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.
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.