Geekend: Video Games Are Sports

David Wagner, Managing Editor | 7/19/2013 | 138 comments

David Wagner
Video games are sports. Just ask the federal government, which is now granting P-1 Visas to “cyber athletes” under the same provisions usually reserved for people coming for the Olympics or to play in the NBA. It seems easy to imagine why the government would make that choice. Here is a video of a man playing video sports:

Here is a video of people playing basketball:

The similarities are obvious.

Before I make too much fun of e-sports, as competitive video game playing is now being called, let’s look at the criteria under which they are being granted visas. Perhaps, it is really easy to get a P-1 visa and I’m just being mean. The provision states among other things that “The P-1 classification applies to you if you are coming to the U.S. temporarily to perform at a specific athletic competition as an athlete, individually or as part of a group or team, at an internationally recognized level of performance.”

The government makes it redundantly clear that you have to be an athlete doing athlete things to get this visa. And you’ve got to be really good at it.

Those being granted the visas are international players joining teams in the 2013 League of Legends World Championship, which will draw 8 million viewers over the course of the season and feature millions of dollars in prizes. The players are undoubtedly among the best in the world. But are they athletes?

I’ll let them make their arguments for themselves. Here’s a guy who has made a video called “This is a Sport, This is eSport.”

Granted, the video showed a lot of similarities to actual sport.

Teams? Check.

Ugly uniforms? Check.

Tacky sponsorships and rabid audiences? Check and check.

Pretty women handing out prizes? Check.

People waving flags with unseemly patriotism? Check.

Signing autographs, weeping like a baby when you lose, jumping up and down uncontrollably when you win? Check, check, and check.

Wow, this is beginning to look like a real sport after all. Except, did you notice a funny thing about that video?

It never showed a single second of a person in front of the keyboard working hard. The reason is obvious. The second you start watching some nerds in front of the computer you remember that they aren’t playing sports. At best they’re quick typists. If they break a sweat it is only because the screen is too hot and they ate too many pork rinds during the match.

Look, I am thrilled with anything involving international competition. I love the Olympics and the World Cup. Honestly, if they had the International Janitorial Games where teams of custodial engineers from different countries competed to see who could clean up disgusting messes the fastest, I’d watch. I’d even buy a t-shirt. But I’m not going to pretend that, even if a bunch of people watch it and supermodels hand out big trophies and even bigger checks, it is a sport.

Until all games are played with the Kinect, in my mind, e-sports will always be more “e” than “sport.” Give them visas if you want. I’m always happy to have more geeks in the country, but don’t insult my intelligence or the incredible feats of real athletes by equating what “cyberathletes” do with what Olympians do.

What do you think? Are professional video game players athletes? Should they get visas to enter the country? Does it matter what kind of visa they get? Is it silly that we even have professional video game players? Comment below.

View Comments: Newest First | Oldest First | Threaded View
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adil   Geekend: Video Games Are Sports   8/4/2013 6:59:52 AM
Re: Re : Geekend: Video Games Are Sports
You are right Stotheco, I have also seen many tournaments. But I would not use the word "professional" for these video game tournaments as I don't think, like other sports, playing video games has been accepted as a profession yet. You are right that they are heading to the right direction, currently the tournaments are organized at small scale but the gaming console makers will have to play an important role to make it a professional's sport.
WaqasAltaf   Geekend: Video Games Are Sports   8/3/2013 12:32:30 AM
Re: And the people who play the games on field
Nomi, I mean't a large percentage of them; not all. Certainly many games are good for increasing your intelligence but the fact is the most famous games are those that relate to battlefields, clashes between forces and terrorists or that involve gunfire and bombing.
stotheco   Geekend: Video Games Are Sports   8/2/2013 4:01:34 AM
Re: Re : Geekend: Video Games Are Sports
I have seen a number of professional video game tournaments already. Though they might not be as large in scale as typical sporting events, they are headed in that direction, I think.
tjgkg   Geekend: Video Games Are Sports   7/31/2013 5:34:40 AM
Re: Classifications and Ratings
@David Wagner: I have no doubt drones will be much more capable in the future. You can see some of those prototypes now being launched off Navy ships. Until science comes up with the technology to counter severe G forces, human pilots will be limited as to what kinds of manuevers they can make during a mission. I am sure they are working on that too. There is so much they probably have that we do not know about. You could see that just from the Bin Laden mission!
David Wagner   Geekend: Video Games Are Sports   7/29/2013 11:04:16 AM
Re: Classifications and Ratings
@tjgkg- The interesting thing about drones is that it won't be long until they can easily take down a human piloted plane. One of the limits on an airplane's ability to turn is that if it turned any sharper, the pilot inside would blackout. Obviously, drones don't have that limitation.

The limitation of a drone now is helping the plot feel the aircraft so it doesn't overturn and fly apart. Feedback systems are being invented though so expect drones to easly replace humans on every mission soon.
David Wagner   Geekend: Video Games Are Sports   7/29/2013 11:00:39 AM
Re: What's the better name?
@kstaron- Chess players use the same visas that basketball players or any other athlete would use. I'm more inclined to call them athletes though given what a serious chess tournament can do to the body. they literally need days off and time outs that last for a full-day just to allow the body to survive. Many hire nutionistist and physical trainers.

At any rate, the chess player "exception" was what allowed the video gamers to make such an easy case.
Marif   Geekend: Video Games Are Sports   7/29/2013 9:55:19 AM
Re: Re : Geekend: Video Games Are Sports
@SunitaT: I think we are already having video game tournaments but they are not at government level. These tournaments are either organized by a gaming console owner, or by a sport channel etc but not by officials. So I doubt its participation in Olympics in near future at least but there can always be a special Olympics organized just for them.
tjgkg   Geekend: Video Games Are Sports   7/29/2013 5:33:09 AM
Re: Classifications and Ratings
Exactly. Drones have limited capabilities. THey tend to loiter in an area and shoot when something comes up. They have no defense and you cannot manuver a drone like a fighter plane. The most important thing a drone pilot can do is stay awake and alert for anything important on the ground. A fighter pilot has an entirely different mission in a much more sophisticated plane that cost him his life.
SunitaT   Geekend: Video Games Are Sports   7/28/2013 9:34:50 AM
Re : Geekend: Video Games Are Sports
Video games are gaining popularity and the technology is advances very fast. I think in near future there will be video game tournament like Olympic. Professional video game players will be considered as athletes.
tjgkg   Geekend: Video Games Are Sports   7/27/2013 7:53:54 AM
Re: Classifications and Ratings
@David Wagner: I was skeptical as well but that is what the article stated. Maybe part of it has to do with some of the issues regarding the new F22's and Ospreys.  In any case fighter pilots are a special breed and there is no way I can see those types of people wanting to fly drones instead of dogfighting!
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