the channels any other person has to go through. Now by some lobbying by Riot games and some of their partners the state department have put the LCS on a similar list as the NBA, NHL, etc. which fasttracks/simplifies the visa process. It’s just travel/work related stuff, nothing related to what is a sport and what isn’t, although it does give the LCS/esports some recognition.

          And I think that if Valve, id Software, Blizzard etc. or the tournament organizers like MLG were to get together and put together similar info there would be a similar outcome. It’s just the first time that an organization/company has lobbied to streamline this process instead of teams/players not being able to participate/attend due to administrative problems (and more often then not their own stupidity/tardiness).

  4. Phendron says:

    Lots of lobbying for visas from a company owned by a Chinese conglomerate.

  5. Detrian says:

    Maybe now american teams can import some actually good players.

  6. Cinek says:

    Is Al-Qaeda setting up their own team?

  7. -Spooky- says:

    I´m Athlet too. Why? Playing Chess. Next.

  8. MarcP says:

    Sure, who cares. In a world where uninteractive experiences are games, gender is solely determined by what you think you want to be, marriage between two males result in magical babies, etc.. It’s not as if words mean much anymore. Call yourself emperor of cool people if it makes you happy.

  9. Mario Figueiredo says:

    This is the kind of idiotic thing that always calls for comparisons: Dungeon Crawl ladder. I’m a superior athlete to those golf fat idiots at LoL.

    But that’s alright. Moving to US is more like a nightmare these days than the dream it once was.

  10. Dr I am a Doctor says:

    Great, yet another excuse for fatties.

    • subedii says:

      Fatal1ty (Johnathan Wendel, probably one of the more well know figures from early e-sports) in particular used to emphasise how important it was to stay healthy and get plenty of exercise, as this ties in directly to your reflexes and your overall mental performance. When abroad for tournaments he used to find out where the local gym was so he could get some exercise in on the side. Healthy Mind, Healthy Body etc. Lounging around eating crap all day will just lead to your abilities atrophying.

      I seem to recall most ‘pro’ (as in, compete for money) gamers are usually average body weight or relatively thin. At least that’s what I get from looking at the Korean players. Even the hardcore guys who live in SC dorms have something like an hour long exercise regimen every morning.

      Basically if you’re really serious about it as a profession and not just “game lots”, then being in good physical condition is actually fairly important.

      • Rollin says:

        It’s pretty tragic how even on a gaming news site, people bash gamers and label them as fat and lazy.

      • Cinek says:

        “I seem to recall most ‘pro’ (as in, compete for money) gamers are usually average body weight or relatively thin.” – it helps with reflex. Also – you spend less time eating and more time doing useful stuff ;). So no wonder.

      • Jim Rossignol says:

        Yeah, it’s true. Wendel is a particularly serious case of that. When I met him a few years ago he asked where the nearest 24-hour tennis courts were. I had to admit I did not know.

      • particlese says:

        My respect for Wendel just went up considerably. I don’t care much for his profession or his attitude in some interview I watched years ago (perhaps he’s changed), but as eSports doesn’t immediately bring to mind images of strapping men and women, I’m glad to hear he at least encourages healthy behavior.

      • innociv says:

        The majority of SC2 and Dota2 pro gamers go to the gym at least once a week and have above average health.

        Many people believe healthy mind = healthy body, and all, yep. They have couches and reward systems to help enforce this, but it’s not mandatory.

      • Daniel Klein says:

        Stephen “snoopeh” Ellis is actually our version of this in the LoL world. He’s the jungler for team Evil Genuises and to say he’s in good shape is a bit of an understatement. There’s also the “getting fit with snoopeh” meme in the community where you play League and do x pushups every time you die.

    • sockdemon says:

      Please tell me how to be as cool as you

  11. Zealuu says:

    But not Starcraft 2?

    • Cinek says:

      Or DOTA2. In LoL most of tournaments are sponsored by Rift, so it got very unstable ecosystem unlike DOTA which is pretty-much self-sufficient e-sport at this point.

      • Graerth says:

        Dunno why people keep saying LoL is so unhealthy. Yes, they’ve poured alot of money into the NA and EU scenes and the tourneys which has helped it tremendously to grow. The new LCS system really is killing the western smaller tournaments which were forming up nicely.

        They still got a huge scene atm in east however where they are independant of that sponsored tourneys (they run their own), i.e. OGN seems to run 4 tourneys in a year for 240k’ish prize pool each for last 3 i see. Yeah, not a shiny 2 million for last LoL Season finale tourney (or now what, 2.8 million for next dota2 The international incoming?) but i’d call that pretty nice, esp. as i’m not sure if .

  12. Jimbo says:

    Ath1337

  13. FFabian says:

    “but it does grant players some pretty cool rights.”

    Instead of being covered head to toe in flags and fancy eagle emblems like everyone from garbage collector to astronaut they get a full-body/face flag-tattoo and a custom gene forged hunter/killer-eagle to protect them from terrorists?
    No? Boring!

    • sockdemon says:

      To be fair they can’t do that for EVERY bill. I’ve got so many tattoos that I can no longer feel anything, my house is full of eagle droppings….. That last one about parking violations WTF?! Now I have to share my room with a crocodile that’s actually me from another dimension…. Shit’s creepy, he has my eyes!

      I’m sure many others feel the same and welcome this slowdown in legislation.

  14. Renegade says:

    Counter-Strike did this 6 years ago so no it’s not that groundbreaking

    http://www.fnatic.com/content/4251

    • Flea says:

      There always has to be one such comment.

      • Malawi Frontier Guard says:

        You mean informative? Yeah, one is enough.

