Riot Games‘ eSports Manager recently told GameSpot that their multiplayer online battle arena game (MOBA) League of Legends has, after a long process, been deemed as an official professional sport by the US government. Most importantly for eSport fans, this means that international players will be eligible for a US athlete visa in order to participate in eSports tournaments – just like professional sportspeople for more general sports can.
Whilst this is certainly a groundbreaking development for eSports, I’ve already personally witnessed the matter of a video game now being deemed as an official sport garnering a lot of criticism – and on an anime/video game community page, no less.
The concept behind a video game being a sport may seem laughable, but although I personally have virtually no interest in eSports, I find it difficult to justify why it couldn’t be accepted as a sport. eSports professionals dedicate a ridiculous amount of time to training, they play in teams in order to win tournament prizes and, at a professional level, there’s an incredibly high level of quick-thinking, multi-tasking, wits and strategy-making needed to compete. To summarize, you need to be dedicated and you need to be smart – this ‘sport’ is definitely a game of the minds.
In that sense, it’s more similar to the sport of chess than it is to, say, tennis or football. It’s long been accepted that some sports exercise the mind as opposed to the body, but all professional sports require dedication, practice and exceptional abilities. You can think what you like, but I completely embrace a video game being deemed as a sport. It’d be more interesting for me to watch than most sports, in the very least.