      • vivlo says:

        Always ! Every effing time there is a news in a gaming website, about a law about pro players ! always ! which happense, like, once every six years AT LEAST ! soon those comments will invade the internet.

        • Flea says:

          Actually, I meant a comment that dismisses the point made in the article solely on basis that it’s already been done somewhere, some time, some place, usually ages ago. Which makes the person who sent the comment boss of the universe for pointing that out I suppose.

  15. wodin says:

    Anyone else think this is pretty damn silly…infact the mere notion playing a game means your an athlete is bizarre.. find this Esports thing very odd indeed to be honest. Fairplay to those who make money from it..butt boy I can’t get my head around the fact it’s taken so seriously and people actually do make a living from playing a game.

  16. Turkey says:

    Yes, but will we ever have a Michael Jordan of E-sports?

  17. jonahcutter says:

    It’s silly, is wot I think.

    Chess players aren’t considered athletes. Because it’s a game, not a sport.

    Hell, I don’t consider golf a sport either. And people slobber all over pro golfers as professional athletes as well. Just because Tiger Woods stays in shape doesn’t make him a professional athlete.

    Now if golfers had to finish the course not only with the lowest score, but the lowest time (and had to haul their bags themselves), then I might consider it a sport.

    Golf? Not a sport.
    Chess? Not a sport.
    LoL? Not a sport.

    Of course, the world is filled to overflowing with absurd, silly bullshit that mass groups of people stand around agreeing with each other over. In that context, LoL players being professional athletes seems par for the course.

  18. Oasx says:

    The word athlete doesn’t really matter, nobody in eSports really cares about that. What is important is easier access to visas, i know that in Starcraft 2 at least, it is pretty common for visa problems to stop a player from entering a tournament, and sometimes it means having to leave a team because you stayed in another country for too long..

    • particlese says:

      Yep! I’m very much in the “not athletic, but probably a sport” camp on this sort of thing, so I initially raged at the wording, but then I remembered that lawmakers are in the business of messing around with words. The actual political result is theoretically pretty decent, so good on them.

    • Kregoth says:

      Exactly, who cares what the US is calling it. The whole point is that it will be much easier for anyone outside of the United State to participate as a “Athlete” for LoL tournaments. That means more people can join, larger events, and far more international awareness. This is a GOOD thing for competitive gaming, and gaming in general. Having this happen is also very good for the general public’s view on gaming. We will hopefully slowly be seeing less “games are bad!”

      I hope more stuff like this happens “not like this exactly”, but seeing more public recognition that games are a healthy normal part of life, is a good damn thing!

      Edit: Though the Tax these “Athletes” will have to pay is pretty damn stupid as I am sure The US is capable of taking their money :( It’s just nice to see that it’s easier for participants to be able to play in one spot.

  19. Vraptor117 says:

    So Riot paid some senator or bureaucrat a shitload of money to make it easier for them to bring workers in from overseas. This is not new; practically every tech company does this.

  20. Octuplex says:

    I only have one thing to say about this whole thing, bathed in pedantic semantic debate.

    Good for them. They worked hard to get where they are, they deserve to be recognized for their achievements.

  21. Friend says:

    For a gaming website frequented by gamers, there’s a surprising amount of vitriol directed towards gamers who benefit from one of the rare legal concessions thrown our way.

  22. Bhazor says:

    I’ve always thought the best way to ruin a game is to turn into a sport just look at modern football (the proper kind, not “rugby for cowards”) with all the nonsense that surrounds it. Back to jumpers for goal posts I say.

    • The Random One says:

      Bah! If you want to play REAL football, get four villages, dig a hole into each one, die a cow’s inflated bladder a bright shade of red and have at it.

  23. Vermintide says:

    I like how you chaps in the comments are having enlightened pedantry discussions about what is and isn’t an athlete, and it’s repercussions for perspectives of e-sports and gaming at large, but I didn’t get past the first line.

    “As a US citizen, it’s my sacred duty to hate the US government more than just about anyone”

    Really? Not to drag out the old anti-US dead horse, but that’s just very short sighted. I can’t even get over it knowing it’s the opening gag of a comedic article, it just sticks out too much.

    • The Random One says:

      The US is pretty much the only country for which the “No one hates [country] more than us [country] citzens!” doesn’t work, ain’t it?

  24. Snack says:

    We should expect more regulations and taxation? That’s what happens when the G man get’s involved.

  25. HaVoK308 says:

    Referring to a person who plays games as an athlete, is somehow a win? Must only appeal to people who lack real athletic ability. What’s next, game critics are part of the working class?

  26. Haecid says:

    Anyone else frequent this site because it’s a great source of PC news but most often just straight-up disagree with them and their opinions?

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      Of course. On what website that doesn’t happen?
      If I always agreed with reviews and opinions of all the RPS staff, I’d probably suffer from some kind of identity disorder.

      Besides, what’s the motivation in looking for agreement with a blog/review website? You don’t need for your own ideas to be validated by someone else. You need for them to be challenged and, in the battle that follows, either be reinforced or changed.

  27. fish99 says:

    If LOL players are athletes, I demand an immediate drug testing regime.

  28. Jraptor59 says:

    This is sickening. It shows how delusional people in the USA are, and how corrupt the legal system is. It reminds me of a giant, ponderous slob of a child, crying after it loses a foot race in school and having mommy put a “I’m a Winner!” label on his shirt.

  29. Shieldmaiden says:

    Whether you like it or not, playing competitive video games at a professional level is a legitimate way to make a living. The nature of the tournaments means that international travel is required and the US government has just facilitated that using an existing system that, while arguably not a perfect fit, certainly does the job.

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